One of my favorite holiday traditions growing up was helping to unpack the Christmas boxes from the attic when it was time to decorate the tree. And along with the ornaments and wreaths and nativity sets were a few well-loved holiday books. Classics.
The Little Golden Book Christmas Story. The Night Before Christmas. The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Claus. How The Grinch Stole Christmas. A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Littlest Angel. A Christmas Carol.
I’m not posting any pictures, because just hearing the titles brings to my mind perfect images of the covers and pages. You might have your own favorite illustrations, or your own titles. And probably also like you, these books are (were?) essential to my family’s Christmas traditions. It wouldn’t be Christmas Eve if we didn’t read The Night Before Christmas aloud.
And while I love to look through How The Grinch Stole Christmas with the inscription from my uncle the year my brother was born, that copy belongs at my parent’s house. Now that I’m married, it’s fun to begin my own traditions, and that certainly includes starting my own Christmas book collection that is packed up with the decorations each January and only unpacked when it is time for the next Christmas. It seems to make them more special. These are the books I will pick up after school or before dinner or on a Saturday morning for a little seasonal cheer. And although my collection is small now, I don’t want to go out and buy fifty Christmas books just to have a collection. I want our family collection to grow naturally with beautiful books that Sam and I both enjoy. Because everyone loves picture books! They’re not just for kids 🙂
Here are the books currently in our Christmas Collection:
What-a-Mess and the Cat Next Door, written by Frank Muir and illustrated by Joseph Wright
The original What-a-Mess books were given to me by my Grandpop long before I remember, and every one of them (What-a-Mess, What-a-Mess the Good, & Prince What-a-Mess) was of the read-it-again-for-the-thousandth-time sort of book. The characters are hilarious, and the illustrations are out-of-this-world funny and bizarre. So for Christmas, What-a-Mess the puppy is tricked by the neighbor’s cat into replacing the family’s Christmas tree with the oak tree in the front yard. Oh, is it funny. And the illustrations are a trip. Love this book. Actually, this was on the regular bookshelf, but I’m thinking that it will be even better once a year. (Or maybe four or five times.)
The Christmas Cat, written by Efner Tudor Holmes and illustrated by Tasha Tudor
My grandmother was a children’s librarian for many years, and one of my favorite parts of visiting her was her huge trunk of children’s books in the basement. When she moved to a smaller living space, I inherited most of her old children’s books. Many of them signed by the author (& illustrator), as this one is! A sweet story of a family at Christmas time, with a little cat thrown in. Such a treat. Library binding, of course.
A Family Christmas, edited by Caroline Kennedy
Sam bought this for me our first Christmas together. It’s an eclectic collection of poems, songs, stories, and letters from here to there to yesteryear. My favorite: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Bravo, Sam.
Santa Calls, written and illustrated by William Joyce
I got this book through PBS.com because I love William Joyce and his artwork. He’s the creator behind Wilbur Robinson and the movie Meet the Robinsons. His illustrations are so quirky and awesomely old-fashioned. So is this story.
A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor, by Truman Capote
I remember reading “A Christmas Memory” when I was pretty young. And then I actually found the short story in A Family Christmas (mentioned above). I had no idea it was written by Truman Capote. So I had to find a copy just for that story. In searching, I found this version which contains two other stories that I’d never read. They’re all really poignant and so well crafted. I read it aloud to Sam the other day and made it all the way to the last page, but I made Sam finish reading it because my voice kept breaking. Just beautiful. I forgot it was sad! (At the end, Sam asked, “What happened? Did she die?” Sigh… sometimes men and women seem to be on different wavelengths entirely)
So it may be small, but I love our little collection of Christmas books. And as it grows, I know it will be one of my favorite traditions to see each book again each Christmastime.