There are few occasions where traditions take such hold on us as they do during Christmastime. Waiting for Christmas: A Story about the Advent Calendar does a great job of explaining one such tradition and all it means.
Written by prolific children’s book author Kathleen Long Bostrom, the story begins with Gerhard, a young German boy from the 19th century, asking how many days there are until Christmas. Gerhard’s father, a minister, replies, “Even baby Jesus had to wait for his first Christmas gifts...Two or three years after Jesus was born, the wise men brought their gifts to him.”
Gerhard’s mother soon begins making Lebkuchen, a special Christmas cookie. Gerhard is disappointed to learn the dough must sit overnight before the cookies may be baked. “I have to wait for cookies too?” he asks. The next day, after he’s helped decorate his father’s church for Christmas, Gerhard asks if he can have one of the cookies, freshly baked. His mother tells him the cookies must sit in a tin for several weeks before they can be eaten. “For now,” his mother says, “you can draw the chalk lines on our door...That will help you count the days of Advent.” Gerhard does as many German children did, and makes 24 chalk marks on the front door. When each day passes, his mother allows him to erase one mark.
Gerhard’s mother also offers him Wibele cookies for each day of Advent, hoping to make the days pass more quickly. Gerhard’s father remarks that waiting can be hard, but the world waited thousands of years for Jesus to come. Gerhard prays: “Thank you, dear God, for Mama and Papa and Oma and Opa and for candles and treats and Christmas. But thank you most of all for Jesus. And God, help me to be patient.”
The book ends: “Christmas would come, he knew. For now, he would just have to wait. But that was all right. Some things are worth waiting for.”
The author also includes a note about the origins of Advent, in addition to ideas on how to incorporate Advent traditions into modern life. A fold up advent calendar and stickers are also included with the book.
What I Like: I’m a big fan of traditions and understanding where they came from and what they mean, as anyone who’s read my book on wedding traditions knows. Bostrum presents a lovely tale of a typically eager little boy who thinks he can’t stand to wait one more day for Christmas...yet shows how waiting is a big part of the Christmas – and Christian - tradition. The illustrations by Alexi Natchev add a great deal to this book; his old-fashioned, impressionistic drawings are warm and Dickens-esque.
What I Dislike: It would have been greatly helpful to have a glossary at the back of the book to help non-German-speaking parents pronounce the several German words that appear in this book.
Overall Rating: Excellent.
Age Appeal: 2 - 7.
Publishing Info: Zondervan, 2006; ISBN: 0310710154; hard back, $15.99.