I’ve been a little bit distracted over the last few weeks: a large number of new sets, which don’t seem to have been reviewed yet, arrived; Throwback Thursdays have been missed and I have been physically drained. I could blame COVID, or Christmas, but in reality, it has been Christmas Trees – and the selling thereof – as a fundraiser for our local Scout Groups. For the last few weeks, I have been part of a team procuring trees, selling them to our local community, all while fundraising for our youth facilities and programs. Aspects of the exercise have been a little harder this year: one of our team for the last 5 years passed away unexpectedly during the year, and his absence was sorely felt over the last few weeks.
This year we have had some new challenges: with prolonged lockdowns and border closures in our state over the last year or so, we faced unprecedented demand for trees, from people unable to travel for Christmas holidays, and looking for something to brighten up their home with a fresh Christmassy smell. Last year, this demand saw our local farms start to reach into this year’s stock a little early. This year has been more about restraint, and managing crop availability. While I don’t grow trees, we work in conjunction with our suppliers to ensure they have a sustainable crop into the future (did you realise that your average 6-7′ pinus radiata, which is the ‘Standard Australian Christmas Tree’ is probably 4-5 years old before it is harvested). It turns out that they did not engineer the pandemic – if they had, they would have planted an extra couple of fields back in 2016. This did not happen. And so, there is a shortage of Christmas Trees in Victoria this year: most of our local farms have sold out of wholesale stock 2 weeks before Christmas.
And, I didn’t organise a tree for my family until yesterday. As such I have not been able to complete today’s review until now… even though it has probably been brewing for around 6 weeks.
Set 40494 Polar Bear & Gift Pack is a cheap and simple build, giving us some seasonal decorations to have from a Christmas tree: The elements are all well established, but there are a couple of standouts: 2×4 bricks with axle holes; as well as some printed eye elements.
As well as the 140 LEGO® bricks, we have 2 pieces of string, and a small sticker sheet.
The key to both of the small build here is an axle with stopper, passing through the 2×4 brick with axle holes. Around this we build a core with studs facing out, not unlike a Brickheadz figure.
The first build brings us a small present – the use of 2×2 plates with 2 studs, along with the stickers, gives us the feeling of ribons wrapping up the red box. A pentagonal tile gives us the gift tag.
We build up our box, and then top it off with a ribbon. A technic connector with a hole (more technically, an Angle elements 0) allows for the string to be attached.
The second build starts off with curved slopes, before adding the rest of the SNOT core. Before long, we have added a face and rounded the head off. I particularly appreciate the way that the ears are formed.
A cheeky clip and a couple of tiles and we have added a winter scarf, in case we needed to be reminded of the weather experienced in the Northern Hemisphere during the holiday season, while we a sweltering away in 30ºC.
In the mean time, the Christmas Tree has been set in its stand (after removing a thin wafer from the bottom, to ensure that the tree continues to draw up water) and the decorations added. This year, we have decided to leave most of our LEGO tree decorations off. That’s OK. We have other decorations for other fandoms we have, as well as souvenirs of trips we have taken to other places in the past. And in a year where we have not had the chance to travel, these little reminders are essential.
For a brief moment, we are all working together, placing the decorations, remembering places we have travelled, and perhaps I find myself realising that as my children grow up, we may well never go on a family holiday together for some time, if at all. This makes some of the memories all the more precious to me.
Back to 40494: the decorations hang nicely in the tree, and are a little more subtle than some of those on offer in the past. There are interesting builds, and might also inspire you to look into brick building other decorations for your tree. The set does what it says on the box, and for that I give it 4 out of 5 Arbitrary Praise Units. The gift appears nicely wrapped up, and the polar bear is delightfully whimsical. Possible also wondering about the nature of the seasonal penguin, reviewed a few weeks ago! It is not a complex build, but it never claims to be. A simple build, with a single job, which it achieves nicely, teaching a few interesting techniques along the way.
This set is currently available from LEGO Branded retail outlets, including Shop@home, but the shut of date for shipping in time for Christmas is rapidly passing!
Do you fill your tree with LEGO Decorations? Other souvenirs? Why not comment below, and until next time,
This set was provided by the LEGO Group for review purposes. All opinions are my own.