In the old days, say, like last year, Kara’s closest co-workers in proximity were Ben and James. Now Ben has moved on, we thought to leave town but instead just to the hardware biz (after a viral period of unemployment), and Pandemia has moved James from his desk to the printing press. Somehow, though, this all turns out to be good news for Kara.
Awhile back we reviewed Kara’s love of the Christmas season, which includes Christmas tunes. She would play them all year long if she was allowed, which she is emphatically not. No Christmas music before Thanksgiving, that’s the shop rule.
And even post-Thanksgiving, Kara usually gets an endless supply of grief, mostly from Ben but also James and — okay, I’ll admit it — sometimes even me. I like my Christmas music, but in bursts, not all day every day. Ben, who in all fairness is Jewish, would be happy to go all year without ever hearing a single carol.
(Kara did find it quite amusing that in his new hardware job, he was the employee tasked with setting out all the Christmas supplies, well before Thanksgiving.)
But now Ben is gone, and in his place is Vann. I should have seen this coming, on the first day it snowed when Vann voluntarily and without any influence from Kara started playing Christmas music because the snow had him in a holiday mood.
So now there are two of them, amping up the Christmas spirit in a tuneful way. Which made it all the more horrific to Kara when she learned Vann has never set up an advent calendar, not even once, with his daughter.
Here’s a funny little story that I think is finally safe to tell. (As long as we all understand it could have ended quite badly.) Mahthilda (yes, two H’s) has become a shop favorite, since she’s had to spend time with us this year without access to her daycare. She started kindergarten, in person here in Gunnison, this fall, and because it’s the Year of Corona, Vann and his wife regretfully cancelled a sixth birthday party for Mahthilda the Monday before Thanksgiving.
So we had a tiny little party for her at work, with a giant stuffed horse (procured of course by Kara) and some cake balls (provided of course by Kara). As Vann and Kara lit the six candles on the cake balls, I did think to myself, I’m not sure that’s a good idea — but I didn’t say it out loud.
The Pat’s staff did its usual dirgish rendition of Happy Birthday — we really should practice — and Mahthilda set about blowing out her six candles. One at a time, each with multiple puffs of air. Right over the cake balls. Which she then very nicely passed out to everyone before taking one herself. Did I mention the multiple puffs of air? All over the cake balls?
Kara was wondering how to discreetly slide hers into the trash but I, having just witnessed this gusty birthday tradition, ate mine on my way back to my desk. Then when it turned out that James and Gilly ate theirs, and Omar put away three, Kara womanned up and ingested hers.
Happily, we are all here to laugh about it now, but right there is how your covid parties start. Don’t try this at home.
So here we have Vann, daddy extraordinaire who loves Christmas music and his daughter, but somehow has been neglectful in the whole advent area. Kara was aghast.
Although I would point out that for all of her love for all things advent, she has no recollection of the advent calendar I made for her one year when I obviously had more energy and ambition. Starting Nov. 1, I set out a poster-sized countdown that offered up one specified Christmas tune each day in the run-up to Thanksgiving.
You would think someone would remember a calendar like that. Although I have to confess I don’t really recall what I did either, other than I did it. So don’t ask for another.
My five minutes of research this morning tells me “advent” comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival,” and in the centuries-old tradition that started with tally marks on the door, it about the anticipation of the Christian season. It’s supposed to be a four-week period in the run-up to Christmas, but most calendars now just start on Dec. 1.
The modern advent calendar got its boost in the 1920s from a German printer named Gerhard Lang, who wanted to share the joy he got from his family’s homemade calendars. He figured out how to put the little doors on his printed calendars, and behind each one he stowed a Bible verse or devotional picture.
Paper rationing during World War II might have put a kibosh on the whole tradition, but then along came President Eisenhower, photographed in the ’50s opening advent calendars with his grandchildren. If it was cool enough for Ike, it was good enough for the rest of America, which started turning Bible verses into toys and chocolate.
Shortly after Vann’s dark confession that advent calendars are not part of his family tradition, one arrived at the shop, by way of Kara’s sister Shannon. In this case, the calendar is the chocolate, little squares of edibility with fun pictures and the date stamped on top. Lynn got the honor of eating today’s square, with its gingerbread man and the number 6, which may be the highlight of her entire day.
At home, I’m led to understand, Kara’s husband gets a larger-than-life calendar, and behind each door is a different European lager. This is serious advent festing.
I don’t personally have any advent tradition myself. I kind of recall a calendar filled with chocolate arriving one year in my youth, and the three of us consuming all of it well before its time because one little tiny piece every third day wasn’t cutting it. No more advent for the Livermores with their obvious lack of restraint.
We’ll just see how it goes at work. Kara instructed me to take two squares for Lynn, both Saturday and Sunday’s — but someone had already consumed the fifth square. This could end up looking a lot like the gluttonous Livermore version of advent rather than the cherished tradition as Kara celebrates it. We just can’t all be as advent-urous as she is, no matter how hard she tries.
Be sure to watch the whole thing, even if you’re sure you know how it ends. ; )