On October 22, 2018, early tidings of Christmas joy to the world went out via Facebook: Costco has Lego Advent calendars!
In Lego value terms alone, their Advent calendar was a huge bargain. Mini-figure sets sell in plastic bags ranging from the size of a business card to an invitation envelope, and they usually cost around five dollars, so I’d be scoring big with 25 assorted Lego items for just $20.
I didn’t purchase one, though. Dough was short, and Legos had to take a backseat to dog food and a bale of toilet paper.
About a month later, I had freed up sufficient funds and was prepared to make my purchase from Amazon. I was comfortable with the investment. Advent, after all, comes but once a year.
I was about to press the buy-now button when I saw, “Estimated delivery date: December 7.”
December 7? That was five whole days into Advent! What was the point? And it got worse. The official Lego website was back-ordered and could promise delivery no earlier than two days after Christmas. A trip to Costco revealed what any Costco shopper surely could anticipate: No more Lego Advent Calendars. They sold out the week before Thanksgiving.
I recalled the counsel of W.C. Fields: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” And so my search came to an end for 2018.
Thus educated, when I saw the 2019 Lego Advent Calendar on September 20, I snapped it up.
Back in the Day
But then, all of a sudden, waiting for the first Sunday in Advent became almost as bad as waiting for Christmas. I was acutely reminded of my childhood, circa 1969.
When Thanksgiving break ended at my elementary school, the time until Christmas was only theoretically finite. Like dinosaurs, the starship Enterprise and knights in shining armor, Christmas was out there somewhere in space and time, but the specifics were known only to parents, teachers and whoever was running toy commercials on TV.
The Cumberland Presbyterian Churches I attended usually did an Advent wreath with the four candles for Sunday and the central Christ candle, but I don’t remember any of my pals having an Advent calendar, Lego or otherwise.
It would have been nice — segmenting the long wait for Santa into numbered, bite-sized days, each with its own mini-present. That would have added considerable savor to the run-up for me. It probably would have made the season brighter for my beleaguered mom and dad, as well.
The Pay Off
When Advent of 2019 finally rolled around, I was ready. At 12:01 a.m., I punched through Door Number 1. A clear plastic bag the size of a large postage stamp yielded about a dozen yellow, red, grey and black pieces. A snowplow! We were off to a good start, though it did seem a tad forlorn with no one to pilot it.
Day 2 presented something of a puzzle. The icy white, blue and even translucent blue bricks came together to form some kind of abstract sculpture. I set it aside, disappointed. But then, a few days later, I learned what it was ― a snowball catapult! And it works! With a good tap, I sent a simulated snowball the length of my desk. They even supplied a spare snowball.
Day 3 offered up a jolly, blue-parka’d fellow with a broom. He promptly climbed aboard the snowplow. With the coming of the first human being upon the scene, the complexity of the Lego Advent Universe advanced markedly. We were no longer simply admiring the finery of the season. We were plunged into a maelstrom of human thoughts, emotions, motivations and behavior.
Now I had a Hallmark Christmas movie on my desk: Would love find Mr. Blue Parka? I had a bad feeling that maybe he was behind in his payments, and the bank was trying to repossess his snowplow. And what was that broom for?
Day 4 the ice-blue motif returned, but this time with a rudimentary snow fort that was maybe supposed to serve as a target for the catapult. Lame.
Day 5 brought a log-splitting setup with a base log, a log for splitting and an axe. Recalling my rudimentary outdoorsman training, I was especially chagrined that there was no way to safely secure the axe. Mr. Blue Parka was a sport though, and did his part to advance the storyline, hopping from his snowplow and setting aside his broom to stack up a cord or two of firewood.
Day 6 was a Christmas tree. Sort of. It reminded me of those Christmas installations that get too artsy for their own good. Mr. Blue Parka is a real traditionalist in matters of Christmas, so he shunned it in no uncertain terms.
Day 7 ― Now we’re talking! A lad in a v-neck sweater with a propellor cap, bearing a fruitcake! And they gave us bonus propellers — and fruitcake!
But things are getting a little poignant, I must say. A fine, strapping outdoorsman and a nattily dressed lad without dates on a starry Saturday night as Christmas approaches. It’s hard not to feel a tad bummed.
