December came a little too fast this year. We're already into day five.
But even this far in, it's not too late to start such seasonal treats as an advent calender, that one-surprise-a-day ceremony of marking the days leading up to Christmas. What does this have to do with Sherlock Holmes? Well, it's like everything else in the world -- if there's not a direct link, Sherlockians will make one. And with that in mind, I propose . . . if someone hasn't come up with this already . . . the "Advent(ures) Calendar."
When the first series of short stories appeared in The Strand Magazine, there were no "Memoirs." Just twenty-four "Adventures," the tragic episode of "The Final Problem" being the last. Their numbering in The Strand conveniently lines up with the twenty-four days of December that falls before Christmas day.
A typical advent calendar has you opening little boxes or doors for all the days leading to Christmas. And while we might consider ourselves familiar with all twenty-four of the stories in what we traditionally see as the first two volumes of Sherlock Holmes short stories (along with the held-back "Cardboard Box"), I am perpetually finding a new surprise in those tales every time I open one of them up.
Now, one might go, "So many tragedies within those stories! Who wants to go through that roller coaster on their way to Christmas?" Well, like I said, this Advent(ures) Calendar can be full of surprises. Take today for example: December 5, the appropriate day for "Five Orange Pips," if ever there was one.
John Openshaw fell in the river and drowned, right? Look at the story again.
A body is pulled from the river with an envelope with his name, "John Openshaw," on it.
Because, of course, the letters in everyone's pocket only ever their own name on them, right?
And . . . gee . . . there might not have been another man in London with an envelope with the name "John Openshaw" on it, would there? Oh, yes, Openshaw or a minion, ready to drop one last message, perhaps? And whether or not young John Openshaw helped that fellow in the river, discovering in the paper that he is supposed dead might be a chance Openshaw could take advantage of.
So, day five of the Advent(ures) Calendar, you open the door and find . . . a living John Openshaw!
But there is still "The Final Problem" on Christmas Eve. Well, let me allay your fears! What happens after Reichenbach? 1892, 1893, 1894 . . . three years until John Watson sees his friend Sherlock Holmes again. And what comes after Christmas Eve before John sees Sherlock again? Three days. (Well, they might not be three whole days if you want to get picky, but close enough for Christmas!)
So, what do you think? Time to start opening up the Advent(ures) Calendar, even if it is a few days later than it should have started?