Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Traditions

One of my favorite memories of Christmas was making ornaments with my Aunt Marian. She dabbled in ceramics, and my brother, sister, and I would go to her house, sit around the kitchen table, and paint ceramic ornaments like stockings or toy soldiers. We'd get to choose the colors we wanted and add our initials on the back like true artists. While the paint was baking onto the ornaments in the oven, we'd make Rice Krispies treats. For a while, that was our kickoff to Christmas, and even though it's been more than 20 years and my Aunt Marian has been gone for two, memories of those days are seared in my brain. My mom still has these ornaments on her tree to this day, and I unsuccessfully try to steal them every year.

Now that my daughter is really starting to get into Christmas, I want to begin my own Christmas traditions for my kids. Of course, one of our traditions involves books, and I want to share two of the books that we've read over and over this holiday season. Both are classics that I remember reading when I was a child.

First is The Nutcracker. I've never seen a live performance of The Nutcracker, but I've forever been in love with the story. This version, written by Stephanie Spinner and illustrated by Peter Malone, has been hanging around our house for a couple of years. I thought my daughter would be a bit put off by the lengthy copy on each page, but she remains transfixed as I read it. Peter Malone's watercolor illustrations are stunning and give the book an old-timey, magical feel. But what really makes this book special is the nearly 80-minute long CD of Tchaikovsky’s music. It's performed by the Utah Symphony Orchestra and really puts you in the holiday spirit.

Of course, no Christmas story time would be complete without a reading of Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas. Our illustrated depiction of the poem was illustrated by Jan Brett. True to Jan Brett's form, the book is full of color and detail, and a cast of sneaky elves almost steal the show as they stow away on Santa's sleigh on this magical night. What I also love about this is that Santa makes his landing in a wintry New England village and delivers presents to a lovely Victorian home. Like The Nutcracker, it gives off an old-timey feel of warmth and cheer. It does look like this one is out of print, but I found mine on a shelf in a local bookstore not too long ago.  In any case, there are tons of illustrated versions of this poem available. Do you have a favorite?

Do you have holiday traditions or special books you read with your kids during the holidays?

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