Whilst this may have fallen out of favour and children are given their presents at home, the idea behind a centralised group or charity doing this is very much in the spirit of Saint Nicolas of Myra's secret gift giving.
Because where you have children who have nothing, this way, they would get a present
But behind the random acts of kindness in Saint Nicolas of Myra's history, we now have a Father Christmas or Santa Claus who has lists of naughty or nice children where those on the bad list get lumps of coal.
For me, I like to think of a few years ago when I helped to wrap up presents at the local Salvation Army. These were being given to families who really have nothing at Christmas. All said that they were from Father Christmas.
For those children who have nothing, a present that their parents didn't have to worry about affording, was literally a God send.
Whilst Christmas has become commercialised, so has Father Christmas.
A Visit from St. Nicolas by Clement Clarke Moore, published in the early 1820s, brings us the idea of reindeer and also names them. And as this idea of the personification of Merry Christmas merged with the man in the red suit, so he starts to appear in commercials.
By1931, Coca-Cola commissioned ilustration Haddon Sundblom to paint Sanata for Christmas adverts and the trend was born.
In 1939, Montgomery Ward, a Chicago based department store commissioned ad man Robert L. May to create a colouring book as an instore holiday giveaway. The book; Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer inspired the Jonny Marks song of the say name. May was Mark's brother-in-law.
In the same article that I've linked about Montgomery Ward, the author suggests you search Santa and cigarette ads on google. Don't. You will be horrified to see the number of times Santa was used to promote smoking.
Amongst all the commercialism, I'm reminded of a couple of years ago when I went to the local Salvation Army and wrapped up presents for families who literally had nothing at Christmas.
These gifts, for their children, were marked as from Father Christmas and embodied the real spirit of Saint Nicolas, giving secretly to people who need it.
The rose gold tinge of their shell is so linked to December, in my mind.
Even with my birthday being in October, and many of the Christmas gifts being in the shops in September I didn't mind. There was more chance I'd get an exciting birthday present because of it.
In those heady days of the 70s, as a child, Halloweven wasn't really an event in South London. So, it would be Christmas presents on sale September / October, then fireworks late October to 5th November and suddenly all the shops had Christmas decorations. If you had an artificial tree (normally silver tinsel!) you could put it up in early December, but for those of us who had a real tree, then it would be week before Christmas.
For those, who, like my father gate keep when Christmas can start (normally after their birthdays), it smacks of those Bridezillas who won’t let others do anything during their wedding year.
We each need to choose when our own Christmases start for us.
Yesterday I looked at what Advent means, building on my blog from last year about what makes Advent Calendars so special.
Today, I want to explore some Advent Traditions.
The Advent Crown was a take on the Advent wreath. As with many traditions that we are familiar with, here in the UK, they became popular through Prince Albert's influence. But with our tradition of Yule, it didn't take too much to pursuade us to bring evergreen greenary into the house.
Sweden and Julklapp
The Rules of the Game Today (taken from the elfster blog)
While there are many various, the most standard version is relatively simple.
The College's website says that it was introduced to 'bring a more imaginative approach to worship', but I can't help thinking that just 6 weeks after then end of World War I this must have been a very moving way to start Christmas.
Each year, the service is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as well as the World Service and now appears on iPlayer shortly after the service has concluded.
Whether or not you are a Christian, there is a sense of light in the darkness, starting with Diwali, which falls at the end of October / start of November, then Hanuakkah, during December, the Winter Solstice, on 21st December, and finally Christmas, there is a sense of hope, of light in the darkness and salvation.
Whether it's good over evil (Diwali), deliverance from peril (Hanuakkah), the days getting longer (Solstice) or the promise of salvation (Christmas).
Many Christains will undertake weekly advent bible studies in the run up to Christmas. One of the most memorable ones I've attended was based on the lines of a well know Christmas Carol.
Others will read a commentary or special daily devotion that allows them to reflect on this period of anticipation.
Whether you are a member of a church, occasionally attendee or someone who keeps their faith in their heart, it offers an opportunity to remind yourself of why you believe and, whatever your faith, that we all strive to be the best we can in this world.
Advent marks the weeks before Christmas and is a time of anticipation, preparation and reflection leading up to Christmas Day.
Advent starts with the aptly named Advent Sunday. This is the 4th Sunday before Christmas Day and usually falls between 27th November and 3rd December. This year, 2023, it is 3rd December.
So, in 1839 he took a cartwheel and added candles to it. Each week day a small candle was lit and on Sundays a larger candle. Counting down the days to Christmas.
By the 1920s the custom had been adopted by other Christian denominations in Germany and soon spread, in the 1930s to North America.
Behind the wreath, there is symbology and meaning.
The advent wreath concept, of counting down to Christmas, has also spawned other Advent practices that we are familiar with.
Where a full wreath isn't possible, then a single candle marked with the days is often chosen.
I try to sprinkle in, new films, some of which will become favourites and others are to just to pass the time.
A Castle for Christmas was watched the year it came out because I knew one of the ladies who had dyed the yarn for the movie. It is now the first film that I start my watch days off with.
Then today, watching another Hallmark film (yes, you can joke that they all have the same plot) I was struck by something.
These films are not just feel good films.
Yes, the women in these films are normally successful, confident women. Yes, they always find that they have lost touch with life and find meaning through some wonderful handsome man.
But there is one thing that is refreshing in these movies. These women are always middle age. They are at least 30 if not early 40s. They are attractive but that is secondary to the skills that they have in the films. They are lawyers, CEOs, chefs, you name it. They are financially independent (mostly) but have often isolated themselves from everyone.
Yes, they often fall for the guy, but often they fall for finding friendship with other great women.
For me, it is this last thing that I find the most fulfilling with these films. Connections, relationships and friendship.