From the Pastor: Advent Calendars!
Some of you may think that this is a bit too “Novus Ordo Priest-y” so, if you are squeamish in this way, just skip the rest of the article. But for the rest of you, realize that I am not the “rigid traditional” priest that is so often the stereotypical picture painted of any priest who celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass. You may, if you wish, now shrug your shoulders as if to say, ‘oh, well, let’s see what he has to say” and then continue reading. Now that the Karen’s have left the room, I want to tell a tale about searching for Advent Calendars. Let me begin by addressing the origin of these calendars, for, just like the Advent Wreath, they come to us, not from Catholic tradition, but from Lutheran tradition. Yes, those who are no longer supposed to be reading this could very easily be calling me “Little Francis’ right about now, for, although I am not suggesting that you commission a statue of the heretic priest (Fr.) Martin Luther, I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about using, in your family home, one of his (or at least his followers’) Advent Wreaths or Advent Calendars to prepare for Christmas! Here is a small summary from Wikipedia of what an Advent Calendar is: “An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. Since the date of the First Sunday of Advent varies, falling between November 27 and December 3 inclusive, many Advent calendars, especially those that are reusable, often begin on December 1, although those that are produced for a specific year often include the last few days of November that are part of the liturgical season. The Advent calendar was first used by German Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries.” So, although Luther himself was long since dead and judged before the first use of these calendars, they still come from his line of protesters. To my way of thinking, though, that does not disqualify them from being very useful for Catholics!
I remember old Advent calendars which had tabs that children would pull back each day of Advent as they counted down the days to Christmas. Behind each tab was a scripture verse to look up in the bible and read, a chore or some nice thing to do for someone that day (i.e., “Make your bed before being told to do so.”) and—and this was the absolute best part—a piece of candy to eat after the first two things were accomplished! These calendars were simple, they taught children how to use a calendar, how to tell how many days until Christmas, how to look up bible passages, and how to connect “doing something good” to “preparing for Christmas”. So toss aside the protestant roots, Catholics, and climb aboard! But a strange thing has happened recently. After many years of not even thinking about Advent Calendars, I started to see them pop up every once in a while. I even managed to buy some for my nieces and nephews a few years ago when they were younger. But as they grew in popularity again (or, at least, as I started noticing them again) they began to lose all sense of their purpose: to prepare for the birth of Jesus. The calendars started to have snow scenes and winter activities drawn in the place of scenes of Bethlem, the Star, the manger, the Magi, and the Holy Family. No longer do they have bible verses or chores to help you live a Christian life, but, rather, they count down to nothing and contain nothing of substance inside. Oh, sure, the candy may still be there, but that used to be just the reward for learning about Christ’s birth or for being good on account of His love.
A few years ago a parishioner brought me an “adult Advent Calendar” of beer. I am certainly not complaining about it, for it was a fun calendar which brought a lot of “holiday cheer” at the rectory! But it wasn’t holy as the Advent Calendars of old. This year I found in my email a company selling three different Advent Calendars with chocolate pieces, so I eagerly clicked to see if they were the old-fashioned kind. Before I tell you what they looked like, I want to point out that they had no price on or around the button that said “purchase” so I couldn’t see how much they cost unless I put them into the “shopping cart”! I wasn’t about to do that, so I checked more closely and found, in small print up at the top under the photo of the calendar, the words “Pay in full or in 4 interest-free installments of $18.75 with ShopPay”! Yes, $75.00 for tiny chocolate pieces in an “Advent Calendar” that (as you have probably already guessed) except for the name “Advent Calendar” didn’t mention or even show anything to do with Jesus, Christmas, Advent, or, get this, even winter! Yes, these were completely and utterly devoid of anything except for numbers set up in calendar fashion for which, I suppose, people actually shelled out a lot of money in order to “feel good” about themselves as they entered into the “holiday” shopping season.
After seeing this, I did something that I suggest that only the strong of heart do. Google “Advent Calendar 2021” and see what pops up! Advent Calendars featuring wine, cosmetics, Harry Potter, Disney, jewelry ($499!), Star Wars, dog treats, and more, but no Infant Jesus. Covid is certainly not the worst disease we are facing today. How sad...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka