Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A lump of coal, flavored with vanillin

There's nothing more upsetting than getting your hopes up, only to have them dashed in the cruelest possible fashion by harsh reality. Fortunately, my life since approximately junior high has been rife with such experiences. I appreciate their subtleties like fine wines.

As such, I present to you: the world's worst advent calendar.

Now, please note that I'm not particularly religious (and in fact if anything Sarah and I would be more likely to celebrate Hanukah) but advent calendars have several appealing aspects:

1. Mystery. My childhood advent calendar was made of felt and had little pockets (one for each day, duh) which each contained a felt ornament to put onto the felt tree with pins (not so child safe, but whatever) as well as A CANDY SURPRISE. And keep in mind, it was a legitimate surprise. You never knew if you were going to get a caramel turtle or a big disgusting wad of black licorice. In fact, we used to spend a lot of time feeling around in the pockets to try to suss out what was in there. Why we never peeked, or raided them, remains a mystery to me. If I had access to a time machine, I'd give my preadolescent self a few pointers there, that's for sure.

Admittedly, the candy was often covered with felt, or pretty stale by the time we got to it.

2. Counting. Probably less appealing to older kids, but I remember being *really* excited as the numbers got bigger and Christmas approached. For really young kids, it's probably good for teaching patience or something horrible like that. Or possibly making them hate the Romans for inventing the Julian calendar in the first place. Some kind of educational thing, anyway.

3. Tradition. Ours had a star from our great uncle, who was a four star general in some branch of the armed forces, presumably in WWII. I was never totally clear on this. Regardless, the whole thing was made by hand and we participated in repairing it (felt is pretty darn easy to sew, even for kids, since you can use a big dull needle that can only harm you if taken internally) when needed. It was the same every year. Good stuff.

In any case, when a friend gave us a cardboard advent calendar this year, I was pretty psyched, especially since it clearly stated "24 milk chocolate treats" on the front. Let's just say the "PeA" company laid a big fat lump of coal with this one:

1. It's cardboard and plastic. It's probably a pound of waste packaging to contain a big _50 grams_ of "food" (more on that later). Not really surprising, given that the holidays these days are >>>editor's note: long-winded diatribe about holiday consumerism deleted for sake of brevity<<< Bottom line: this is only holiday cheer if you're hoping for a nice full county landfill as a present.

2. The "ornaments" are unbelieveably crappy black and white outline drawings. This is, to be fair, a very cheap item, but still - would it be too much to ask for the colorful part to be on the INSIDE? I mean, honestly, as the holidays approach, this advent calendar looks LESS and LESS festive as it slowly turns into a dull gray blob. Uh, what? I guess you need it to look flashy so the saps will buy it, and it's too expensive to print on both sides of the box. Ho ho ho!

3. This is the real kicker. The "milk chocolate treats" do not, in fact, contain any chocolate. You heard me. No cocoa. Cocoa _butter_, yes. "Chocolate liquor", yes. But no actual cocoa. Ever eat "white chocolate", which is basically just a big wad of fatty goop (cocoa butter) with sugar in it? This is the same stuff, colored brown. At least there's not much of this snotlike substance to choke down, though - each "candy" weighs about 2 grams. Which would be fine if this advent calendar contained, for instance, cocaine, but is pretty insulting in the case of a non-"nose" type candy.

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