Remember those cute advent calendars of our childhood?

I do. For every day of December up to Christmas Eve a little window behind which would wait a surprise: a lovely image, illustration and one December even chocolates!!! The magic of childhood .

I am recreating this magic with my own version of an advent calendar. All illustrated by me with my personal touch and some childhood memories.

 

1 December

advent calendar 1 December illustration

It has finally arrived, the 1st of December. And the first day of my Advent Calendar! I’m starting with a little quote I came across, by the poet Sarah Kay, that says it all, don’t you think?

“It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.”

(Or: S#%$ps! Is it December already?) And here we go… winter, early evenings, festive shopping, baking, nipping a brandy before bed time, friends & family and wrapping gifts…

I will be posting every day from now on, an image and a video of the day. Every day an illustration and animation: every day a small surprise to delight!

2 December

advent calendar 2 December childhood memories of sinterklaas

December isn’t just the month of Christmas, at least not here in the Netherlands where I grew up. The 5th of December is the day the Dutch celebrate St. Nicholas, not dissimilar to Santa Claus (less rotund), riding a grey horse over rooftops and leaving presents through the chimney.

Part of this tradition is “putting your shoe out’” in front of the fire or door for the Sint (as we call him), during the week before the 5th, and leave him a wish list or poem and a carrot and a bit of hay for the horse in case they stop by.

If you are so lucky he as been during the night, you might find the carrot and wish list gone, replaced by a chocolate letter, candy and/or a little present.

Part of the magic was you never knew when he would come and what he would leave!

Even though my mother is English, she understood how to create this sense of magic and I remember how, in the early mornings, we would run downstairs to see if he and his horse had stopped by and what we would find. Sometimes candy and little biscuits, sometimes a nicely wrapped gift, and sometimes nothing.

I cherish this memory and I feel that the magic of December traditions, created by my mother, literature, tv, and music have laid the foundations for my love of storytelling and make-believe.

3 December

“I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”

– Mae West

Cold, bleak, snowy, white… is how December romantically gets described in songs, literature and Christmas films… but I haven’t seen one of those Decembers for years, although I remember colder months during my childhood.

Still… dreaming of a white Christmas…

4 December

We used to have one of those carousel candles that would turn and tinkle when the candle was lit. I was fascinated by it. It really spoke to my young romantic imagination. A tinkling, shimmering carousel in the window when dark and cold outside….. watch the video to see the real deal.

5 December

Today is Sinterklaas, the day the Dutch celebrate St. Nicholas. An evening with chocolate letters, presents for children, “delivered” in a huge sack, maybe a visit from St.Nicholas and his personal assistants and the throwing of candy and mini biscuits called peppernuts. I always liked, and still like, the colourful sweets and chocolate Sinterklaas wrapped in colourful silver foil. For children it is such an exciting day full of anticipation, waiting for a visit from the old guy and surprise of presents and opening them.

6 December

“One can never have enough socks. Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”

– Professor Dumbledore

What do you buy for your loved ones that don’t like to read? Socks for sure. Otherwise, books are the best idea.

I always got one or two books for Christmas and such a treat! A whole school holiday to get through them, cuddled up on the sofa, eating sweets and mince pies.

7 December

“Some Christmas tree ornaments do more than glitter and glow, they represent a gift of love given a long time ago”

– Tom Baker 

Today we are going to buy our Christmas tree! And probably get some more decorations to add to the collection. I started tree decorating early in life, first helping out, and later taking over… as befits a bossy eldest sister 😏.

It won’t come as a surprise I love it… colours, shapes, glitter, glimmer, gold….. many shiny objects and vintage elements combined together with enough kitsch to make it tasteful 😉.

8 December

 

 

“A Christmas cake should be rich and spicy; bursting with boozy fruit but never, ever heavy. After all, you need to leave room for a mince pie.” 

– Felicity Cloake, in the Guardian 

So, I’ll be aiming for just that: rich, spicy, boozy and light….. I’m baking a traditional Christmas Cake today, a couple of weeks before Christmas so it can mature with the help of a sprinkle of brandy now and then. I have no experience, not being an avid or even talented cake baker, but never one to shy away from trying! (I have, however made lovey illustrations for a cake brand.)

The recipe comes from The Guardian. I have swapped the whiskey with a Spanish brandy that I have standing around in my drinks cabinet (posh right?!).

(Spoiler: the cake was delish. We ate the whole thing over a couple of days without sharing with others – bad.)

8 December

 

 

“A Christmas cake should be rich and spicy; bursting with boozy fruit but never, ever heavy. After all, you need to leave room for a mince pie.” 

– Felicity Cloake, in the Guardian 

So, I’ll be aiming for just that: rich, spicy, boozy and light….. I’m baking a traditional Christmas Cake today, a couple of weeks before Christmas so it can mature with the help of a sprinkle of brandy now and then. I have no experience, not being an avid or even talented cake baker, but never one to shy away from trying! (I have, however made lovey illustrations for a cake brand.)

The recipe comes from The Guardian. I have swapped the whiskey with a Spanish brandy that I have standing around in my drinks cabinet (posh right?!).

(Spoiler: the cake was delish. We ate the whole thing over a couple of days without sharing with others – bad.)

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