It’s the holiday season, that magical time of year when strings of white lights ring trees, tinsel in all colors of the rainbow experiences its annual heyday, and everyone seems to be just a little bit nicer.
The “holiday” in my holiday season is Christmas, and I find that I go through phases of the degree to which I embrace the season. Some years I dive headlong into celebrating, and some years I quite happily let everyone else’s festiveness carry me forward to January 1. This time around it’s decidedly the former, likely because Aran and I have a new abode in our near future, and a wedding to plan for some months after that. (What? I didn’t tell you about our engagement??) There is some serious nesting happening, and embracing the tree decorating, treat baking, and drink imbibing all seems to be required activity.
In preparation for the acquisition of a Christmas tree and the official launch of my holiday season, I pulled out the plastic bins of ornaments, lights, holiday cards, wrapping paper, ribbon, more pairs of Christmas socks than one person should own, and an odd assortment of red candles. It’s at this very moment every year, the one when I start to rifle through the bins, that I come upon my Advent Bell. Much like the traditional Advent calendar, the bell has a treat for each day of the month leading up to the 25th and Christmas. (As an aside, the timing of this discovery can be slightly problematic. Stumbling upon it early in December = more happy, treat-filled days. Conversely, finding it late in the month = more sad, treat-less days.) Though traditional in function my bell is unique in construction, having been made by my grandmother many moons ago. The bell is definitely showing its age – the paper of the typewritten message at the top is beginning to crack and the yarn is headed to a fatal fray – but I prize it all the same. You’ll note that I use Hershey’s Kisses for my countdown, which are slippery little buggers and difficult to tie on to the bell. Gram was no fool: In my time with her she always used the much-easier-to-affix hard candies. Either way, I love that I’m carrying on her Advent tradition.
Beyond just the bell, I’ve always been a fan of Advent calendars. Each day a window to open, something behind it designed to surprise and delight. Interesting (though not terribly surprising) that we have retained the general concept of Advent – a period of time leading up to the celebration of a Major Occasion (aka the birth of Jesus) – while disconnecting the secular activity from its religious roots. No doubt there are many who cringe at the variety of Advent calendars that stray further and further from the religious tradition, but I’m more of a mind to embrace the diversity. There are a couple of examples from this year’s crop of Advent calendars that I found particularly compelling, and you probably won’t be shocked to hear that they’re food and drink-centered.
The first came by way of my friend, Darlin. At one point I must have rattled on about the aforementioned Advent Bell – or maybe even shared a Kiss – that now “Advent calendar” and “Alix” are irrevocably connected in her mind. This year that connection manifested itself in the sharing of this fantastic electronic Cookie Advent Calendar from Saveur. It is exactly what it sounds like: a new cookie recipe for each day, including December 25th. Spectacular! Not that I’m going to bake a new batch of cookies each day, but how fun to click on the numbered square each morning and see what new delight awaits. I am tempted, however, to try the December 7 offering: Caramel Crumb Bars. Double topping of caramel and crumbly butter streusel? Sign me up.
After a hard day of baking, what could be better than a holiday-appropriate beverage? The drinky team at Belltown’s Rob Roy and bartender (and all around clever guy, if you’re a fan of his blog and tweets, as I am) teamed up to create the Cocktail Advent Calendar. In concept it’s much the same as other Advent countdowns, but because the medium is liquor I’m even more of a fan than usual. The idea is that for each day of the month, bartenders at Rob Roy will be pouring a different concoction, giving us license to drink terribly sweet cocktails like The Godson, with absolutely no dirty looks from anyone behind the bar. Drink up, my friends!