It’s December 1st today, and my little boy has opened the first door on his advent calendar. His reward? A half-melted piece of what looks like dog chocolate which has no bearing on anything Christmassy. There’s no picture behind the door. Just chocolate.
Now, if you’re a kid today, you probably think that this is the best thing EVER to wake up to. But I would have to disagree.
Because, if you were born before the 1990s, there was nothing more exciting as a kid during December than trying to work out what Christmassy-themed picture you were going to get behind the door of your advent calendar.
Would it be a star? The three wise men? A bunch of holly? Or a picture of a robin? Whatever it was, it was so damn CHRISTMASSY!
And don’t get me started on the excitement of finally being able to open the no. 24 door WHICH WAS ALWAYS, TANTALISINGLY, BIGGER THAN THE OTHER DOORS (and invariably contained a nativity scene).
Has anybody tried to find picture-only advent calendar? I have, but without success. So it’s doggy chocolate calendars in our house this year, and my kids get a sugary treat to build up the anticipation for the rest of the sugar they will consume over this festive season. None of which has anything to do with Christmas.
Which got me thinking – in what other ways is Christmas worse than it was when I was a kid? (I’m not mentioning Black Friday here because I am British and it’s not a thing, by the way). Here’s my lowdown – see if you agree…
2) The lack of Jesus, anywhere. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. So where is he? I’m not even christened. But crikey, even I get a warm, fuzzy feeling thinking about a baby being born, and a message of hope, peace and kindness to one another. Children know the words to Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, but have never heard Silent Night or Away in a Manger. Argh, here in Australia, every Christmas Eve, they even broadcast a ‘carol concert’ which is like a pop concert, with no actual carols, but instead a bunch of cartoonishly-attired questionable singers warbling out the words to All I Want for Christmas is You. With backing dancers. With not a donkey or a heavily pregnant Mary in sight. It is so wrong on so many levels.
3) One BIG present. When I was a kid, every Christmas, you got one big present. The biggie. The one you had all your hopes and dreams pinned on. The last present to be opened, in the biggest box under the tree. Oh my goodness, it was soooo exciting waiting to open that big present. Nowadays, all kids’ presents are huge, and they get inundated with gifts by everybody. So instead of one big present they get lots of big presents, half of which they never actually play with. A prime example that less should be more, even at Christmas time.
4) Small presents were great. We did get stocking fillers. And do you know what? We played with those toys for months. Years, even. In contrast, I’ve lost count of how many plastic bits of crap my son has played with for less than an hour that have broken straight away. Utter crap.
5) Santa was a bit more mysterious. These days, Santa makes so many appearances I’m surprised he isn’t worn out by Christmas Eve. He’s in every shopping centre, and at every event, pretty much from November. When I was a kid, there was ONE Santa, in the town centre, and I never went to see him. Because I was a bit scared to, to be honest. I was a bit scared that he’d see through my impeccable manners and deem me too naughty to be getting a present. Which, of course, made the anticipation of Christmas morning even better.
6) Crappy Christmas decorations. Now, our decorations as a kids were not at all fancy (remember those foil hanging decorations?. I LOVED them.) We had the same ones every year and they lasted forever. Those decorations were as much a part of Christmas as a turkey dinner in our house. These days shops are groaning with the weight of tacky bits of plastic and shiny crap which you know you will throw out and replace – what’s special about that?
7) Crappy tree lights. Another Christmas highlight when I was a kid was working your way through the Christmas tree lights, twisting them one at a time, to fix the rogue loose bulb that was preventing them from working. Nowadays, a bulb can go and the lights just carry on lighting. Which is a lot more efficient, granted, but a lot less fun.
8) Christmas telly. Australia doesn’t do Christmas telly (I KNOW) so this is a British thing. Remember getting the TV listings for Christmas and planning your entire school holidays around what was on? The big family film on Christmas Day? Noel’s Christmas Presents? No more. (I can still remember being aghast that Sky TV didn’t have Christmas programmes on on Christmas Day. That was the start of the decline.)
9) The lack of excitement over the Christmas number one. 1993 was a rough year for me when Mr Blobby stopped Take That from claiming a coveted Christmas number one spot. In fact I can name most Christmas number ones AND the year. And then along came Simon Cowell, who single-handedly ruined this great national tradition. Git.
10) Holiday and sale adverts. Remember the devastation you’d feel on Christmas Day evening, when the TV adverts changed from Christmas ones to ones advertising holidays (again, this is a British thing) and the Boxing Day sales? Talk about coming back down to earth with a bump. But it was okay. Because at that age you were still so enthralled by your one big present that Boxing Day was almost as exciting as Christmas Day. I imagine by Boxing Day my four year old will be bored of his new toys and will be asking for the iPad.