|"Holding out their little hands, with their hearts in them, to receive something!"|
And to begin, a short piece from the February 1846 edition of the humorous, short-lived The Almanack of the Month: "The Great Nuisance of the Month: Christmas Boxes, New Year's Gifts, etc.", in which a curmudgeonly narrator laments the commercialisation of the season, especially the gifts he's required to supply for his nieces and nephews - "about forty or fifty young brats."
A nice coincidence: I just ordered a reproduction of a Victorian toy theatre insert - "Richard Turpin" - from this website for some of the work I'm doing on highwaymen. The narrator in this piece refers to the childrens' desire for "the purchase of "The Miller and His Men"", a toy theatre classic, that you can peruse here.
Plus: using the nifty Google Ngram viewer again, it looks like the Advent calendar itself is a firmly twentieth century invention. Anyone disagree?