Advent, My Way #7

It’s time to decorate for Christmas!

You bring out the ornaments—the ones your kids made when they were little, the ones you were given the year you bought your first house, the ones you made from something you saw on Pinterest.

You find the wreath and tartan ribbons and lights for the tree.

You dig out every candle you own and the candlesticks and that special plate for Santa’s cookies.

Of course, you’d never forget the special Christmas stockings, to be hung by the chimney with care.

But what about books? So many of you love books—do you have special books that come out just for the holiday season? Books to re-read, books that are beautiful, books that, for you, are the essence of what the season means?

In our usual minimalist planning for Christmas, I don’t think about this kind of detail. But there are three books that I will run across occasionally during the year that make me think, “Damn. I should put that out at Christmas—I love that book.”

And this year, I’m remembering!

The book I love the most is this one.

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My sister and I grew up in that era when it seems that every kid took piano lessons.

I didn’t care much for the lessons and never learned to play the piano very well—it seems one was expected to practice between the weekly lessons!

But this little book of Christmas music moves me no end.

It sort of captures what Christmas looked like in the early 1960s. I swear, in that era, Santa and the reindeer were not as plump and cutesy and cartoon-ish as they have become.

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It has my grandmother’s handwriting on the cover. I love seeing the unique handwriting of people I’ve lost from my life.

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It has the songs that I loved best then and the ones that still hit me in the solar plexus now. They’re all here: Silent Night, Away in the Manger, The First Noel, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

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And it has a few that make me smile now, even though I paid no attention to them then.

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It also displays my incredible artistic talent and vision, as I used it as a coloring book. I liked coloring better than playing the piano. (That got me in trouble when I colored the libretto from my mother’s recording of Carmen . . . )

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So, the music book will sit out this year, on a music stand because we don’t have a piano any longer. Seeing it will remind me of a simple time, loving family, the moving melodies of Christmas, and of my sweet, magical childhood.

And, I’ll ask it again. What about books? You love books—do you have special books that come out just for the holiday season? Books to re-read, books that are beautiful, books that, for you, are the essence of what the season means?

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63 thoughts on “Advent, My Way #7

  1. Great post and a lovely, special book. 🙂 I do love books and have one near me at all times. I don’t, however, keep them at home. Since we made a cross country move and became somewhat minimalistic, the library is kind enough to store all my books. I probably only have about a dozen small books and most are old family cookbooks. So, I’m going to smile and think about this very special music book you are enjoying. Great idea to display a special book. 🙂

    • We use our library very heavily, too, but the books still seem to pile up around here. If we ever get serious about downsizing . . . well, I’m not sure how we’d handle it! I have a lot of trouble getting rid of anything with even a hint of sentimental appeal . . .

  2. We will be decorating on Saturday – I am really looking forward to it, inspired by your advent posts! Hub reads A Christmas Carol every year and I love Tolkein’s Letters from Father Christmas, which he wrote for his children. 🙂

  3. My mother had a piano book similar to yours that I used when I took piano lessons as a child. Seeing yours was really cool.

    Your Day 1 post resonated with me so much. Raised Catholic, but we don’t do that in this house. Close enough to family that we travel every year and do the circuit between mine and his with food and gifts. We don’t decorate here usually, other than a wreath on the door and maybe a table-top tree. Which is a lead-in to the book I often get out this time of year. But it isn’t at all in the spirit of your lovely post. It’s Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Not for display by any means.

    So I’ll leave you with a more pleasant suggestion: The Christmas Cookie Book by Virginia Pasley. I liberated this from my parents’ cookbook collection when I was a young adult, having read it many times as a teenager. There are recipes and stories about their family baking. It is sweet and nostalgic. I’ve never yet made one of the recipes, but maybe I’ll reread the book.

    • I haven’t read that Grisham book but I have read others and can believe that it isn’t typical holiday fare! The Christmas Cookie Book sounds perfect–right up my alley! I’ll need to go looking for a copy!

