Jostein Gaarder’s wonderful The Christmas Mystery is an advent calendar in book form. The best way to read it is to open one of its 24 short chapters each day, beginning on December 1st and let the adventure unfold gradually, rather than racing through it in one sitting. I can’t find my copy at the moment so I’ve got it all set up on my Kindle ready to begin my advent read tomorrow.
When Joachim finds an old advent calendar at the back of a bookshop he doesn’t know that it holds a secret, a story to be told throughout advent as he opens each door and a slip of paper falls out for him to read. It is the story of Elisabet Hansen, who disappeared from her home in Norway fifty years previously. Accompanied by an angel, Elisabet travelled through time and across Europe, interacting with history as she went, to find her way back to the first Christmas.
The Christmas Mystery is a wonderful book. Gaarder beautifully inter-twines Elisabet’s story with Joachim’s. Elisabet’s journey is told in such a way that, travelling both through time and space she intersects with history at key points before meeting up with familiar characters from the Christmas story. It is beautifully and simply written, with a refrain of ‘To Bethlehem! To Bethlehem!’ with which younger children, will enjoy joining in.
Just one caveat – treating it as an advent calendar may be more difficult than it might seem, because this delightful book intrigues so much that you will want to finish it and solve the mysteries it holds (what happened to Elisabet Hansen? Who really made the advent calendar?). Make yourself wait till Christmas Eve, though. It really is worth it.