More People Need to Know About This Digital Advent Calendar
When I am having a hard day, I go and hide in the tiny snow globe on my computer screen. Specifically, when I am having a hard day between December 1 and December 25, because that is when Jacquie Lawson’s virtual advent calendar is live. For seven years, my mom has sent me this animated Christmas countdown, and for seven years I have been attempting to spread its gospel.
For the other 340 days of the year, English illustrator Jacquie Lawson makes e-cards, many of which feature a depiction of her late chocolate labrador, Chudleigh. But for the past 11 Christmases, Lawson has released a digital advent calendar based around a different geographic theme—Edinburgh, Cotswold, and so on. It’s important you know she looks like this:
The calendar lives as a widget on your desktop. (It used to be a snowglobe roughly the size of your thumb with animated falling snow, but it was recently changed to a regular icon—do not get me started on that.) When you click on it, you’re thrown headfirst into the most magical little Christmas world. You’re greeted by a quaint town scenescape, with illustrated townspeople walking back and forth, ambient Christmas music (performed by the Salisbury Cathedral Choir) floating out of your speakers, and 25 Christmas ornaments dotted around the town corresponding to each December day.
Like a normal advent calendar, a new ornament becomes available every day, but here, a click activates a festive animation or a fun card game to celebrate being another day closer to Christmas. That isn’t primarily why I like the Jacquie Lawson advent calendars, though. I like to go there and just sit.
Whatever the year’s theme, the calendar’s landing page is the storybook depiction of Christmas I’ve yet to experience in real life. Townspeople bundled in hats and mittens wander the screen holding crisply-wrapped presents or walking their dogs. In the background, a horse-and-carriage trots by or children sled down a snowy slope. There’s a gigantic Christmas tree erected in the middle of the town square. I like to imagine the front-page headlines on the local newspaper are things like “TOWN HALL TO RECEIVE NEW BELL” and “PASTOR TOM TURNS 86.”
I think Lawson understands, because each advent calendar has a little area just for hanging out. It’s your personal living room, where you can decorate a digital Christmas tree or play a game of solitaire or indulge in a delightful game that involves smashing ornaments, all while illustrated cats and dogs snooze in front of the fire at your digital house. I literally feel my heart rate settle when I go to this room.
A few years ago, I started paying the advent calendar forward to my friends. Every year we text each other pictures of our decorated trees and wreaths that we make throughout the month, and once my friend and I were at a party we didn’t particularly want to be at and, upon realizing we’d rather be tucked up in bed playing with our advent calenders, left to do just that.
Because of this, I live in hope that Jacquie Lawson’s advent calendar has a quiet but mighty online fanbase. The discourse surrounding it on Twitter seems evenly split between 50-year-old-plus adults lamenting their technological difficulties, and younger people complaining about always receiving Jacquie Lawson e-cards from their parents. Where my real Jacquie-heads at?
I reached out to Lawson in hopes of talking with her about my yearly obsession, but it turns out she has retired. Now, the site is run by a team spread across the U.K. and abroad, according to a woman named Annalyse who answered my email. It’s also clear they’re moving up in the digital advent calendar world, as this is the first year the calendar is available on iOS.
So Jacquie, if you’re reading this, know how thankful I am that this year especially, when tree-lightings have been cancelled and Christmas shopping has been replaced by virus-safe curbside pickup, I can escape into my magical snow globe and experience the holiday season we’re currently missing. And to you reading this, please go here to purchase this year’s advent calendar for yourself. I really need more people to talk to about it.