    • Yikes–that’s expensive! I understand, however, how these favorite books from childhood get under the skin! I was so glad to find a copy of my favorite, which had also been my father’s–Bertram and His Funny Animals.

  4. What a .beautiful book to put out for Christmas I love your colourist work. 🙂 Well, I don’t normally put out books, but as you know I have made a Christmas tree using many of my favourite books. One of the books is Pollyanna’s Jewels. (Gotta have a Pollyanna! ) One small problem with a book tree – you can’t remove a book to look at it!

  5. Oh such a sweet book with lovely illustrations!! Lovely story too, Kerry. And yes, with my love for books, I do have special Christmas books. I like to re-read Miss. Buncle’s Book by D.E Stevenson..not really Christmas, but so cozy. And of course never a Christmas without a good Murder Mystery of the Nice Kind:Snow storms, chique family, big mansion and butler are key ingredients. And the sweetest Christmas book of all: The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien. On our honeymoon in Great Britain in 1988, we searched high and low for a copy which in itself was already a joy. But we finally found it in gorgeous bookstore in Edinburgh …one with dusty windows and mahogany bookcases. It was the best!!! xo Johanna
    ps you are really contributing to my festive mood here!!!

  6. A Child’s Christmas in Wales……. Peter and I can practically quote it. Do the fishes know when it snows? I’d like to make a quilt of that.
    And I have a Christmas song book too with illustrations that look like Weiner Werkstatte. (sp?)

    • I’d love to see that quilt! I’d forgotten all about A Child’s Christmas in Wales. I had to look Werkstatte up–wasn’t familiar with that name but I love that style–it kind of shifts between Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts?

  7. I also set out music sheets on the piano – “Here Comes Santa Claus” , “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, “Bing Crosby’s Songs for Christmas” and a half-dozen smaller booklets of Christmas carols in case we get a group that wants to sing. I also put out the Little Golden Book of “The Night Before Christmas”, Dylan Thomas’s “Christmas in Wales”, and for the kids, Rosemary Wells’ “Morris and the Disappearing Bag”. I lover thumbing through each of these at Christmas time.

  8. What a great idea! I don’t have favorite books, but we do have a favorite puzzle that my mom bought for the kids when they were really little. We keep it with all of our Christmas things, and even though my daughter is 11 now, she still loves to have the tradition of putting it together after we put up our tree. Love the idea of books though…;)

    • That’s funny–I just came across a Christmas puzzle that I vaguely remember from when I was very young! I’m all excited to put it together again! It’s a nice tradition for your family–and I bet your daughter might carry it on with her own family one day . . .

  9. Such beautiful memories you have. I don’t think my children ever made ornaments in school or at home. We weren’t crafty in those days, Many of my ornaments now were gifts and finds from craft fairs. I was going to try to replicate them. Ha! I have found a few books relevant to Christmas but never think about putting them out. They stay on the shelves. Now I see that is just plain silly. So out they will come. You have opened my mind. I love vintage books and especially the vintage music books. Yours is beautiful. Thanks for sharing the ideas.

    • Well, good! Get those books out and enjoy them! I admit, I usually forget to bother with them but there are a few, and I’ll write about a couple more, probably, that are really special. Thanks for all your very thoughtful comments on these posts!

  10. Like Suzannesmom, it’s Raymond Briggs in our house. But I’m getting less and less sentimental about Christmas (and as you know, it’s going to be tough for us this year anyway), though I do love getting out the tree decorations, a few of which date from my own childhood. And they’re just a bit shabby now!

  11. I never heard of that Sandra Claus song. How cute! And your coloring ability is very good indeed!

    Sorry to say I have no favorite books associated with Christmas.

    • I didn’t have any memory of that song at all! The ones I knew were the religious ones–I’m telling you, my upbringing was hardcore. And you don’t need books at Christmas–you have kielbasa!!

