Tiny Doors of Mystery

4 Dec
A very old Advent calendar kept by my mom.  Isn't it wonderful?  There are angels...and also Santa inside, sitting at his desk, checking his list.  So fun!

A very old Advent calendar kept by my mom. Isn’t it wonderful? There are angels…and also Santa inside, sitting at his desk, checking his list. So fun!

“Guess what?” I said to Boo, age 5, in an attempt to distract her grumpy self from the fact that she HAD to finish her toast, brush her teeth, and get dressed because the daddy-school bus would be leaving in 7 minutes.

“What?” she asked, frowning as she struggled into her shirt.

“Saturday is the first day of Advent!” I said, mustering all the excitement I could into my tone as I shoved her legs into her pants.

Boo's Advent calendar from school.  Each day she gets to color in a "button".  It's awesome.

Boo’s Advent calendar from school. Each day she gets to color in a “button”. It’s awesome.

“What’s ‘Advent’?” she asked, a little curious despite her mood.

“It means that something important is coming,” I explained as I forced her feet into her shoes. “In this case, Christmas!”

“Advent calendars!” Boo exalted, remembering.

“Yep! Now stand up, let’s do your hair.”

Boo dutifully stood, and I looked at her feet.

I had put her shoes on the wrong feet. I had. Not her. me.

“Sit down,” I said, already ripping out the knots.

“I thought you were doing it wrong,” she said.

“Then why didn’t you say so?!” I asked a little crossly.

“I didn’t want to interrupt.”

As we somehow got her into the car along with her siblings, I wondered how on earth we’d be able to fit Advent calendar time into our morning routine. I mean, I might have to wake up a few minutes earlier in the mornings. Heaven forbid.

My Nativity drawing, circa 1975.  How fun is this?!

My Nativity drawing, circa 1975. How fun is this?!

But, the truth is, we love Advent calendars. Though, to be sure, our main one is rather non-traditional. A few years back I bought a felt banner of the Nativity scene – not just a picture, but rather many individual felt characters – wisemen, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus et al – and we began using that as our Advent calendar. I separated them out into little numbered bags, and each day they add to the scene, counting down to the day when the last image of all – Jesus – is placed into his manger.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, we have to keep careful track of who placed Jesus from year to year, otherwise it becomes a fight. Over baby Jesus. Not good.

Little by little, day by day, we count down to Christmas as we add to the picture.

Little by little, day by day, we count down to Christmas as we add to the picture.

This is what it looks like when it's finished!

This is what it looks like when it’s finished!

We love this “calendar” of ours…but we love the more conventional calendars with their tiny doors of mystery as well. I think it appeals to the love of all things miniature that is alive and well within me. Just as I loved my doll house as a child, I love the little numbered doors of the Advent calendars, the wee little pictures of jolly Christmas things hidden behind each opening.

Several years ago my kids made their own Advent calendars and I kept them – now rather ragged –because I couldn’t bear to part with them. My son actually spent quite a bit of his saved-up allowance money last year to buy a Lego Advent Calendar. It was pretty cool, though kind of humorous, too. As I said to him, “What says ‘Merry Christmas’ more than Darth Maul?”

My kid's homemade Advent calendars from several years ago...not very fancy, but they had fun!

My kid’s homemade Advent calendars from several years ago…not very fancy, but they had fun!

Last year we spent Christmas out in Washington State with my family. As we were unpacking parts of my sister’s German LGB train that runs around her Christmas tree, my mouth dropped open in surprise at something I found in the bottom of the box.

The box had come from our parent’s house and there, wrapped in tissue, was a picture I had drawn probably more than 35 years ago, and, along with it, two advent calendars that had been mine when I was a child.

Yes, I come by this love of Advent calendars honestly.

One of the old Advent calendars kept by my mom.

One of the old Advent calendars kept by my mom.

Today my aunt sent us an Advent calendar app for my computer. And, while it won’t ever be found, years from now, at the bottom of a box, it continues the tradition that my family loves: counting down the days to the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Thanks, Aunt Sandy! And Happy Counting to you all!

A couple "real" Advent calendars that I've kept over the years.

A couple “real” Advent calendars that I’ve kept over the years.

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12 Responses to “Tiny Doors of Mystery”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots December 4, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    I’ve always loved Advent calendars too. The glitter, the little doors, the mystery…

    You have so many treasured ones and I love, love that felt one you use now.

    My Aunt Dorothy crafted one from felt many years ago, a Christmas tree with ornaments in the pockets below. Take an ornament out daily and hang on the tree, the star atop the tree being the final one placed. And, yes, there were plenty of fights in this house also about who got to place that final star.

    Such memories.

    The vintage ones your mom saved are incredible as well as that one you made as a child. Precious, just precious.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      Yes, that one vintage one really ought to be in a shadow box or something, but then we coudln’t open the doors! And that would be a shame. Until you mentioned that about one with ornaments I’d forgotten that my Grandma made us one with ornaments too, but they all had pins on them and they pinned to a large felt tree wall hanging. Fun to remember! There are so many different and wonderful varieties…

  2. lifelibertyeducation December 4, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    I never had an advent callender as a child. I didn’t discover these things until I was married with a child in England. There they have chocolates hidden behind the little doors (in random numbered order) and the kids find the date and get the candy. I thought this was a British thing until I moved back here and found a pretty wooden calender with enough space for three Hersey kisses each day (I have three kids). I had never heard of having a felt tree to decorate or a nativity to populate before this post. It is like a little discovery of my own and I love it. Btw, we do our calender as part of our bedtime routine….that might be easier then fitting more into your before school routine that I suspect is harried at best.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 5, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      Yes, bedtime might be a better answer! Fun that you found those in England – I know that in Germany they had chocolate ones like that, too. Yum! My sisters made ones with a gift for each day. When my sister asked me if I wanted her to make one for my kids I said no because I didn’t want to have to find 72 tiny gifts for my three kids for 24 days!

  3. Alice December 4, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    I love Advent and Advent calendars. We had a paper calendar when I was a child, and we brought it out year after year–it was worn soft like cloth. When my children were young, we did one Christmas-y thing each day of December. The first day we made a paper chain with 25 loops–and they could remove one loop each day–helped in the “how many more days” questions.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

      That’s another great “calendar”! There are so many different forms they can take – I barely touched the surface! I love the idea of your calendar being soft, it was so loved and used!

  4. prairiewisdom December 4, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Beautiful memories and stories…

  5. free penny press December 5, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    Lovely post.. I still have the Advent calendar we had as children. Thanks to my Mom for packing & storing safely through the years..

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 5, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

      It’s nice, isn’t it, when some things are kept that are so fun to have to show our kids and such? And an Advent calendar doesn’t take up too much space!

  6. hotlyspiced December 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    I love all your Advent calendars. I had them when I was growing up too and yes, there was always a fight about who would get to open Door 24. We had to have long memories too about whose turn it was. Lovely post, Gretchen xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 5, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

      Thanks! There just something so fun about the count-down, isn’t there?

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