I offer an advent calendar that lasts all year round. Certainly, it is during these coldest and sickest days that we most need a little treat. A bubbly treat to get us through the morning and allow us to open our eyelids and feast on the splendor of another day, a land polluted and bereaved, and covered with a fine dusting of the variant chosen to join us this week. But then January comes and we always need, and February and March, and we always need in the spring, a special little treat to propel us through the longer days. It’s our responsibility to stay happy and positive, and we do that by taking medicine with a very small Milky Bar after breakfast.
At some point in the past decade, it was universally recognized that Advent calendars were wasted on children who, unlike us, still believed that sweet things were their due. Chocolates have been replaced by gin fingers, or “crafted accessories”, or whisper-sized beauty products and miniature perfumes, for women like me who find relief in temporarily extinguishing our ugliness and our stench.
In our house, I DIYed one for my daughter using last year’s calendar and some Hanukkah pieces, to keep her on her toes. As I carefully sealed each window, I pondered what else I would hide in a grown-up version, a celebration of a year half-lived. A lateral flow test, of course, and a delicately folded mask, and a new Britney song, and some NFT, and a sealed vial of the shepherd’s pie that killed a woman, and a fake arm, useful for pranksters anti-vaxxers, and a row about Adele, and a voucher for one of those lewd supermarket delivery companies that promises to bring you cereal within half an hour, the existence of which signals the early rattle of Earth.
On TikTok this week, a series of videos of a disgruntled customer opening her $825 Chanel advent calendar went viral. It was Chanel’s first time selling an advent calendar, and it was designed in the shape of a perfume bottle. He joined similar luxury beauty brands, like Dior and Saint Laurent, in offering fans the opportunity to buy a Christmas present for themselves, no doubt fully aware of the bookish horrors of in-laws at come. The most expensive this year is Tiffany’s at $150,000, a 4-foot-tall white oak cabinet with a reproduction of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting on the front and 24 gifts inside. Typically, these luxury calendars will be marketed as bargains – if we were to add up the virtual value of the products inside, they might exceed the (still staggering) price of the calendar, but really, that was just a fact. offered only by those who had already bought one to their baffled partners, widely understood as a cover story. However, no one likes feeling like they’re getting pissed on, and it’s this concern that has driven the numbers up. Elise Harmon’s TikTok page, then comments on Chanel’s.
During a series of videos (now viewed over 50 million times), Harmon used her exquisite manicure to open the calendar doors, revealing sample-sized beauty products, a key ring, a kind of friendship bracelet and, fabulously, a dust bag. A little cloth pouch, like something better is coming. At one point, I think it’s when she opens the wrapped stickers, Harmon turns off the camera, she’s so disappointed. At that point, all of capitalism collapses, before quickly recovering. But still, the story was told, and the internet agreed that the calendar appeared to have been put together by someone frantically rummaging through the office trash can, mumbling “shit shit shit.”
And you know what? Good. Let it be on our heads. If we insist on remaining in the grip of the mythology of luxury brands, whose very name elevates a piece of string from the jewelry bin and allows two zeros to be added to the price, then what else do we have to s expect exactly that? There comes a time when we must decide whether we will stubbornly turn away from the glamorous logo sirens, singing to us from the rocks, to live our hand-knit, righteous lives, or whether we will occasionally give in to our desire. A thirst for soft things made shiny by light, worn by movie stars on a panel on violence. A craving for something flavorful. And if we insist on giving in to our puppyish desire for treats and rewards, the awfully simple way our ears perk up when a certain word is said softly, then isn’t that exactly what we deserve? It is entirely our fault for having invested so much in so little, for having entertained such vain hope.
Besides, what is hidden behind the window of an advent calendar is not the important thing. The joy is in the brief death-defying seconds it takes to open it. Here’s the fun, here’s the prize – the knowledge that just getting out of bed today you’ve earned.