A Christmas Tradition for Any Ol’ Day

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By Andrea Goto

I love holidays. And thinking back to my childhood (from which all issues stem, good or bad), I realize that my mom instilled a special love for Christmas through tradition. We had a number of them. As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey was stripped like a downed antelope by a pride of lions, Mom cued Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” on the record player as we decorated the tree. We placed the creepy “vertically challenged” stuffed Santa in his inaugural spot by the fire and prayed that he wouldn’t come to life and skin the cat, and Mom gifted both my sister and I with Advent calendars that must’ve set her back 25 cents.

They were the worst Advent calendars known to man. You know the kind; the 11x13 paper ones with tiny little doors that you had to pry open with your stubby, bitten-down nails. When you finally earned a 1x1 cm candy, it was a waxy little square that the candy company took the time to emboss with an image of an angel or a bell to hide the fact that it tasted like an unscented candle. A number of the doors would yield no chocolate at all because the thin pieces had fallen to the bottom during packaging.

All the same, I loved those Advent calendars. Not for what they were (sub-par chocolate), but for what they represented (an over-the-top present extravaganza, conventionally known as Christmas).

It also meant chocolate for breakfast, which I’ve come to see as a damn good privilege.

This year, my mom introduced my daughter to the Advent calendar on steroids. She quilted this beautiful hanging piece with 24 individual pockets in which she inserted tiny gifts. Mom went out and bought two-dozen trinkets to wrap.

Each morning Ava races to her calendar. This sends me into a state of panic. Day 14?! I only have ten days to finish my Christmas shopping! Day 10, the cards will barely make it out! Day 5, I might as well give up and send New Year’s cards, which every mom secretly knows is code for “fail.”

So while Ava stuffs her face with Belgian chocolate (not fair!), I’m breaking out in holiday hives.

But Christmas is supposed to be about the children, right? And I have to admit that I’ve never seen my daughter so eager to greet the day until she was introduced to the Advent calendar. So I’m thinking that after Christmas I may continue the tradition. I’m going to develop an “everyday Advent” to countdown the days to the most mundane tasks, like a trip to the dentist. I’ll stuff the calendar with general household paraphernalia, such as fluoride rinse, nickels and reduced-fat Wheat Thins. She’ll be excited and I’ll know exactly how many days I have left before I have to force her to floss.

Maybe these traditions shouldn’t be reserved for just the Christmas season. Maybe we should bake cookies year round, send cards just ‘cause and wish people happiness not because it’s the season for it, but because there’s a reason for it: rather than mourning the loss of time, we’re enjoying the gifts of every passing day.

Andrea Goto swore that she would not let her child watch SpongeBob, take ballet, or consume food with Red Dye #40. Of course, that all changed when her daughter was actually born. Five years later, Andrea blogs about her revised approach to childrearing, which she likes to call Real-World Parenting. Her “technique” is based on commonsense and topped with a big dose of humor. Andrea is a regular contributor to PaulaDeen.com.
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By COOKIE FUENTES on December 23, 2011


My tradition with my son has been for 21 years, I buy an ornament for his tree. It has always been a representation of whatever he is into; from Barney and Sesame Street to Scooby Doo, Harry Potter and now: UNC tarheels. Someday soon, when he starts his own household, these will all be passed down to him as our tradition.

By Gena Miller on December 23, 2011


@Beth: Therapy of this sort is ALWAYS free! Just remember, I'm not certified and cannot be held responsible for children going awry! Your advent experience is hilarious! I actually thought that Ava might have trouble holding back each day. Maybe the Playmobil toys are too cool. Next year you could start small with the little chocolate pieces that taste like plastic. See if they're begging then! Plus, you're pregnant. You have a special right to give in when it comes to preserving your sanity for the health of you and the unborn smile. Happy Holidays!

By andrea Goto on December 22, 2011


Andrea, Could it be possible we are soul mates or just long lost sisters separated at birth? I am so excited Ava loves the pimped out Advent calendar and adore your idea about the everyday Advent suggestion. This year, something has gone terribly awry with out Advent calendar... My mother purchased two Play Mobile calendars, each depicting a different scene - 1 a dainty forest (for my 3yo daughter) and the other a kingly styled layout (for my 5yo son). It started out well enough, the kids setting up their calendar in a special place, but quickly turned as I reexplained the rules to them about opening one door a day. Like strung out drug addicts, my children ranted around the house for hours talking of nothing but the Advent calendars. "May we have one more today? i NEED it!" they whined. Hour after hour, I held my ground, but as my headache mounted and the thought of waking up to another minute of whining in my 8 month pregnant state, I finally caved. Annoyed that I had given in, but exhausted at the thought of going through ANOTHER life lesson about patience - I just let them have the damn Advent calendars. A quick text to my mother asking her never to bring over one of those argument starting calendars over to my house again and I felt better about the holiday season... I think I might be a bad mother and this comment to your post might be turning into a future blog post for my site! Thank you for letting me vent and as always, super piece! smile How much do I owe you for this therapy session? -Elizabeth

By Elizabeth Rago on December 22, 2011


Beautiful. Its true that we seem to be more observant of the things that are most important during the holidays - the people we love, traditions that make us happy, gathering with family. I have felt more grateful this season than I have the rest of the year, and find myself thinking that I ought to be in touch with that feeling year round, as my blessings are certainly not concentrated in November and December. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful blog!

By Erica on December 19, 2011


Too funny! You have a wonderful gift of writing and humor!! Now, back to reality, and I will let you continue with the whole year-round advent thing...just make sure whatever you decide to bribe the kid with, send some my way because there is absolutely no way in hell I am going to do this to my teenagers. I would loose my cool status! But I have no adversion to being bribed to go for my yearly doctor's appt.! Seriously, your last paragraph sums it up perfectly, and decribes my last Christmas with my Daddy to a "T." He passed away 12/28/06, and the Christmas prior was just wonderful! Merry Christmas, Lori

By Lori on December 16, 2011

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Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
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