which in our house includes the big box of Christmas books. When our boys were young, we started a tradition — every year they’d get one or two new holiday books to share, wrapped, so they could open those a few days before Christmas. This soothed the Christmas crazies a little, and gave us time to sit together to read the new holiday stories before Christmas (and beyond, through the winter and sometimes the entire year if the book became a favorite).
Over the years we’ve accumulated quite a collection of Christmas-themed books, and now that the kids are grown and gone (sort of!), I still bring out those books at holiday time, and they still browse through them. Now that we have a new grandchild, those books in their special box will be read again someday (she’s way too little yet, but I’m already starting a new collection).
So the Christmas book tradition in our house will continue. Some Christmas books are timeless magic and need to be brought out again year after year, generation after generation . . . .
Some of my own favorite Christmas books as a very little girl became my kids’ favorites too –- like the Little Golden Books editions of The Night Before Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman . . . and A Christmas Carol, which fascinated me as a kid.
And their favorites have become mine. We read many, many Christmas-themed and winter-themed books together hundreds of times (at least), including Tazewell’s The Littlest Angel, Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, Tolkein’s Letters from Father Christmas, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, and my middle son’s absolute all-time favorite book ever, Little Dracula’s Christmas by Martin Waddell (this book is a hoot, if you can find it). I read The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas so often that I can still recite them.
We also loved gorgeously illustrated books with simple text, like Jan Brett’s Christmas and winter books such as The Wild Christmas Reindeer and The Mitten, so richly, beautifully illustrated with heartwarming stories. Jan Pienkowski’s The First Christmas is simply exquisite.
Two illustrated Christmas books that my kids loved and read nightly all year, for years (these books won the ultimate award of tattered pages) were both by Raymond Briggs – The Snowman, an eloquent story of a lonely snowman, and Father Christmas, charming and droll -– a grumbling Santa, not much liking the cold, packs sandwiches and a thermos of tea and heads off for a night of adventures.
Here are a few of our absolute favorites in no particular order (however they came out of the Christmas book box while I was writing this blog!) with a few favorite lines. For me, these books always evoke a warm, wonderful holiday feeling . . .
“And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever:
“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.”
Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales:
"But here a small boy says: 'It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.'
'But that was not the same snow,' I say. 'Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards.’”
Trosclair, A Cajun Night Before Christmas, with its great Bayou beat:
"De chirren been nezzle/Good snug on de flo’/An’ Mama pass de pepper/t’ru de crack on de do’…"
And J.R.R. Tolkien, The Father Christmas Letters — one of my most favorite books. From 1920 to 1943, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote letters to his children from Father Christmas, elaborately illustrated, amusing and enchanting tales of life at the North Pole featuring elves, polar bears and goblins:
“Another Christmas! And I almost thought at one time (in November) that there might not be one this year! . . . My pictures tell you part of the story. Goblins The worst attack we have had for centuries. They have been fearfully wild and angry ever since we took all their stolen toys off them last year . . . “
My kids are older now, but if I come across a good Christmas book, I’ll still buy a copy for them, such as Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel:
"Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing…."
How about you? What favorite holiday stories hold happy memories, and evoke the meaning and magic of the holidays for you? Please share! I’d love to add some fresh new titles to the Christmas collection this year, and to my own Christmas wish list . . . .
Merry Holidays to all – wishing you peace and joy in 2015!