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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Opening windows on a love-hate relationship with Christmas

Terrible, to think we're only 12 days away from the 12 days - that we are now halfway through Advent.

It's several decades since I last opened the cardboard window of an Advent Calendar to reveal….well, in those days, it was a badly-drawn scene from the nativity story. I loved that ritual, each morning revealing the next episode. Each year I longed to reach the climactic moment where you looked through the stable door to see Joseph and Mary and a donkey and a crib and lots of golden hay. Coloured cellophane. The cut-out shape of the star of the East. The shepherds with their crooks and glowing lanterns. Hold it up to the light boy!

These days,  kids get sweets, chocolates, trinkets, and for all I know gold, frankincense and myrrh each time they pull back those little flaps.

This year I'm hooked again. No cardboard flaps, though. I've  become an addict of the Advent Calendar of podcaster, Daniel Ruiz Tizon. As he points out so well in the first episode,  for kids the excitement of Christmas is all about the countdown, the expectation - and not about the day itself, which was often a terrible let-down.

OK, we have already got to Day 12 but there's still time to catch up. You can binge on Advent Calendar podcasts on iTunes, instead of one of those boxed-set TV shows. It costs less (well, nothing actually) and it goes straight to the point of our existences on the surface of this planet. In all honesty,  what could be better?

These daily nuggets of storytelling share some of the bitter-sweet observational humour of  the weekly show on ResonanceFM, Daniel Ruiz Tizon is Available, which has already had a few mentions on this blog.

The theme is familiar – can jaded, life-battered adults ever recapture the magic of Christmas? – but the treatment is entirely and absolutely Daniel's own. It's sad, it's funny, it's obsessive, it's moving, its addictive. And if you were brought up in England at any point between the 60s and the 90s it's going to get your memory-strings reverberating in interesting ways.

The presents you longed for but never got; the ones you dreaded being given. The visits to no-longer existing department stores. Christmas TV of the 70s and 80s. Christmas pop. Above all the pain, the fights,  the embarrassments and occasionally even the joys of being part of a family.

Each day's episode is only 10 or 12 minutes, so although we're already past the half-way mark of this advent season, you can quite easily catch up. And I recommend you do: you will very soon be as captivated as I am.

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