Melanie McDonagh

Advent has become overindulgent

Advent has become overindulgent
The Dior beauty advent calendar
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Every year there are more of them; more extravagant, more utterly pointless. I refer to Advent calendars, which used once to be rather a quaint German thing: a way of counting down the days of Advent by opening little windows on a cardboard, paper or wooden Nativity or winter scene to reveal some pointer to Christmas until the pictures culminated in the arrival of baby Jesus – or the worship of the shepherds at the crib – on 25 December. It was the sense of anticipation, opening the windows one at a time which represented the point of Advent, which is a waiting time, until finally we get the big reveal on Christmas Day. It’s the same idea with the Advent wreath, whereby we light four candles for each week of the season, until finally we get to the Christmas candle at the end.

But then Germans, Lutheran or Catholic, have always been good about Advent. My German neighbour recalls that German television never used to feature Christmas carols during advent; the music was solemn rather than celebratory because the celebrations come later. And Advent generally is about expectation (actually it’s partly about preparing for the Day of Judgment); it’s the reverse of a binge.

Which is why chocolate calendars are wrong, wrong, wrong; ditto wildly extravagant beauty advent calendars which are about as far from the spirit of the season as you can get. But everyone does them. There are tea or coffee Advent calendars with a different flavour for each day – see Whittard’s Tea or Pact Coffee or Fortnum’s – there are beauty advent calendars like the Space NK one for £199 with a different skincare product for each day or the one from Dior for £400; a gin advent calendar from the Craft Gin Club; there are cheese versions, pork scratching versions and there are, of course chocolate advent calendars, which are everywhere: Charbonnel et Walker does one for £75; Cadbury’s Dairy Milk for £2.19 ('make every day in the run-up to Christmas magical').

And every single one of them misses the point which is that Advent is about waiting and preparing, not about stuffing yourself or titivating yourself or pampering yourself en route to the coming of the Lord. Actually, they don’t so much miss the point of Advent as subvert it.

So if you’re not actually out to spoil the season, make yours a nice nativity scene with a text from scripture behind each window, or a lovely Bethlehem in the snow backdrop for doors opening to angels or a donkey and finally baby Jesus. A truffle a day for 25 days doesn’t quite prepare you for the Coming of the Lord, now, does it?

Written byMelanie McDonagh

Melanie McDonagh is an Irish journalist working in London

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