A few years ago I bought this beautiful wooden advent calendar. It's not a traditional one, but works in much the same way to count down the days until Christmas, except without the Bible story and with small compartments for each day that hold gifts. In other words, it's a cheap commercialization of a lovely Christmas tradition. Just what I was looking for!
I saw The Box as a way to start a tradition with my girls. Instead of constantly asking me how many days were left until Santa's arrival, I imagined them excitedly opening the door for each day to find the small trinkets I would hide in there. They would pass it on to their children, who would pass it on to their children, and so on until years from now my great-great-great-great grandchildren would be retrieving their time-travel vouchers from The Box's tiny alcoves. As you can see, I put a lot of thought into this.
When I showed The Box to Rigel he reacted like a typical male, skeptical about us needing any more holiday traditions. I convinced him that the customary Holiday Hangover and our festive, annual Haggling Over The Moneys were probably not things we wanted to pass on to our children and he grudgingly agreed. The girls were excited about it, deciding that anything that increased their gift-receiving days from one to twenty-five was all right by them.
That first year I spent a lot of time carefully choosing small knickknacks to put in The Box. The size of the compartments posed a challenge and finding items that would fit inside the small space was sometimes difficult. But I did it, scouring Target and Claires to find small keychains, miniature bottles of nail polish and chocolate Santas that were just the right size. I was so caught up in my wonderful new holiday tradition that if you knew me then you would have wanted to throttle my holly-ringed neck. And in hindsight, I wish someone had.
By the second year, I was slightly dreading the Filling Of The Box. In my initial excitement I had failed to calculate the sheer volume of gift buying I was in for: 1 item x 2 girls for 25 days = 50 items. This was in addition to my already extensive list, so I didn't spend as much time shopping for items that year. Carefully chosen presents were replaced by dimes and quarters on some of those days, which the girls heartily approved of. There were less bracelets and more chocolate coins, less tubes of Skittles-flavored lip balm and more stickers. Still, The Box was filled and there was happiness in the household.
When the holidays rolled around last year I had serious regrets about The Box. This came after a particularly grueling cleaning session of the girls' room where I found enough small trinkets to fill five-hundred advent calendars. The idea that I would be buying more crap to fill up those small compartments for twenty-five days panicked me. I considered recycling items, but that wouldn't be in the spirit of the season, and besides I intended to wrap most of it up and re-gift it to the kids of people I didn't like.
I ended up buying a few items but my lack of enthusiasm was evident and I was no longer concerned with the element of surprise. I would scramble to find the little presents for the day, ask them to turn around while I put them in the cubbyhole. and then they would immediately turn around to open the small door to retrieve their gifts. I was beginning to wonder why I didn't just hand them each a bag on December 1st with twenty-five items inside.
On some days I wrote small notes which the girls, while politely feigning gratitude, weren't so crazy about. I don't blame them - who wants a piece of paper that says, "We're so proud of you!" when you're expecting a rhinestone ring? It got worse as the month wore on, with me forgetting days altogether or scouring my closet for leftover party favors or office supplies. By the time December 24th rolled around I had turned into a regular Scrooge, and the girls couldn't hide their disappointment at what they found behind those tiny doors that day. I gave them a lecture about being grateful and thinking of those less fortunate, so then they thanked me for the pocket lint and three paper clips.
I briefly considered not even taking The Box out this year, until Kiyomi saw it in the closet and started pointing and squealing, "The Box! The Box!" as if she had discovered Santa himself sitting there on the shelf. I brought it out, but told them I wanted to do something different this year with more meaning and less useless junk. I took it as a good sign when they looked thoughtful for a moment as they opened the small doors, but then Kira inquired, "Can a gift card fit in there?"
So, today's December first and I haven't gotten around to buying anything for The Box. I've got some Halloween candy that will last me through the next few days, but beyond that I'm not sure what to fill it with. Touching notes of encouragement? Coupons for extra desserts? Lumps of coal? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Either that, or feel free to FedEx me twenty-five small items that can fit inside a two-inch space.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
tags: advent calendar | drowning in trinkets | bad traditions | save me from the box