I mean — obviously — we had Advent Calendars when I was a child. I wasn’t born back in the 1800s, when some German Lutherans started counting down the days to Christmas.
No. I mean the advent calendars we had as children didn’t have any chocolate behind the windows, just a picture.
Remember, this was before the dawn of daytime TV. Hunting for the right window to open and guessing what the little picture behind it would be — A star? A king? Some myrrh? — was still a highlight of the day. Then, after the excitement was all over, you could admire the star, the king, and speculate whether that really was meant to be some myrrh.
Calendars with chocolate were certainly available but a) my parents were never going to spend money on such frivolities and b) they were hoping we would focus on the religious connotations rather than the confectionery opportunities.
The religious perspective is a skewed one to start with, however. In the real world of the Christian church, the season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (so, sometime between 27 November and 3 December) and ends on Christmas Eve, the 24 December.
This year — 2021 — it’s the 28 November.
You can see how manufacturers would have no truck with such variability, having to print calendars with different amounts of dates and numbers of windows. So, in Calendar World, every Advent starts on 1 December, regardless of whether that is a Tuesday or Wednesday.
You see that other important date there? Advent ends on 24 December. Except, in Calendar World, Advent inexplicably ends on Christmas Day, when you get the biggest picture and the largest chocolate of all. (Advent, derived from the Latin, means “that which is to come”. By the time Santa Claus has been, Advent is definitely over.)
Of course, Calendar World is no longer confined to little chocolates in plastic trays. You can have Advent calendars of tea, of skin cream, and of gin. (Perhaps just wishful thinking on that last one.)
In Brighton and Hove, they have had artistic scenes revealed when you open the doors to the beach huts.
Frankly, I don’t mind commercial artistic licence with liturgical celebrations. What I would like, though, is a universal acknowledgement of Advent as being the true start of the Christmas season. If I were Queen, I’d make a law that no shop, market, fair, or petrol station would be allowed to whisper even a hint of Christmas before the start of Advent, whether that be the 27 November or 3 December. Begone with your mince pies shortly after Halloween! Get thee behind me, Christmas sandwiches for sale on Bonfire Night!
And don’t even get me started on Easter eggs in February.