When I was a kid, I lived to move the antique Santa Claus on my family’s advent calendar to a new pocket. Nothing beat waking up each morning and shifting the frayed St. Nick to its rightful spot—one step closer to Christmas morning. As a woman in my twenties living through the year 2020, I’ve begun reverting back to my childhood fascination with advent calendars. While my personal life hangs by a thread and the future remains uncertain, I’m craving a countdown like never before.
My moment of reckoning with this desire arrived—where else—in a Trader Joe’s. Last month, standing in a line that wound halfway through the store, frozen dinner in one hand and hummus in the other, I spotted a sign that read, “99¢ Chocolate Advent Calendars.” Like a moth drawn to a discounted flame, I felt my feet moving towards the display. I clutched onto the colorful box, its two-dozen folds offering me a rare sense of comfort. In a year as chaotic as 2020, salvation looks a lot like “24 Days of Milk Chocolate.” After my advent meet-cute, I found myself googling calendars before bed, fantasizing about them on walks, and adding them to virtual shopping carts.
Before I knew it, shipping notifications for no less than four advent calendars had wandered into my inbox. Initially, there’s shame about lusting over travel-sized goods in a cardboard box. But this is the year we should be reclaiming the concept of an advent calendar. What was once a kitschy countdown to Christmas represents much, much more this year: a closure to the dumpster fire that was 2020. Advent calendars also promise a daily “surprise” that’s far less horrifying than your favorite small business closing or the realization that your boyfriend “doesn’t believe in masks.” As the hits keep coming, getting a daily you’re doing amazing, sweetie is nothing to scoff at.
Since March, society has been counting down the days in bite-sized chunks. We raised the 60-second videos of TikTok to an art form. We molded our schedules around Cuomo’s daily briefings. And we mercifully set 40-minute timers on all Zoom meetings. During election week, a period of unending days, an advent equipped with CBD oil and fun-sized candy bars would’ve been a welcome innovation.
So allow December to be a Choose Your Own Adventure of coping mechanisms. If luxurious skincare is your vice, there are advent calendars for you. Vino more your speed? Brands including World Market, Aldi, and Vinebox have you covered. If you invest in a few (as my bank account shows I’ve done), you could be sipping a glass of champagne, indulging in a chocolate, and lathering on a festively scented hand cream for almost every remaining day of 2020. It’s kind of like a crash diet for your emotional sanity. In other words, allowing advent calendars to dictate your daily routine and mental state isn’t sustainable. But these portion-controlled treats will get us across the finish line.
Try as they might, advent calendars are not a cure-all for seasonal depression or other pandemic woes. However, they can offer a small reprieve from the feeling that this feeling will last forever. But remember: advent calendars only count down until December 25th; what will get us through the remaining six days of the year is anyone’s guess.
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