I was delighted to be given a chocolate advent calendar by a client at work. It contained quality chocolates and was personalised with my name.
I was feeling very pleased with myself until I suddenly remembered that the children might eye it with envy, since any advent calendars I buy for them are strictly chocolate-free.
Like my own childhood, the countdown to Christmas in our house is marked by the opening of advent calendars sprinkled with glitter and pleasant scenes of carol singers, nativities or Santas.
These I have normally purchased in the middle of January when they are sold off cheap.
I stash them away in my wardrobe until the frantic hunt for them on the night of November 30. I am convinced that there are several around the house that have been hidden over the years, never to be discovered.
As a child I was more than happy with my glittery Father Christmas advent calendar.
The pictures behind the windows were usually of rocking horses, wooden soldiers and angels. Not that I would receive any of these kinds of gifts on December 25, but it was reminiscent of a simpler time, when a wooden toy and a satsuma was all that was required to make Christmas go with a bang.
But at what point did bunging chocolate behind each window became the norm?
Despite my own lack of religious belief, I am more than happy to give my children an advent calendar with a religious scene on it to remind them of why we celebrate Christmas.
So the idea that an advent calendar decorated with Peppa Pig’s face and stacked with cheap chocolate is an appropriate way to celebrate the birth of Christ befuddles my mind. What message is a sugar-filled Disney-licensed calendar sending out to our children?
You only need to spend around three-and-a-half minutes in the centre of Portsmouth at the moment to see the spending frenzy that is occurring.
Christmas has become one massive shopping opportunity. And these calendars are yet another example of it.
I like calendars that each day reveal a small figure related to a nativity scene. They can be dug out each year, dusted off, and fixed with sellotape if necessary.
But who in their right minds wants to countdown to the celebration of the birth of Christ with a Lego Star Wars calendar? Even if it does contain an exclusive Yoda minifigure.
So how does this sit with my own excitement at receiving a yummy chocolate advent calendar?
Well, as any parent knows, ambiguity and double standards are totally acceptable under certain circumstances.
If at any point, a child catches you snuffling a Thornton’s chocolate and accuses you of mistreatment and abuse because all they got behind their cardboard window was a rubbish picture of a goose, then the standard response is either: ‘Well, I’m a grown-up and I need chocolate to keep my bones strong’ or ‘go away and watch the telly’.
But whatever you find behind your advent calendar, whether it be cheap chocolate decorated with pictures of Sponge Bob Squarepants, or handcrafted shepherds knitted from yak’s wool, try to remember what Christmas is really all about.