One of my best childhood Christmas memories is the anticipation and joy I felt of December 1st arriving so I could begin opening up an Advent calendar. Since I went to a Catholic school the Advent calendars we had were sparkly pieces of cardboard with beautiful angels and the nativity scene gracing the front. Each day I would peel open one of the little numbered tags and find a line from a scripture hidden behind it. The 24th opening was usually two-sided and larger than all the other dates and contained the line, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." I always remembered that.
Later on the calendars weren't as grand -- no more sparkling angels -- and the little doors opened to reveal a picture of something Christmas related. And then one year someone brought me the best Advent calendar in the world -- one that had tiny pieces of chocolate in it! It was Heaven sent for sure. Ever since then I have always bought chocolate Advent calendars. My kids never even realized there were any other types.
For the last couple of years the quality of the chocolate Advent calendars has really disintegrated. Suddenly the only ones available contained Polish chocolate. No matter where I would find one, no matter what the outside piece of cardboard picture was, the inside chocolate was the same...from Poland. It doesn't matter whether the calendar is from either -- Walgreens, Hickory Farms, local expensive chocolate shoppes, or the Dollar Store -- they are all identical -- filled with inferior chocolate from the same Polish company. Now, there are some foodstuffs that the Poles have nailed but chocolate is definitely not one of them. When did Poland corner the chocolate Advent calendar market? Does it have something to do with the North Pole tie-in? What happened to the French, Belgium and German chocolate calendars that I used to buy?
I'm not the only one who has noticed the crappy chocolate either. My daughter decreed last week, "Don't even think about buying one of those cheap Polish chocolate calendars again. I'm tired of pretending to eat that horrible chocolate. Just so you know, we always throw them out, so don't waste your money." And here I thought I was the only chocolate snob in the family who had a discriminating chocolate palate.
So after a fruitless search we have forgone the chocolate Advent calendar this year. Instead we are using two others. This one has little plush toys that you take from Santa's sack and put into the daily pockets.
This one has little wooden toys that you take out of the draw and place on the numbered peg. I'd like to say I filled each drawer with chocolate, but I'd be lying. I will put a special chocolate, like a Godiva in the 25th drawer and as the last "toy" in Santa's bag, but don't tell my kids...I want to surprise them.