Last week I read a blog post that asked what books had made an impact each reader’s life. Given the season, it was Christmas books that came to mind. So, here are a few of my favorite reads for Christmastime and the reasons I love them so.
Tomi DePaola’s The Friendly Beasts is one of the first Christmas books I bought my first child. (The root of a Christmas tradition so entrenched in our family that one year, as the Christmas Eve service ended, I gathered the kids and said, “Now we can go home and open your books.” Yes, a new Christmas book was the one gift my kids got to open Christmas Eve, and then we read them together.) The words to The Friendly Beasts come from an old Christmas carol, so whenever I read it to the kids, I sang it. While this did not impress my oldest son, my daughter was born loving music, and I cherish the memories of singing together.
Another Christmas tradition at our house was to read Santa’s Favorite Story, by Hisako Aioki right before bedtime on Christmas Eve. Spoiler Alert!!! This soothed the conflicted feelings I had about doing the Santa thing. (I LOVED providing my kids with piles of delightful gifts without getting the credit for giving them—and thus spoiling the children, and I HATED the fact that I was lying to my kids.) Santa’s Favorite Story recounts how alarmed the woodland creatures are when they find Santa napping in the woods mid-December. They worry, with him snoozing on the job, that there will be no gifts for Christmas, but Santa assured them that even if there were no gifts there would still be Christmas and proceeds to tell them the story of Christ’s birth. The animals then help Santa prepare, and after all the presents are delivered, Santa reflects that the best gift of Christmas is Christmas itself.
This third book is more of an Advent tradition that my daughter and I shared. When I was young, Madeleine L’Engle’s 24 Days Until Christmas was published as a magazine story. I cut it out and saved it in scrapbook where I pasted stories and cards. When my daughter was old enough to enjoy books that were not necessarily picture books, I read it to her. It is L’Engle’s first Vickie Austen story and recounts Vickie’s anxious 24 days until Christmas as her family awaits the birth of a new member and she anxiously rehearses for the Christmas Eve play. After several years of reading this from my scrapbook, I discovered I could buy the novella. You know what book my daughter got Christmas Eve that year.
The fourth treasure is a pleasure all my own. When my kids were young, I discovered an early 20th century author that I fell in love with, Elizabeth Goudge, and I proceeded to hunt down and read every book she ever wrote. Her novels, while recounting serious historical events and relational themes, nonetheless reflect a deep appreciation for the beauty of the created world, the blessings of family and friendship, the faithfulness of beloved dogs, and an unquenchable sparkle of hope. Of all her novels I own, my favorite one to read at Christmastime is Pilgrim’s Inn. It centers on the trials of three generations of one family in the wake of World War II, the old inn the eldest son decides to settle down in and run, and the new relationships they all build and the lives they touch. The story climaxes in a magical Christmas that embraces family and new friends, and to sit down and read it is like snuggling up under a warm quilt on a wintry day with a cup of hot chocolate—comfort and comfort food at its best!
These are the books of Christmas in my heart and in my home. What books are treasured in yours?