Four years ago we were packing up our lives in Spokane. We had spent two years there and at the end of those two years, buried a child with the support of family and friends. I was terrified to leave that support system. Our loss was still fresh and the holiday season terrified me. I certainly didn’t feel like celebrating.
Our last weekend in town, a few friends from church requested I show them James’ grave. His burial had been a very small family affair and these friends who had been rocks wanted to know where it was so that they could visit him in my behalf. We drove to his site and I showed them the beautiful view and after we talked for a few minutes, we were all ready to escape the biting wind into the safety of our car.
One of my friends pulled me aside and said she had a departing gift for me. She opened her trunk to reveal 12 wrapped books. I remembered how in their family they had a tradition to unwrap one Christmas book each day leading up to Christmas and she confirmed that she had purchased 12 of her favorite books for us.
This has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. In the darkness of my grief, she thoughtfully wanted to help bring joy to our Christmas season and in the process she also helped to establish a lasting tradition in our family.
This tradition comes with the explanation of where these books came from and why we read one each night. To help us refocus on the reason for the season and to remember the light that was brought into our own family through tremendous kindness.
Christmas books can be funny, delightful, sweet, tear-inducing, and comforting. There are so many beautiful illustrations and messages that help to redirect your heart back onto what matters most. Over the years I have searched for worthy titles to add to this collection and supplemented with library book rentals to last a full 24 days, but those original books will always be the most treasured of the bunch.
I have seen a few Christmas book lists out there but some of my favorite titles are missing from the batch! I wanted to share ten of my favorite unique titles so that you can also feel the joy of Christmas books this holiday season.
- Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble. This one is possibly my favorite. It tells the story of two young sisters in 1881 and how they have a very special Christmas despite a horrible storm and being a poor farming family. I love the values of simplicity and family reflected in its message.
- Santa Calls by William Joyce. My oldest son loves the spirit of adventure in this book but the underlying message and beautiful illustrations make it a favorite of mine.
- Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. Written by the author of Goodnight Moon, this book has that beautiful rhythm and cadence to it that draws you in and lulls you to sleep at the same time.
- A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates. This is a delightful twist on the classic many know and love. It happens to be my son’s favorite because what six year old doesn’t love the mixing pirate jargon with Christmas spirit?
- Redheaded Robbie’s Christmas Story by Bill Luttrell. This one always makes Max laugh each year as Robbie confidently declares a Christmas greeting at the end. I also love the clarity of lessons learned by his classmates as they work their way into understanding the true meaning of Christmas.
- A Christmas Tree for Pyn by Olivier Dunrea. I love love love this one. The father-daughter relationship manages to crack me up and warm my heart simultaneously.
- Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole by Bob Raczka. I bought this one last year after being charmed by the short verses of poetry. It has 25 poems written from Santa’s perspective of his countdown to Christmas day.
- My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. What happens when you wish for a real live penguin for Christmas and get one? I love the childish perspective of realizing what it means to align hope with reality. It manages to be both funny and illuminating.
- Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. This book always leaves me with tears in my eyes at the end. It’s a classic that might be overlooked by many. Family and simplicity are big themes once again that bring that true spirit of Christmas right into your tear ducts.
- I Believe in Santa Claus by Diane G. Adamson. This book helps to explain why Santa is a part of our holiday tradition. I love how it simply explains and illustrates the symbolism of Santa, while bringing the focus back to the Savior.
If you are looking for more Christmas book recommendations, I highly recommend checking out Everyday Reading for her amazing lists (which I have used since 2013). Also don’t forget classics such as The Polar Express, Olive, the Other Reindeer , and The Tale of Three Trees which are all loved favorites on our list as well.
I love holiday traditions and I am especially grateful for the ones that help me to slow down, snuggle up, and refocus on all the joy that surrounds me.