Advent Calendar

I don’t remember ever having an Advent Calendar as a child, but I always loved the countdown to Christmas. The days were short in Europe, and winter had set in. Every house looked festive and there was a sense of expectancy in the air. The best day by far was the Feast Day of St Nicholas on December 6 with its promise of good things to come. Well-behaved children could look forward to St Nicholas to fill up their boots with delicacies such as chocolate, nuts, Spekulatius biscuits and oranges. Oranges all the way from Jaffa – a delicacy in the middle of winter! Of course, naughty children would not be rewarded. They were threatened with St Nicholas’ offsider, Krampus, a devil like figure dressed in black who carried a carpet beater to give them a thrashing. Krampus would also stuff coal into the boots of these naughty children.

Every child in Austria looked forward to St Nicholas Day but at the same time feared the arrival of Krampus. Nobody could make it through the whole year without getting into trouble. All one could hope for was that St Nicholas would turn a blind eye to small misdemeanours. My boots were filled with nuts and sweets but there was always one piece of coal to remind me of my failings.

When my daughter was born, I continued the tradition. I made my own Advent calendar with pockets for each day and found little treats for each one. When she was four, I gave her a wooden railway track and train, with each piece of track tucked into a pocket all the way to December 24. By Christmas she could build the complete track and run the train. Of course, I also made her polish her boots and put them outside on the eve of St Nicholas Day to be filled to the brim with delicacies I knew she loved. I never told her about Krampus though. I had no desire to make her fear a mythical figure and emotionally scar yet another generation.

I continued this tradition with the Advent calendar right through her teenage years. Some of the pockets were filled with hair ties, lip gloss or a pair of socks. When she went to university and moved to another city, I tried to see her before the first of December to stuff her Advent calendar. Then, when I could no longer guarantee to get there in time, I came up with an innovative way of continuing the tradition. I embraced the twenty-first century and went virtual. Each day in December, I now transfer her $5. For one month of the year, her morning coffee is paid. It’s ingenious. I get to hold on to our family tradition and she gets to enjoy her adult version of Advent.

This year, she will be with me for St Nicholas. I won’t have to remind her, I’m sure of that. Her boots will be polished and left outside for Mother Nicholas to fill. My daughter is twenty-five now, a young woman living her own life, making her own decisions, right or wrong. So, I wonder. Is this the year to learn the lesson of the piece of coal? After all, none of us can claim to be perfect.

6 thoughts on “Advent Calendar”

  1. Love this! And fascinated about the piece of coal, I had never heard of it before! How do you do it!!! May today go as you’d wish it to. Much love xxx



    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find it interesting how the same tradition is a little different in each country. Apparently in northern Germany/Netherlands they put out a plate. I also find it interesting how St Nick morphed into Santa.


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