November 30, 1981 12:00 PM

Figuring out what day it is is something we all must do at some point between midnight and midnight. That’s why calendars make practical—and occasionally whimsical, titillating and informational—holiday gifts.

Classically, calendars mean cheesecake, and the least contrived of these is the Christie Brinkley Calendar (Sports Illustrated/Little Brown, $7.95) inspired by the magazine’s annual bathing suit issue in which Christie has starred for six years. Here’s Christie in 12 more-or-less swim-suits, flashing her glossy tan, her exuberant thighs, her wind-whipped golden hair. Christie wet, Christie dry, Christie beaming, she is at once sexy and sporting. Less wholesome is the Bo Derek Calendar (Wallaby Books/Simon and Schuster, $7.95), which seems to be stills from the set of Tarzan. Bo is almost always wet, often topless, occasionally wearing a coat of unexplained whitewash. As minimal as her G-string is the space allotted to the days of the week. The James Dean Calendar (Pomegranate Artbooks, $6.95) accompanies the days of the month with sepia-toned photos of extraordinary beauty by Sanford Roth, a close friend of Dean’s. Dean manages to look not only gorgeous, but also contemporary and untragic, wearing his glasses, polishing his car, laughing. These pictures encompass all that is good about looking at men.

This year’s most beautiful kitchen wall-hanging is the Food Calendar (Universe, $6.95), which offers a close-up of a different basic edible for each month, plus a history of and recipe for each. The photos look like the vegetable art Sandy Dennis did in The Four Seasons, but better. A strawberry has been dipped in chocolate, an eggplant is glossy and dewy, a pile of break-up chocolate beckons.

Some children’s calendars are not necessarily for kids, the prime example being the Miss Piggy Calendar (Muppet Press/Knopf, $6.95), which has as its theme “Great Lovers of the Silver Screen.” It comprises scenes straight from Miss P’s fantasies, with Kermit always her leading man. The funniest is the still from Posteriors, shot on a beach, with a spectacled Kermit looking alarmingly like Woody Allen, while Miss Piggy, garbed in a hat and tie like Annie Hall, looks a bit like Smokey the Bear. The Wind in the Willows Calendar (Ariel/Holt, Rinehart, Winston, $6.95), with Michael Hugue’s elegant, colorful paintings of Toad, Mole, Badger and Rat, also appeals to grown-ups. The Sierra Club Calendar for Young People (Charles Scribner’s Sons, $5.95) tells when to watch for stars and planets, how to make an ant farm, nurse injured birds back to health and execute all sorts of nature projects. The main illustrations are excellent wildlife photos. McGuffey’s Eclectic Calendar (Van Nostrand Reinhold, $7.95) is almanac-style and will appeal to a child just getting into American history. Each page has a whimsical 19th-century engraving in red or blue, and each day a historical listing. The Teddy Bear Calendar (Workman, $5.95) features assorted cuddly antique teddies in white tie, in wedding garb, at tea, popping out of a box, huddled in a quilt, and other sweetly anthropomorphic situations. Included are instructions for entering next year’s Bear Calendar contest. (Send a photo of your favorite bear—and win $100.)

Nature calendars mainly act as vehicles for stunning photography, and of these the Jacques Cousteau Ocean World Calendar (Harry N. Abrams, $8.95) is most surprising, proving that fish and seaweed can be as beautiful and colorful as flowers. The Wildflowers Calendar (Workman, $7.95) is luscious and astonishingly bright and cheerful.

Musicologists may enjoy the Great Composer Calendar (Bellerophon Books, $5.95), which offers a composer and a primary text—a review from the era, or perhaps a personal letter—for every month, plus a great moment in classical music history for every day of the year. The David Levine Calendar (New York Review of Books, $3.95), ascetic in appearance, showcases the esoteric heroes of the great caricaturist, from Truman Capote to Lech Walesa.

Pretty engagement books are the Rolls-Royces of the calendar field, and perhaps the loveliest is from the Art Institute of Chicago ($12.95 hardcover, $8.95 paper), which this year includes many 18th-century flower engravings. Elegant and very social, it practically requires a boudoir with a chaise. The masculine version may be the American Heritage Desk Calendar and Historical Almanac (American Heritage, $14.50), a gilt-edged book beautifully bound in marbled paper, with old engravings and photos from our nation’s past and plenty of space for daily entries. The Museum of Modern Art’s engagement calendar (MOMA, $9) has the theme “Twos,” and shows duos such as Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in Babes in Arms and a photo of Claes Oldenburg’s double cheeseburger sculpture. An urbane gift for people of contemporary taste.

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