Past and Presents

I have always enjoyed Advent. I find it a little odd as from a Christian tradition this is a time of preparation for the festival and feasting of Christmas, but unlike Lent, which is much the same for Easter (at least in theory) where those who observe go through fasting and deprivation of some sort of another, Advent seems to be an excuse to do exactly the opposite. As a child, I had no problem with that. I don’t have a problem now, but I do find it funny. I guess at this increasingly dark time of year chocolate is more comforting than fasting, while at Easter we are looking increasingly at the late spring and summer to keep us cheerful.

I guess the only problem I do have is that the slow build up to Christmas allows for a rise in excitement which makes coming down the other side – once the presents are opened, the turkey consumed and everyone is asleep in front of the Queen (well that was how it worked in my childhood) – that much more depressing.

At least these days I have a Doctor Who special to look forward to.

But while it lasts I used to enjoy the build up that Advent presented. I was terribly spoilt though. As an only child of a giving set of parents I was not limited to a mere Advent calendar and a piece of chocolate supposedly shaped into a robin or a snowman or whatever (honestly, who are they fooling?). No. I had my very only Santa every day.

Well strictly speaking it was “Little Santa”, either to differentiate from the real one or as some kind of nod to dear Little Ted (who is still lurking around the house, Big Ted having been relegated to the box that where toys that you cannot bear – ho ho ho – to part with but could be blown apart by a minor draft lie in perpetuity). Little Santa was made of a toilet roll, red felt and cotton wool. More impressive was Rudolf, who also started life in the toilet but even had twig antlers (nice touch, mum).

From as early a time as I can remember they would be standing out on the snow field – OK, the piece of cardboard with more cotton wool stuck on it – from December 1st. Little Santa was never without his own little hessian sack. And in the sack, joy of joys, a perfectly wrapped little Christmas present, with the date stuck on it with tape.

Every morning as I listened in vain to the radio in the hope that my school would be closed in the inclement North East weather (it wasn’t, as it happens. It never was. To the youth I know – I have no sympathy for a lack of Snow days whatsoever) I could at least have the consolation of something wrapped up for me. Alright, we are usually talking the level of a packet of Refreshers, but a present is a present. As any child knows, the more presents, however small they might be, the better. After all, most kids do not understand the concept of money anyway so why waste cash on something ridiculously expensive if you can get them in to paroxysms of excitement with a whole mountain of junk you bought in Wilkinson’s for a tenner (in total)?

Save your money for when they are in their teens and they actually start to be more selective.

Actually I think my daily Advent present probably generated more Christmas excitement than the day itself, present wise. Possibly because I felt I was getting something unique when others only had misshapen chocolate fragments. Possibly because my dad always threatened that the only present I would get on Christmas day was a matchbox with Smarties in it. I usually got that as well, although thankfully there was always a pile of other stuff.

I still enjoy Advent, although Little Santa (and Rudolf) is long gone. Now we have the Christmas Lemur (he’s actually Irish, but you wouldn’t know) and he never has anything for me, but that is fine. I have always enjoyed the giving rather than the receiving and I have my lovely parents to thank for that, for teaching me that giving is something which does not always need a lot of money, but does need a lot of heart.