This Christmastide, we Wenches are blogging about some of our holiday favorites, and now that it's my turn — it's not easy to choose! There are so many aspects of this magical season that I love — the decorations, the lights, the gifts and gift-giving, the chance to see friends and family . . . the angels on our tree, the cookies to share, the crumpled tangle of wrapping paper and ribbon in the living room after friends and family have been here. Of course it's the family and the friends who add the most meaning to the season — and I love the memories of past Christmases too.
Other Wenches have mentioned stories, and I agree – the stories of Christmas are so special and so much a part of my own Christmases, past and present, that I have to say that, hands down, Christmas stories are a constant favorite. I've written a few and read a zillion . . . (and this December is extra special to me with the release of Queen Hereafter in gorgeous paperback — where I got the chance to write about medieval Christmas traditions!).
But having raised three kids, if I have to choose — it's the children's stories that are my absolute favorhite Cristmas stories. They are just magical, and that sort of storytelling magic endures.
When my three boys were younger, every year as the holiday season began I’d buy them a new Christmas book or three, which they could open the week before Christmas. We would sit together and read the new stories every night through the holidays (and sometimes beyond if a story became a favorite). Later in the year, often by Thanksgiving, we would get the books out again and read the favorites as well as the newest. Over the years, we have acquired an extensive collection of holiday-themed books.
Some of their (and my!) favorites: Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, 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, Little Dracula’s Christmas by Martin Waddell (that one he read all through the year, for years – we had it memorized. There's something unique about the combination of vampires and Christmas…).
And many, many more stories — we read The Polar Express and The Grinch, along with Berkeley Breathed's A Wish for Wings that Work... and then there were our very special favorites, Father Christmas and the brilliantly wordless The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, read so often that we dog-eared the pages together. (illustration from The Snowman)
"He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! It came! … 'It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!'" – Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.” –Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
"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.'"
— Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales
My three little guys are big guys now, but whenever I come across a good Christmas book, I’ll still add to the family collection. The box of books we keep with the Christmas decorations is very full, and very heavy, and we don't bring it out much any more — but I still take time to look through them. And the family tradition of Christmas stories will stick with my guys through their lives, too. When their dad played the part of Marley in A Christmas Carol, they read the Dickens again. And not so long ago, they dog-eared a copy of Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel: "Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing…."
I look forward someday to sharing these great books with grandchildren, but until then, they still remain as my own holiday favorites!
What favorite holiday stories for children hold great memories for you?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Wishing all of you a happy, healthy, prosperous 2012, filled with peace and genine joy.