Back last Halloween, I brought up something pretty unique to the way my family celebrates the holiday season: a fat stack of children's books that takes up residence on our living room table for the duration of October. This means of spreading a happy Halloween was borne from having four children in the house, alongside plenty of their friends, every year... and it's no surprise that we maintain an even more gigantic stack of such reading material for Christmas, as well!
Last time I counted, we were up to 50-odd books, which made the jump from spreading out across the table to making their home on the fireplace somewhere around the 40 mark. This veritable cornucopia of all things Christmas is my favorite part of decorating every year, and contains a collection of every kind of kid's book imaginable, from silly sing alongs - like Alan Katz's Where Did They Hide My Presents? - to reason-for-the-season Christian stories, like Max Lucado's The Crippled Lamb.
(And, of course, how much does my family love both Christmas and this holiday season? Enough to have two separate books, both titled A Pirate's Night Before Christmas!)
Despite the fact that there hasn't exactly been an appropriately-aged readership for these kinds of books in this house for a while now - my youngest brother is 15! - this pile continues to grow year after year. And despite my own age, one of my favorite holiday traditions is still flipping on the tree lights, and basking in the glow of our blinged-out, bird-filled Christmas tree with books I've enjoyed before I was even old enough to read.
The Night Before Christmas, Clement Clarke Moore
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house... no other Christmas classic could start the season off in such an iconic way.
We've had a pop-up version of this story displayed, carousel-style, on our living room table every year since I was a kid. The beautiful, multi-layered illustrations have provided a visually engaging counterpoint to the density of the original language, and I've spent plenty of my life on the floor, twirling it around in my hands.
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
No one ever warned this Muppet-loving twelve-year-old that this was a ghost story, until I was already fifty pages in and nowhere near ready to turn out the lights just yet. Dickens has the distinction of having authored one of the best Christmas stories and one of the best ghost stories of all time... and I'm talking about the same book!
As the old miserly Scrooge has his life changed in the course of one night, after he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, so, too, was my life changed, when the decision was made to have our whole family act in a local community theater musical version of this story. We did so for three consecutive years, and still quote the lines from the show to each other at appropriate moments during the holidays. No other time in my life have the six of us been able to take the stage together, and every year, I'm reminded not only of the importance of holiday cheer and good will towards men, but of how happy I am to spend time with my family!
The Littlest Angel, Charles Tazewell
So, my mom has been a Sunday School teacher for over a decade, and I've been her assistant enough years to feel like I know the Christmas Nativity material front, back, and sideways by now. But one viewpoint I had never stopped to consider, was that of the angels watching the whole thing play out from the clouds.
This story - of a little angel who picks the perfect present for the newborn child, built up of the things he loved most during his own short time on Earth - never fails to make me cry!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss
There's no going wrong with this one: it's just a classic! From the original Seussian standby, to the animated take, to the riotous Jim Carrey-helmed live action movie, this tale of the grumpy Mount-Crumpit dwelling Grinch is beloved by all, no matter the iteration.
Besides, its animated installment has a special place in the hearts of Sigma Kappas everywhere, as Ted Geisel's wife was a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority - he himself was a Sig Ep at Dartmouth - and there are several nods to some of our secrets sprinkled throughout its animated film counterpart!
Unsurprisingly, one of my most recent holiday reads was added to the pile by the fireside by yours truly, and it's not exactly the same as the rest of the children's books that lay stacked there. This one is a little more thickly bound, a little more intended for adult audiences, and it's even nonfiction!
This curated collection of real-life letters to Santa from the golden age of its practice, features not only the heart-warming requests of children around the globe, but also highlight reels of the historical events taking place at the same time. The more the world changes around them, the more the wishes of its children stay the same. Even almost a hundred years after the final letter was written, that same sense of childlike wonder that surrounds the Christmas season reminds me to take things a little less seriously!
What are your favorite holiday reads, especially for children? Maybe I'll have to pick up a copy or two! Let me know, in the comments below!