I liked my Advent Calendar last year. Childish but oddly exciting. Reminiscent of very full and Adventy Advents. Waiting. Austerity. Preparation. I'm still dismayed by hot cross buns for sale all through Lent. All that candy before Easter. I am of the repressive and autocratic opinion that none of these holiday treats should be available before the vigil of the feast, completely disregarding the logistics of merchandising and potential uncontrollable crowds at the shops.
But of course if you live in Lampeter-ish places (small villages and tiny towns), it is all manageable. The Christmas Turkeys (and other festal fare) are only available to be collected on the day before Christmas Eve. Though "collected" is a flexible term. One Christmas in Wales it rained so hard that Martin the Porter (in Wales, university porters are magical beings who do everything from regularly saving students from themselves to fending off intruders, delivering the post and subtly running parts of the university that no one knows exist) rang from the Bwtcher's* shop to say that I shouldn't come out in this terrible torrent and that he'd pick up my turkey and deliver it. Bwtcher willingly handed it over to him saying "no worry about payment" - he'd see me sometime.
The matrix of this was enchanting. Martin had to know that I had ordered a turkey which I never told him. Bwtcher had to know Martin well enough to know that he was a trustworthy person and that he knew me. Both had to know that payment wasn't an issue. And both had to think of me at that time on that bustlingly busy day, when the whole town converged in that minute shop (far far smaller than an ordinary meat counter in Safeway's) to wait under the awning outside to "clonc" (chat) and collect their Christmas fare.
Back to Advents, emergences, approaches, Lents - in my (again, repressive and autocratic) opinion, one makes these festal foodstuffs - buns and cakes and other cultural comestibles - oneself, as part of both celebration and sacrifice, so they are exquisitely tempting exactly when one may not eat them - all part of the lesson, the message, the yearning, the wonderful anticipation of the Feast.
This is 50s thinking, I know. But the liturgical year was really something then - all ups and downs, highs and lows, solemn vigils and high celebrations. The shrouded statues, the open empty tabernacle - the sanctuary light...blown...out. The lovely deprivations, the ascetic fasts, the aesthetic feasts, the fish, the beads, gaudete pink bursting into the dark dawn on the third Sunday in Advent - and the long dark midnight arm of ecclesiastical law.
Meaning (to you youngsters) that one could not eat or drink after midnight if one was going to receive communion [now called "take communion" which doesn't quite make sense] the next day, whether Mass was at 6:00 am or noon. Another little Advent. Another little Lent.
It was a full-blooded relationship - the soul, the heart, the mind and the church. Well. Never mind. Mutantur omnia nos et mutamur in illis. And there were a lot of things wrong with that world. But this wasn’t one of them.
* "Bwtcher" is a Wenglish word for Butcher. The actual Welsh word for butcher is cigydd.
~ Harrison Solow, in a letter to a friend
Causes Harrison Solow Supports
Lupus Foundation of America
Museum of Tolerance