December first is a magical day.
When we were kids, our kitchen was transformed during the night and we arose to a resplendent table, complete with candles lighting the early morning hour. Mom started the tradition of “December First Breakfast” sometime when we were in elementary school, though sadly none of us remembers the exact year it began. The traditional meal from the beginning was croissants, bacon, and frozen raspberries. Nowadays it might not seem all that fancy, but Mom tells the story of only being able to buy croissants in packages of two in the 70’s. Sometimes it would take her weeks to stockpile enough for us. And raspberries in stemware. I tell you, there is nothing fancier. It was elegant and sacred and full of wonder as we also received a Christmas book, an ornament and an advent calendar before partaking in the meal.
All day long at school we anticipated racing home to unpack our Christmas books. As old friends emerged from boxes we would ooh and ahh, getting caught up in reading them and retelling memories. There are so many wonderful Christmas books, it’s hard to narrow it down, but here’s the list of my nine favorite Christmas books:
- Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr – Mog’s personality is winsome and the illustrations have kept this a family favorite over the years.
- The Nativity by Julie Vivas – The picture of the angel sitting down with Mary over a cup of tea explaining what would happen to her, is very much how I like to think it could have happened. No rush, just calm explaining. Another page that captures my fancy involves the angels coming to tell the shepherds about the birth and getting caught up in the joy of the moment by riding the sheep.
- The Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair – My Dad reads this in the best Cajun accent a Colorado girl could imagine.
- Star Mother’s Youngest Child by Louise Moeri– Of all my choices, I am mocked the most over this book. I’ll admit that the story is kind of long for little kids and the illustrations are not as endearing as others; but there is something about this book that keeps me coming back to it year after year. When Star Mother’s Youngest Child returns to the heavens after spending Christmas day on earth and his mother asks him how it was, his response is priceless: “Enough.” Oh may that be all of our responses!
- Wombat Divine by Mem Fox – Endearing story, illustrations, and Australian animals. This is one that can truly be read over and over.
- Uncle Vova’s Tree by Patricia Polacco – The illustrations are a beautiful portrayal of Christmas in Russia.
- Emma’s Christmas by Irene Trivas – This twist on the twelve days of Christmas is charming for its mathematical fun and the playfulness between Emma and the prince, who is trying to woo her.
- The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola. His illustrations are simply beautiful. This book also reminds me of what a good man my brother-in-law is. He had only been dating my sister a few months when he was first exposed to our book tradition. Why we asked him to read this book out loud to us, is now dim in memory. He continued to read, as his future wife, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law started crying near the end, showing his solid character and endearing him to us forever.
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – if you have not read this, you must get a copy immediately and read it. It is amazing. More amazing than the plays and movies made. Truly!
What books would be on your list?
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Oh Dear Amy, why must you taunt me so? Couldn’t there have been ten favorites? I’m a girl who needs symmetry!
Two of my favorites are ones you gave me to start my collection. The pop up nativity since we didn’t have a real nativity set as newlyweds, and the Julie vivas book. Love those angels in converse high tops!
I love your mother’s tradition. And your re-telling.
But 9 is a perfect square! What could be more symmetrical than that? I just decided to let the number fall where it may — and it fell on nine. You KNOW I could have made a list of about 100, but who wants to read that? Thanks for sharing! Amy
I love this blog about all my “friends” Yea and hooray for Christmas books!! Mom :)
Mom, thanks for passing on your love of books to so many! A grateful daughter =)
Melinda Oberhelman says
When I read this it brought a huge smile to my face–remembering sharing the tradition for the first time with your family and then carrying it to mine. I found myself enjoying December 1st as much as Christmas. It was the true start of Advent for me. I miss it–we haven’t celebrated it for a while now, it’s just not the same when it cannot be shared together. But the amazing memories.
You all introduced me to the Clown of God. I will never forget hearing it, at your home, for the first time. It is one of my favorites. I have shared it many times with others, often having someone mime it–and having gold colored ball ornaments for everyone, so they might remember the gift within them that God has given them. My second favorite would be The Nativity–love the illustrations. From there, it changes every year. [smile]
Thank you for the beautiful trip down memory lane. I have been so blessed to have you and your family in my life. Love to all!!
And every year when we unpack our “friends,” we remember the years you spent with us! We love you Melinda! Thanks for the comment. With love, Amy
I love it! December 1st breakfast….what sweet memories :)
Next year you can read to your two dearies! Amy =)
Lisa Z says
Wombat Divine will forever be at the top of my list of faves thanks to you graciously allowing me to partake in Christmas parties with your Chinese students over the years. Can’t wait to carry on the tradition reading it to the kiddos. Thank you, Marsha and Amy for sharing your love of reading with young and old the world over.
And I will forever think of you baking cookies and cleaning up as I read. We make a right smart team!
Oh! I just found your blog. We have much in common I am certain. We have celebrated Christmas books ever since my kids were little. (they are in their 20’s now!) One of our most anticipated events of the Christmas season was pulling out the Christmas box full books, music, and movies that were only seen out with the holidays. I am looking forward to reading your 10. I’ll share some favorite Christmas poems later.
Mine may reflect the present age of my kids and many more of the stories are in anthologies. Here are our top three.
The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
A traditional folktale of three trees in the forest who long to be grand for God and get their wish in a most unlikely fashion.
A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert
Post-war Poland is the setting of this story. Its about neighbors helping neighbors.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
A persistent, curious little boy and his mom transform the life of a grieving, embittered woodcarver.
Beth!!! It sounds like we might have quite a bit in common :) Have you heard of Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems? http://www.amazon.com/Kneeling-Bethlehem-Ann-Weems/dp/0664228887
She writes poetry too. An please do some back and share your poems!! Amy
Susan Meyer says
All of those books sound wonderful. I’ll have to check them out. The Littlest Angel is a favorite of mine though I can’t get through it without crying. Can’t even read it to my 5year old grandson without crying. A very touching story. Our 24 year old daughter was murdered this past April, so The Littlest Angel has more significance for me now….
Oh Susan, what a loss. I am so sorry. And I can see why The Littlest Angel would have added significance. My thoughts are with you and your family at this time.