I was umming and ah-ing about making a wonkybutton advent calendar this year- and then I decided just to go for it. This decision was made for a few good reasons which I will share with you now.
I began noticing chocolate advent calendars creep into the shops well over a month ago. As well as it being obviously far too early to even contemplate Christmas at the time- the familiar feelings (that I have every year) about how commercial it all seems really started to make me feel down.
You will know the advent calendars I am talking about…. big brands like Peppa Pig, Thomas and Hello Kitty (other commercial advent calendars are also available!) with their cheap horrible plastic chocolate offerings inside. The outside is no better… a generic badly illustrated snowy scene that bears absolutely no resemblance to Christmas apart from the stereotypical Christmas weather (that we don’t really get until late January anyway!)
The thing is, I am not really religious (well, I was raised as a roman catholic- but that is a whole different blog post)- but that doesn’t stop me appreciating the real story and meaning of Christmas. Any story that is one of hope, peace, giving and love surely has to be a good one to share with our children. I think that it is not only possible as an atheist, but also vital, for us to celebrate the Christmas story to try and keep some sort of balance and perspective to what would otherwise be just a hideously indulgent and materialistic overload.
Our children will get enough presents and treats over this festive period- they don’t need to have extra chocolates every day leading up to Christmas day. As if they do- surely that will just mean you have to up the anti as all expectations (and sugar levels) are higher. I think that having an advent calendar that supplies a little present (chocolate or otherwise) and insists that you gradually destroy it until it is no more that a husk like piece of rubbish on Christmas day, is not ultimately a good message. Why not instead, have one that gives you the simple pleasure of adding something each day to make it turn into something whole. By watching your advent calendar grow and evolve until complete on Christmas day, is actually quite magical and satisfying. Teaching our children that by looking forward to something like Christmas day (by making the emphasis being on the countdown rather than the sugary treat) can make it even more special and exciting.
One thing I have noticed about being a mother, is that stickers are like catnip for children. It is such a simple thing, but they all go crazy for a sticker. I know it isn’t a new thing to make a sticker advent calendar, but being an illustrator/maker person, I wanted one for my children that ticked all the boxes (in no particular order!)…. nicely designed, with stickers, Nativity scene. I couldn’t seem to find one anywhere that had these things, so I decided to make one myself.
As it is a small artisan print run which is relatively expensive to produce, I realise that my calendar is perhaps pricier than the cheap supermarket ones. But I really hope that people appreciate the sentiment that my wonkybutton calendar represents.
So, about the calendar… basically the background (printed on A4 280gsm recycled craft card) is quite bare- just a shed-like building, ground, and starry sky. There is also an A4 sheet of 25 stickers (one for each day of December until Christmas day) and a simple instruction postcard which illustrates a suggested order to put the stickers on. I made the order “suggested” as of course it is the child’s prerogative to add them in any order. The same applies for the placement of the stickers. I always think it is good to have loose rules/instructions, but equally important is to leave a bit of room for individual creativity. So by the time Christmas day arrives, the scene will have magically grown to be brimming with of stars, hearts, people and sheep. Who could ask for more!
My little girl helped me assemble one for promotional photos and is itching to get started on her “real one” in December. The only thing is, I must remember to tell Granny not to undo all my good work by just going out and buy her a rubbish chocolate advent calendar!
My favourite sticker has to be the angel. I know “technically” the angel is male- but the truth is, I wasn’t going to do the angel at all. But then, my little girl said I absolutely should (any human-like thing that has wings is just amazing according to her). So actually, the angel is my daughter.
*I wrote the above post for the wonderful Little Lewes blog. As you can see, my above post is long and burbly, so was made more palettable on the little lewes blog (which you can read HERE if you like!)