Tips & Advice

Haul Out the Holiday Story Traditions

by Devon A. Corneal

Photo credit: JGI/Jamie Grill, Blend Images/ Getty Images

I am a bit of a holiday nut. If it’s on the calendar, I’ll celebrate it. I get excited for everything from saccharine valentines to overlooked presidents to the green trappings of Irish leprechauns, but I admit to a special fondness for the fall and winter holidays. Halloween, the start of pumpkin everything, merges into Thanksgiving with four kinds of pie and my grandmother’s stuffing, which immediately leads into a month of Christmas carols, cookies, weird homemade ornaments, and brightly lit trees.

I love the decorations, food, music, and gift giving of these celebrations, but my favorite tradition involves books. Squirreled away in our basement, in a Harry Potter-sized closet under the stairs, are stacks of books — one for each holiday. They remain hidden until their appointed time and then spend a few weeks in heavy rotation until the festivities end and they get packed away for another year.

Christmas is my favorite and the number of books I have devoted to the season reflects my affection. I have trained my son well because he shares my intense love of all things Yuletide. Two trips are required to bring all the books upstairs. The books come out the day after Thanksgiving and not a minute before. Before we start reading, we build a fire, get in comfy clothes, and make cups of cocoa. There are usually carols playing in the background and the dogs curl up on the couch next to us. We spend an entire evening working our way through the pile.

We start with How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which my son has had memorized since preschool. Then The Night Before Christmas (two different editions) followed by OLIVIA Claus. Next comes Christmas Wombat and Rudolph. We wind our way through The Berenstain Bears, A Christmas CarolCharlie and the Christmas Kitty, and a host of others. Because I think it’s important that my son understand traditions different from his own, I put How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? and The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming in the mix so we can talk about how other families may celebrate during the winter months. We add new books as we find them, like The Last Christmas Tree, but the core remains the same. Until now, I’ve been the one doing the reading, but now that my son is older, I can hand over some of the easier books to him.

The next day we do it all again.

Sound corny? Maybe. It’s very quaint and old-fashioned and that’s exactly how I like it. Reading is my way of finding quiet in the bustle of the holidays. It changes our focus from the presents and reminds us of the messages of the season. He may not realize it, but years from now, when the toys are long forgotten, I hope my son will look back and realize that the time we spent reading was the best gift I ever gave him.