Don’t throw tomatoes — I know. It’s waaay too early to start talking Christmas. In my house we have a “not until Thanksgiving is over” rule, but we thought I should highlight our family Christmas Book tradition here at Afterthoughts before Thanksgiving in the event that any of you would like to adapt it for use in your own homes. Hence — this Christmas post in October.
You have doubtless heard of families that wrap Christmas books as if they are Christmas presents and open one a day between December 1 and December 25 as a count down to Christmas Day. Many of you may think this tradition isn’t something you could manage due to the time involved in wrapping said books. I’m right there with you! So when I ran across an idea online when my oldest was 4 (nearly 6 years ago — how did that happen?) I jumped on it — and this tradition has been easily (and joyfully!) implemented in our home ever since. Mind you — it does take some prep work to make it happen, but it is a one-time investment as opposed to a repeated annual task. Intrigued? Keep reading for the “how-to.”
I purchased muslin produce bags (mine are 12″x15″, which is too large for many books, and just right for others), green and red ribbon, fabric glue, seasonal rubber stamps, number rubber stamps, and ink pads. I stamped each muslin bag with a large image in the center and glued a ribbon an inch from the bottom. Under the ribbon I stamped a number — 1 through 25 — to indicate upon which day of December we would open the bag. Finally, I inserted a Christmas-themed book (or two…) into every bag before lining them up in order inside a “basket.” The books are ready to go for every day of December, and my sons take turns opening the bags on alternate days. They can’t wait until bedtime, though, so we open them upon waking in the morning and read them over breakfast — and often multiple additional times over the course of the day.
We have some books that are on our shelves year-round, but the majority of books in these bags are reserved for the month of December in our home. This makes them highly anticipated and a source of great joy every December, and this is a tradition the boys start to talk about well in advance every year.
After the initial time-investment, there is very little I need to do to keep up this happy tradition. Before I put the books in storage at the end of the season I reconsider the order that I think would be best to open the books in next year while the memory of how they were received during the current season is fresh in my mind. Then I put our basket of books inside a Rubbermaid tote for storage between Christmas seasons to keep them well-protected. and they’re ready to go when I take them out of storage on November 30 every year.
I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but for the life of me I am unable to locate the blog post that provided the initial inspiration for this family tradition. If you happen to find it, please let me know, because I’d like to extend a personal thanks to the person who inspired this well-loved and life giving “liturgy” in the Duran Family home!
Here is my (ever growing) list of the books inside our Christmas Book Bags. I tend to change the order every year, and this is how the line-up turned out for 2017 when I packed things away on December 31, 2016:
- Bag # 1
- The Story of Christmas by Pamela Dalton
- Bag # 2
- We Three Kings by Gennady Spirin
- Bag # 3
- Third Gift by Linda Sue Park
- Bag # 4
- The Nutcracker illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
- Bag # 5
- Bag # 6
- The Legend of St Nicholas by Dandi Daley Mckall
- Bag # 7
- Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones
- Bag # 8
- Bag # 9
- Bag # 10
- Silent Night: The Song and its Story by Margaret Hodges
- Bag # 11
- Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck
- Bag # 12
- The Christmas Train by Ivan Gantschev
- Bag # 13
- The Little Shepherd Girl by Juliann Henry
- Bag # 14
- The Gift of the Magi illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
- Bag # 15
- Bag # 16
- Shoemaker Martin by Leo Tolstoy
- Bag # 17
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
- Bag # 18
- The Remarkable Christmas of the Cobbler’s Sons told by Ruth Sawyer
- Bag # 19
- Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
- Bag # 20
- Listen to the Silent Night by Dandi Daley Mackall
- Bag # 21
- Voices of Christmas by Nikki Grimes
- Bag # 22
- The Twelve Prayers of Christmas by Candy Chand
- Bag # 23
- The Wee Christmas Cabin of Carn-na-ween by Ruth Sawyer
- Bag # 24
- The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Mary Engelbreit
- Bag # 25
- The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long
Other books we enjoy during this season include:
- Good King Wenceslas by John Neale and Tim Ladwig (on the Feast of Stephen, of course!)
- The Cobweb Christmas by Shirley Climo
- Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon
- The Gift from St Nicholas by Dorothea Lachner
- Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
- Christmas is a Time of Giving by Joan Walsh Anglund
- The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown
- The Christmas Story illustrated by Gennady Spirin
- The Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith
Do you have a similar tradition? I’d love to hear about it! And please let us know some of your favorite Christmas books in the comments.
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