Christmas Book Countdown
One of my very favorite Christmas traditions came during the cozy evening hours in December. I grew up very close with several of my cousins. While I never got the full experience of this tradition, it is something that I know I want to do in my own family. My aunt would wrap all of the Christmas books and place them in a large basket near the Christmas tree. Each night, or for me the nights I stayed over, we would all gather around the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree and pick a new story to unwrap and read together. The little kids always picked the biggest books, some preferred to find the tiny little stories hidden in the bottom of the basket. My aunt would make the most delicious hot wassail and would often heat up mugs for each of us to sip as we read a new story we opened and re-read the favorites that had already been opened.
Last year, when we found these beautiful advent countdown candles, it seemed like the perfect companion to the Christmas book countdown. So here are a few of our very favorite Christmas books and just a little write up about why we love them so much, along with a special recipe for tasty spiced drink. We hope that there are a few books that you may want to add to your holiday collection. Even if you don't read one every night, perhaps you will find a few cozy evenings to wrap up in a wool blanket and read a Christmas story.
This is most definitely my favorite Christmas book from the last few years. It was originally published in 1933 in Germany, but has finally been translated and is available now in English. This sweet story tells of ten little Christmas angels who are full of energy and eager to help all who may need a little extra love during the holiday season. It's short and perfect for all ages.
There are few Christmas stories more familiar and timeless than A Christmas Carol. It's said that Charles Dickens could be heard weeping or laughing on occasion as he feverishly wrote, pouring his soul into this classic tale to get it published in time for the Christmas season of 1843. His emotion and dedication to A Christmas Carol resulted in captivating readers old and young for generations. Enjoy the story of Scrooge and ghosts from Christmas past, present, and future under the warm holiday glow of your tree.If you sit down and read it straight through it may take you an hour. Or spread it out over a few evenings. We love this version of it with it's festive red and beautiful embossed detailing.
As Christmas quickly approaches, the children of Cranberryport are excited to skate on the frozen pond, that is, until a grumpy member of the town claims the pond as his own and stops anyone from skating there. It appears it will be a dreary holiday until Mr. Whiskers and some friends of his discover something that helps turn a potentially disappointing holiday into a fun-filled time. As with all of the books in the Cranberry series, this book comes with a scrumptious recipe on the back for a cranberry treat. There is a Cranberry book for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine's.
Toys coming to life and battles with rat kings. It's a story that most of us know, but we love this book version with illustrations by Maurice Sendak. We love to join Clara on her magical adventures. It's definitely a longer book, but we love reading this one right before we go to the ballet, to help us all follow the magical story a little bit better.
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, was originally written by Robert L. May as a booklet to be published alongside the Montgomery Ward catalog in Chicago. May was an ad writer for the business and was given the task to write a Christmas story. The story was an instant success. Ten years later, Montgomery Ward gave May the rights to the story he had written for them. This book is a reproduction of that original publication that tells the story of a misfit reindeer.
Once given the rights to the booklet, May and his brother-in-law wrote the jingle that we all know. In a surprising turn of events, the song was picked up by one very famous cowboy: Gene Autry. Suddenly, the song was topping the charts in 1949. By 1964, Rudolph had become a stop-motion cartoon that has charmed generations of children.
While most of the world is familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien famed trilogy The Lord of the Rings, what you may not know is that he turned his storytelling charm on for his own children at Christmas time each year. This book is a collection of the letters from Santa that Tolkien's children received each year at Christmas. The North Pole became more fantastic than Middle Earth for a few weeks each year as the Tolkien children exchanged letters with Father Christmas. Beautifully illustrated and hardcover, this is a true treasure for every home.
A story about wishing and dreams that come true. It features a young orphan girl with a Christmas wish. Originally written by Rumer Godden in 1958 it is illustrated by Barbara Cooney. It's absolutely charming, but I would recommend for kids that are 6 or older. It's a bit of a longer read.
Another favorite, also illustrated by Barbara Cooney, and written by Gloria Houston, is called The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree It's a story of wartime struggles and perfect Christmas courage. Ruthie lives in the Appalachian mountains. Both of these sweet stories are especially magical for little girls between the ages of 6-11. This stories warms my heart.
This collection of eight stories is absolutely wonderful, and they are all illustrated by Bernadette Watts. The stories included in this collection are: The Smallest Snowflake, The Little Drummer Boy, Shoemaker Martin, The Star Child, The Snow Queen, The Little Donkey, The Christmas Story, and Varenka. Each story has it's own special tale of Christmas. My personal favorite is Shoemaker Martin, originally written by Leo Tolstoy. It is the story of a lonely shoemaker who is eagerly waiting a special divine visitor. He waits all day long, watching the street for an unusual pair of shoes, but all he sees are regular people in need. Martin does his best to help each.
We love this version of the nativity story from the perspective of a small and tired donkey, but who was an integral part of the story. He's an unfortunate little donkey that doesn't quite fit in, and always has bad luck. Until one day he is asked to go on a long journey. This one is my husband's favorite pick of the bunch. It makes us all laugh, but ultimately reminds us all of the true reasons for the celebratory season.
A Christmas version of the class Jolly Postman story by husband and wife duo Janet and Allan Ahlberg. These books are amazing and so interactive, with letters and tiny books to pull out as you turn each page. The Jolly Postman is out to deliver Christmas mail to our favorite fairytale characters. What do their letters say? This book will make you laugh and will keep all ages entertained.
A lonely little mouse, living all alone in a great gray house learns the value of helping and giving to bring great joy. When this sweet little mouse realizes that nobody gives Santa a gift, he decides to share his cheese, striking up a friendship with Mr. Clause. This charming book, a reprint of this 1966 classic, has all of us in love. Its rhyming cadence is catchy and quick-witted. If this isn't already one of your Christmas classics, it should be.
This is another longer read, perhaps spread out over a few nights, or enjoyed over a couple hours of reading. This one I find beautifully written, but also so typically Welsh. The language and customs are so fascinating, as it reminisces about the magic of the season, from the idyllic view of a child.
A classic Russian fairytale of an old lady who is invited to follow a star and meet the Christ child. She is so busy preparing her house and doing her work that she says she can't possibly go. It is only in hindsight that she realizes that great opportunity that she missed.
This treasury curated and compiled by Noel Daniel is timeless in every sense. Each of the 13 tales from around the world are paired with their original art. The stories themselves are the real treasure: read your way from well-known tales like "The Friendly Beasts" and "The Night Before Christmas" to folktales from around the world like "Moy Moy," "The Red Horse" and "Children of the Northlights." The stories are intended to dazzle the imagination and bring a global sense of the season with all its varied richness and warmth.
Charles Dickens wrote The Life of Our Lord for his children so that they could better understand the life of Jesus Christ. He wanted them to connect Jesus' actions with the values of kindness, love, forgiveness, sorrow, compassion, and faith. Dickens was a man of faith and wanted his children to understand that too. This manuscript was not published while Dickens was alive, but only later published after he and all of his children had died.
And last, but certainly not least, here is one of our favorite wassail recipes. Happy reading this Christmas. Shop all of our Christmas books!
2 c. sugar
2 c. water
2 c. orange juice (not concentrate)
¾ c. lemon juice
2 qt. water
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. almond extract
Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
In a saucepan combine sugar and 2 cups water; heat until sugar is
dissolved. Add orange juice, lemon juice, and 2 quarts water; heat
until hot. Add cinnamon sticks or sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Remove from heat and add vanilla and almond extract.
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