Day 8. This one had me stumped. I crowd-sourced it on Facebook, and friends said they thought the items are wrapped presents. I finally found an excellent source online ― BrothersBrick.com ― and they confirmed. There was praise for the use of flowers as bows, but on the whole, one more lacklusterish item.
Day 9. A snowman. A handsome top-hat and scarf stand out among parts that don’t quite satisfy as a whole.
Day 10 ― Well now! A female photographer, smartly turned out in toboggan hat and scarf, putting me, anyway, in mind of the late, great fashion model and World War II photographer, Lee Miller. Extra scarf, too.
Day 11. Another big win ― curling stones! The calendar has a decorative mat that folds out from the box, and it includes a curling pitch, so we’re in business. Now we know why Mr. Blue Parka was wielding that broom. He’s a curler! The photographer snapped a roll or two, but her attention seemed on the mechanics of curling.
Day 12. A rocking chair with end table and reading lamp. I thought the rocker looked more like a sled than a chair, but Lego anatomy is destiny, furniture-design wise. Ms. Photographer was pooped from the curling shoot and instantly took to the chair. Mr. Blue went back to his snowplow.
Day 13. Female figure with book. With reading material, glasses, sweater and low-maintenance but kicky hairstyle, I instantly identified her as Hot Librarian. Maybe she will be the one for Mr. Blue. After all, who knows where that photographer gal might be off to next? Who needs that kind of heartbreak for the holidays?
In other news, imagine my surprise when the Brothers Brick identified our newest neighbor as Grandma. Hey! Legos are supposed to make me feel young!
Day 14. I liked this one. Milk and cookies and I guess, maybe, a cup of hot tea, wafting steam. This was an indoor item, but Mr. Blue Parka had been out in the cold for a good while, so Hot Librarian took the tea out to him.
Day 15. Snowmobile! Hot Librarian immediately claimed it as her own.
Day 16. Cute little stove! The propeller cap kid may be older than I originally thought. He’s the same size as everybody else, and I can see how someone might wear a propellor cap into college or beyond. Anyway, he’s whipping up another round of fruitcakes.
Day 17. Man with fire extinguisher. OK I get it now ― the companion to the milk and cookies wasn’t a cup of tea wafting steam, it was a marshmallow ON FIRE. Some sources identify this fellow as Hot Librarian’s spouse, AKA Grandpa, but she’s way out of his league. Besides, she and Mr. Blue have taken their respective vehicles out for a moonlight ride (waning gibbous tonight).
Day 18. Another good one! A salad, a turkey leg and a mug on a festive red and white table. One senses Propeller-lad’s hand in this offering, as well. Is culinary school in the offing?
Day 19. Grandfather clock. Though it was an interesting build, I’m not all that thrilled. Anyway, it got lost.
Day 20. Coming into the home stretch! Snowboarder girl! Propeller-boy was instantly smitten and offered to share his stash of fruitcake. The smiting was pretty much mutual. A guy who knows how to dress and can cook? Holy ton of bricks, Batman!
Day 21. A telescope! The guy with the fire extinguisher took it over. The Ursid meteor shower is approaching its peak, so he’s happy.
Day 22. Modern fireplace. Just in time, too. Hot Librarian and Mr. Blue have returned from their ride. Things are heating up. Heh.
Day 23. Husky dog and sled! This is one I was looking forward to. He really caught my eye on the packaging. He may end up as a permanent resident on my desk, such is his winsomeness. Mr. Blue and Hot Librarian talked about adopting him, but Photographer will be hitting the road soon, and she can use the companionship.
Day 24. Santa! No surprise here. The jolly old elf comes with a bag of presents and an extra beard!
Advent in Legoland turned out pretty well for all concerned.
To be landlocked on a few square inches of desk space, the Lego Advent Calendar gang turned out to be remarkably good company. Perhaps bizarrely, they helped me feel a renewed closeness to the Advent season and even to the meaning of Christmas.
For centuries, stories — old and new, holy and secular ― have been a part of Christmas. From Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” and countless others, stories express and even influence what we feel for the holidays.
Advent and the 12 days of Christmas remind us that Christmas isn’t just a single day on the calendar. Though the birth of Jesus came only once, Emmanuel is God With Us always, in Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, April 6th (my birthday) and days of the work week that don’t have any names beyond Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.