Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
If you’re like me, you have a collection of Christmas stories for your children that come out every Advent as part of the bedtime routine. Some of the stories weather the passage of time better than others. While most people probably read “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, there are other books which give a little taste of the season to bedtime, rather like a nutmeg sugar cookie or putting a peppermint stick in the lunch box. Here are some of my kids’ favorites:
The Twelve Days of Christmas
This gorgeous pop-up book by Robert Sabuda survived three toddlers before we had to replace it. It also solves the age old dispute whether it’s nine drummers drumming or nine ladies dancing, an argument which while also solved by google, is more fun to illustrate with the aid of paper 3D art. My favorite page is of the swans in the crystal ball.
The Holly and the Ivy by Rumer Godden
I love this story of the orphan girl who seeks to find “her grandmother,” because she doesn’t want to be alone at the Christmas vacation, and the Christmas doll who wished for her. I loved hearing my dad read it to my sister when I was a teen and had to sneak around to listen to Dad’s bedtime story for her. What I’ve found as an adult, is I still love this story, but I didn’t know until I became an adult how long this story is for bedtime. Set aside extra time for this story, because it will take more than twenty minutes, but it’s a special time and who knows, your teens might be listening in while you read aloud.
The Little House in the Big Woods
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book — especially the chapter on Christmas — gives us a snapshot of how pioneers and ordinary folk celebrated Dec. 25 in her time, and I remember being overawed by the loveliness of it all. The food, the music, even absent tons of chocolate, the dancing and the family elements of it, made the whole celebration sparkle off the page. It’s a good slice of history that conveys the magic of celebrating the beauty and joy of the holiday without a single commercial in sight.
The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell
Normally, I’m not real big with angel stories (It’s A Wonderful Life not withstanding), but this sweet story of how God fashioned the Christmas star to announce the birth of our Lord, is sweet and it holds the kids’ attention and the angel’s crooked halo and struggles win the heart despite myself.
The Mitten by Jan Brett
The story of the animals making their home in a boy named Nicki’s white mitten is a feast for the eyes with the little side panel drawings and lovely details in the stitching. It’s also easy for younger readers, and it’s based on a Ukrainian folk tale. It’s perfect on a snowy day and has a quiet quality to it, good for settling down for a long winter’s nap.
A Christmas Carol
The actual story holds more treasures than all the television versions, though there are great ones out there. Reading aloud allows you to pull in more than the younger ones, and to enjoy the richness of Dickens when he cuts loose with lovely descriptions of Scrooge, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
My final selection for your reading pleasure with your kiddos is a recommendation. My parents bought one of those gift books where you can record your voice. They opted for “The Very First Christmas.” It’s a simple straight forward telling of the nativity story. However, because they recorded it, I have an annual treat of hearing my deceased father’s voice saying, “I love you.” On the last page. It’s a present every year. It always makes me cry.
There are many more books out there. These are just some of our favorites — I’d love to hear about yours. In any event, enjoy this time with your children and grandchildren. Be present to them, and give them the gift of time and memories in the form of bedtime stories.