Is makin’ me late
Is keepin’ me waitin'”
Anticipation, lyrics by Carly Simon
When I was a child, the year had two poles, two obvious highlights: my summertime birthday, and Christmas. (I always felt vaguely sorry for people whose birthdays fell close to Christmas, so that their celebrations were over in one fell swoop, and they had to wait through most of another year for the next occurrence.)
The last month before my birthday seemed to take on a heightened significance, as the excitement and anticipation built. (Needless to say, it doesn’t really do that any more.) Christmas was the same, the season becoming more and more apparent with each benchmark: the first snow that fell and stayed to blanket the ground; the appearance of Christmas lights and decorations around the city; the Christmas carols that mingled with pop songs on the radio; the preparations for the school’s holiday pageant.
One of my favorite traditions marking the holiday season is that of the Advent calendar. The Advent calendar is a fairly recent invention: according to Wikipedia, first commercially-produced Advent calendar was made at the beginning of the 20th century in Hamburg, Germany. The 24 dates marked upon Advent calendars do not necessarily coincide with the actual dates of Advent, which is defined by Church calendars as beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (this year, 2012, the season of Advent begins on 2 December).
Advent calendars serve both to demonstrate the less-than-tangible passage of time (who has not crossed off the days on a calendar before some important event?) and to channel the rising excitement of children who are waiting for the arrival of Santa by revealing a little picture, a chocolate, or a small toy with each new day.
The Wooden House Advent calendar is a charming reusable miniature chest of drawers into which parents or grandparents can place 24 little goodies–small toys and trinkets, wrapped candies, chocolate coins–for children to reveal day by day. The beauty of the Wooden House (and the Wooden Truck Advent calendar from the same manufacturer) is that it can be used year after year, creating a wonderful holiday tradition. The drawers are large enough (about 4cm x 4cm x 4cm, or about 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 1.5″) to accommodate a variety of things.
Playmobil, the German manufacturer of extraordinary imaginative playthings, has for many years produced Advent calendars featuring its toys. This year, Playmobil offers what I believe is a record 5 different calendars: two traditional (#4161, Christmas Post Office; and #4166, Forest Winter Wonderland) and three entire non-religious versions (#4162, Dinosaur Expedition; #4165, Princess Wedding; and #4164, Pirates Treasure Cove). The calendars come with each day’s numbered box filled and ready-to-go (parents used to have to fold and fill each box before assembling the calendar). These are hugely popular sets, as they contain lots of interesting pieces and the price is very reasonable at $22.
Lego got behind the idea in 1998, with an Advent calendar that was composed of basic bricks and instructions that allowed children to build holiday-themed creations. As themes grew, Lego began offering Advent calendars containing Pirates, City, and Star Wars components.
This year, we have two Lego Advent Calendars in stock. The first, #4428, is City-themed and has Santa and other minifigures, as well as vehicles and scenery. The other is the Star Wars
Advent Calendar, which has an interesting assortment of tiny vehicles and minifigures–including Darth Maul as Santa, and R2D2 as a snowman with a top hat.
P.S. I know, I know– it’s early to be talking about Christmas. But these things arrive early (I mean, they arrived in September!), and they’ll be gone early too. All these are in stock, both in-store and on the website, right now, so don’t wait too long if you want one. When they are gone, they’re gone–until the new sets arrive next year!