This time every year I dig deep into my closets to pull out my holiday paraphernalia, like dinner and glassware from my husband’s parents, decorations passed to me from my mother, and cherished table linens handmade by my grandmother. I will spend an afternoon cutting greens to place in newly polished copper and silver containers, that were had been buried in my great grandmother’s backyard in Norway during WWII. Quickly I will take a pantry inventory to make sure all ingredients are on hand for baking cookies, made using my grandmother’s handwritten recipes that still reside on a small piece of paper. The list of traditions goes on. But there is one tradition that was not passed down, and instead came about organically, a lovingly curated collection of Christmas books.
Over the years, my parents and then eventually just my Mom (my parents were divorced), occasionally would give me a Christmas book, filled with beautiful illustrations and heart-warming stories. Stories about kids, kittens, snowmen, Santa, families, and the occasional troll or two (from the Norwegian side of the family). In my 20’s I started adding to this collection myself by purchasing a holiday book yearly and have now my husband fulfills the tradition. The collection grows and grows with new stories of families, kittens, dogs, trees, traditions, and a new one about trolls. These books are hand-picked, then signed and dated by the giver.
Today my collection contains 40 or so books. Most are packed up and put away on the 1st of January, but two books from the collection stay out all year long. The first, a stunner given to me about 2 years ago by my husband, is entitled Christmas in America. The other is titled A Christmas Story by Mary Chalmers. The latter represents the past, given to me by my parents in 1972, and the other one represents my future. One tells of holiday traditions across the country with stunning pictures; one of a little girl Elizabeth and her friends Harry Dog, Alice Rabbit, and Hillary Cat as they head out into the snowy landscape to find and decorate the perfect Christmas tree.
This holiday tradition, which I have passed on to my kids, either as individual books or as the entire collection, contains themes of glistening snowy days and starry nights filled with hope, peace, and magic. Each year when I read my books, my heart is refilled with that hope… hope for both peace and magic this time and all throughout the year.