Ryan Trares: Advent of a beloved holiday tradition

Ryan Trares

Every morning brings a new surprise.

For once, Anthony is excited to get up and go downstairs to start the day. What used to be a forced march now goes by like a breeze.

All thanks to the start of the Advent calendar season.

Anthony loves Advent calendars, those daily surprise factories that help count down the days from Dec. 1 to Christmas Day. What started as moving a candy cane from one day to the next on a hanging felt calendar has turned into a daily ritual of opening hidden doors to find bits of candy or small trinkets.

I’m not sure how we got here.

Advent calendars have been a holiday tradition for nearly two centuries, as people have found creative ways to tick off days until Christmas. In recent years, the tradition has exploded, with companies making pre-filled packages to open each day in December. People can get calendars filled with everything from beef jerky to tiny wine bottles to specialty coffee.

When Anthony was a baby, we had a hanging decoration we put on the pantry door. Each day, we’d move the small felt candy cane to a new pouch, until we’d reached Dec. 24 and it was time to prepare for Christmas.

He loved it. As he got older, it became his responsibility to move the candy cane. As a reward, I’d put Hershey’s Kisses or other small treats in each pouch.

The tradition escalated as family members got in on the fun. Anthony’s grandparents love to get him specialty Advent calendars, and for the past few years, he’s had a few different options to open in the mornings. Past versions have included Reese’s candies and chocolate nutcrackers. This year, it’s Kinder chocolates in one calendar, and Christmas-themed LEGOs in another.

“There should be Advent calendars for every holiday,” he said the other day.

Anthony’s excitement had been building the closer we got to Dec. 1. But he added a new wrinkle this year.

On Monday evening, Anthony pulled a few sheets of paper, Scotch tape and markers and set to work on the floor. My wife and I were not allowed anywhere near his workstation until he was done, so we waited, watching him concentrate with a focused intensity.

When he was done, he presented his work to us — he had crafted his own Advent calendar for us.

“I wanted you guys to have one to open too,” he said.

Twenty-four different boxes are drawn on a sheet of paper, with tiny doors covering each one. That way, when Anthony rushes downstairs in the morning to open his own calendars, we’ll have them open as well.

I realize the silliness of having a small treat waiting every morning, and I know how lucky we are that Anthony has people in his family who love him and want to provide him with those treats. But for all of his excitement at giving, he’s found joy in giving to others too — something we’ve tried to instill in him.

So more than any piece of candy or trinkety toy, the best way to mark Christmas’ approach will be with the daily smiles that come during our family Advent calendar time.

Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal in Franklin. Send comments to [email protected].