Thursday, August 23, 2012


Now a couple of words about the countdown calendar. Every year I plan making one, and every year, Sabbaths pass by, one by one, without any countdowns done.

I love countdowns. There are several suggestions all over the internet, in magazines and books. As far as I know, there are no countdown calendars for Mabon, so if you want one, you have to make yourself one.

First you need to decide how many days you want to count down, so that you know when to start.
You can start the countdown on September 1st and count down 22 days to Autumn Equinox.
You can also choose the 24, two dozens, 4x6, to keep the format of most Yule countdown calendars. That means the first day to "open a door" is 30th of August, in a week.
You could count down weeks. Mabon this year is on Saturday, so you could start next Saturday and count down four weeks. This is most comfortable if you choose the North European manner of burning a candle every week.

Next you need to decide what kind of calendar you want.

There are the candle calendars.

The Christian way is to light a candle every sunday, four weeks before Christmas. First week it's one candle, second sunday two candles, and so on. There are all kinds of cute little beliefs associated with this tradition, for example that the first candle is for peace, the second for love and so on. (Or something like that.) You could choose this version. Get four candlesticks or a "table crown", a candle holder designed to stand on the table with the four candles in a circle or in a row. These are very popular here in Northern Europe. Decorate this season appropriately, choose candles of a Mabon color (autumn leaves and grapes), and you're good to go :-)

Then there is one big candle you burn a little every day. Choose a quite heavy white (or light colored) candle and paint the amount of lines on it you want to count down days. Set this candle in a special place, and light it every day the same time, and sit by it watching how it burns to the next line. I love these things. I could watch the flame for a long time, and every now and then one was lost in thoughts and forgot to blow out the flame in time - so a couple of days worth of candle was burned :-D



Then there are the picture calendars. It's usually a large picture printed or painted on thin cardboard, with small doors one needs to pry open, to reveal a tiny picture behind it. One can make these at home. I especially loved one from a Swedish children's comic book, where the picture inside was the same as the picture outside, but with a difference... like a candle was shown lit in the inside picture, when there was an unlit candle outside, or someone was carrying a lot of parcels, or there was a bird sitting in a tree or so. When all the doors were opened, you had a pretty picture to hang on the wall and use as decoration :-)

My favorite calender of this kind was the activity calendar... it was large, with 4x4 inches (10x10 cm) doors... You could use them as a puzzle when they were all "opened". On the other side of these doors or cards were puzzles, craft ideas, activities etc. like mazes, or coloring pictures or so. Under the cards another pretty picture was revealed, and behind this was a game board, so one could play a game on Christmas eve, when waiting for the adults to get ready with all the preparations. I loved that one!

I also loved Jostein Gaarders' "Julemysteriet" (Christmas Mystery). It is a book with 24 chapters. A boy has an advent calendar with a story behind each door, about a girl who on the first day of advent starts following a toy lamb that comes alive, and travels through time and Europe from Norway to Israel, meeting different people that are essential in understanding the history of Christianity and the Christmas Story. At Christmas she is back in the beginning of current reckoning, in the stable at Bethlehem...

One variation of these picture calendars is the chocolate calendar. This is about the same, except that between the two layers of pictures is a tray with chocolates. The chocolates are the same shape as the picture behind the door, and the tray can be reused to make chocolates...

The best sort of advent calendars are the ones where you get presents, and different present every day. I still remember being so envious, almost 40 years ago, because our neighbor's kids had a calender with small plastic figurines in. SO envious...

I have tried to save matchboxes to build myself a calendar, but - matchboxes are in heavy use in this family, so they are a bit too scruffy when they are empty. I just recently realized, that matchboxes don't really cost that much, so I could buy myself brand new matchboxes, all 24 at a time, emtpy the matches in a box and make my calender :-D

Now, there are dozens of variations of the present calendar; you can make boxes, bags, drawers, jars... only your imagination sets limits here. :-D

One idea I had was a backbag, decorated accordingly, where one could put in a hand and lift up an item... so one didn't need to wrap them, and they could be of any size.



But the main problem is - WHAT TO USE TO FILL THE BOXES?
Matchboxes are REALLY SMALL. It has to be something really, really small! What is that small? I don't want to fill the boxes with candy - which would be easy...
And what to do with all the stuff after the holidays!

Some really good suggestions are, in my mind:
- holiday decoration, ornaments
- miniatures for the dolls' house or miniature railroad.
- Start building a proper "presepe Napoletano", and give new stuff to it as surprises in the calender. I have always loved these complicated, huge miniature 3D illustrations...

But if you are not interested in that, here's some suggestions:
- look at "jar of whimsies" and create one with the person for whom the calender is intended to in mind. I mean, this is supposed to be fun and goofy and whimsical. It doesn't need to be anything serious and nice and perfect and useful.

specifically for Mabon:
* anything to do with wine, for adults
* Autumn Equinox is about time, waging, measuring - so measuring instruments, watches, hourglass, scales...
* the symbols of Mabon are fruits, especially apples and grapes; trees and autumn leaves, forest life, like squirrels and owls; hunting animals, especially leopards, hawks and hunting dogs; big cats, especially spotted and striped ones, and anything leopard spotted; nuts, acorns, pinecones and such; brooms, thyrsus and caduceus; cups, chalices, glasses and rattles, maracas and other such noise making instruments.
* package of raisins, winegum candy, small plastic leopard, fingerless gloves, autumn scarf, burgundy or purple bouncy ball, pen knife, chapstick...

It would be so much easier for Yule, Samhain and Ostara!

But - look at those things, and replace bunnyrabbits, Yule pigs and black cats with leopards; eggs, hearts, stars and pumpkins with apples (there's quite a lot of apple stuff around...) and all the mythological folks (gnomes, skeletons, spooks) with fauns and maenads... and so on, accordingly.

See my Pinterest board for Countdown Calender ideas

1 comment:

Velody Dark said...

I love countdown calendars but had considered doing one at any other time of the year then Yule/Christmas. I started one for yule last year but didn't finish it, I swear I will this year. It was a tree and every day you took something out of the pocket to decorate the scene.

I love all the different ideas.