  12. We have Christmas books from when the kids were young, a beautiful copy of the Night Before Christmas was always popular, and the Carols music which we would sing round the piano 🙂

  13. I used to have special Christmas books, but now as the last of my library has gone to the Habitat for Humanity store I have very few books at all except the ones I am reading or to read. One of my kids favourites was (is?) a recording of Spike Milligan reading his book ‘Bad Jelly the Witch’. For some reason that became associated with Christmas and stayed there for years. If you haven’t heard it, it’s worth a listen, you can find it on You Tube (but can’t share it for some reason).

    • I’ll check that book out–it sounds worth the effort! If it were up to me, we’d have far fewer books in the house and use the library even more than we do now. But Don just cannot let a book go!

      • When I first started culling my library I’d put books in the ‘out’ box and minutes later take them back to the shelves…. it was quite a painful process. But over time it became easier, especially as I realised there will always be more books waiting to be read….. I have kept about ten books that are aged and probably out of print, just in case I want to dip into them again one day….

  14. We have 24 Christmas books – usually I wrap them and we select one a night. Tom & Rita Hanks talked about it in the extras of Polar Express and I loved the idea. Sadly now the kids are getting too old…

  15. Never thought to set out a few Christmas books,I love reading stories to all the grandchildren,so there is always a special place in the family room with children’s books. One of my favorite stories as a child was frosty the snowman… I still love ⛄️… how ironic for I really don’t care for snow, or the cold that makes it.

  16. We always get out our special Christmas books! I have a beautiful illustrated ‘A Christmas Carol’ which joins a collection of Christmas anthologies and any children’s books with a Christmas theme. I have an ancient copy of Washington Irving’s ‘The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall’ too. Not only do we get out the books but also the sheet music for the piano and all the DVDs and CDs!

  17. How very sweet. We don’t do Christmas decorating anymore, as we’ve got a new family tradition of traveling for the holiday. But I do love all my old Christmas sheet music and The Tall Book of Christmas (“Granny Glittens & Her Amazing Mittens” being the best part).

  18. Your posts are really making me think, I seem to live my life through children. I have children’s books that I get out and read every year….not sure I would if there were not 30 little children in my life though.

  19. When I was a kid we used to have some books especially for Christmas, tucked away in the attic, that appeared again when it was time to get the holiday decorations. And I love your idea of using the music book as colouring pages 🙂

  20. We certainly have Christmas books out – books my children had when they were young which the grandchildren now enjoy, plus some Christmas cookery books which people enjoy leafing through even if we rarely get to make much from them. This year I also have my rapidly growing stack of Christmas novels, currently in a pile in my bedroom. Now where can I put them so they become part of our display… This being our first year in a new house I’m looking forward to figuring out where everything can go. We’re about to get out all the boxes of decorations this afternoon.

    Kerry, I am loving your advent posts – thank you! (I’m waiting for my bumper bag of cloves to arrive – we’ll have pomanders this year thanks to you!)

    P.S. I want to find out more about that song – for obvious reasons. There are very few songs which use my name: to have a Christmas song would be a real treat!

    • I love hearing about your many ways of incorporating books!! And thanks for letting me know you’re enjoying these posts! They are definitely helping me to feel more involved in the season and I’m extra happy to know others are liking the topics. Regarding the song, if you want me to try and scan the page and email it to you, I will!

  21. What a lovely book with some great memories. Surprisingly, since I’m such a reader, I don’t have any special books, though last year I read A Christmas Carol out loud each night to my partner before bed.

  22. I collect Christmas books and have over three hundred.My husband has made me a list on the computer. Last year, I stopped collecting them and began giving them away as presents. I place them around the house at Christmas and when someone comes to visit and likes a book, I send them home with it. I’m writing my own Christmas story now. I’ve learned a lot from those books.

      • It is really a lot of fun doing the new book in the series – set up in the Berkshires. I think it will do well in the stores there next holiday season. I’ll write about it in the blog when the book launch time rolls around.

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