Countdown to Christmas: Find advent calendars on Martha’s Vineyard

Chocolate filled advent calendars at Mardell's. — Photo by Gwyn McAllister

The original advent calendars were used to honor the period of Advent, traditionally a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus. The Advent season runs from the fourth Sunday before December 25 to Christmas Eve. However, commercial advent calendars generally mark the days from December 1st through Christmas day.

There are a number of outlets on the Island for purchasing advent calendars – from simple, inexpensive ones to elaborate, three-dimensional decorations featuring candy or little gifts for each day. Here are a few we found.

Carol Jennings of The Secret Garden notes that they have done a brisk trade since they put out a selection a couple of weeks ago. She notes that some people use them as Christmas cards. The store, which is located on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, carries a range of advent calendars from small ones with envelopes that can be mailed to standard calendar size with religious or secular themes. Prices range from $5 to $8.

Rainy Day, on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, also carries a good assortment ranging from $5 to $16, including some attractive contemporary versions and a couple of cute Island scenes like Santa on a ferry and a decorated lighthouse.

Both Shirley’s Hardware, in Vineyard Haven, and Edgartown Books are currently awaiting their advent calendar supply, which should be on shelves by November 22.

Mardell’s in Vineyard Haven stocks a variety of calendars, from $4 to $8, with a chocolate for each day. Included in their selection are a few different scenes with Whitman chocolates. Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury has inexpensive calendars with chocolates from Germany – the country of origin for advent calendars.

The Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven carries all sizes and shapes. Some fun selections for kids include a fold out sturdy coloring calendar featuring a line up of Victorian homes, and a three-dimensional 24 days of Penguins calendar. Prices range from $4 for small cards with envelopes to $16 for the penguin calendar.

Many more options for kids can be found at The Toy Box, located in the Tisbury Marketplace in Vineyard Haven. Among their selection are an assortment with pop out little figures that can be used to build a scene (Christmas village, fairytale land, or pirate ship) and a complex craft set that includes a construct-your-own wooden tree and a cabinet stocked with an ornament a day, which can be decorated with paint, stickers, and sparkles. Advent sets sell for from $25 to $45.

A charming fold out advent calendar at Phillips Hardware, in Oak Bluffs, features tiny books that can be hung on a Christmas tree. Each features a different theme detailing the story of Christmas – from the Holy Land on December 1 to baby Jesus on December 24.

Karen Murphy of Mardell’s notes that she puts out an advent calendar at Thanksgiving as a centerpiece. She also places Christmas ornaments on the kids’ plates. After Thanksgiving dinner, the children decorate the tree while the adults are cleaning up. Her daughter has carried on this family tradition with the grandchildren. “I had to keep them entertained somehow,” she says.