Readers Write

Books In Holiday Traditions

What do books have to do with your holidays? For this month’s Readers Write, we asked: What books have made a difference for you at end-of-year holidays? How have you incorporated books into your holiday traditions? What are the best books to give as gifts? From holiday baking to special gifts, reading the Bible to not sweating the small stuff, readers wrote about special ways books have played a role in their holiday traditions.

Jane writes: In our family it has always been a must that you receive a book on Christmas day. Then after all the festivities, there is that delicious moment when you find a corner and snuggle up with a new book. As children grew, this became a standard part of Christmas with me being the one doing the buying. I delighted in finding just the right book for each child and later for each grandchild.

When the children grew into adults, we began the tradition of exchanging names for Christmas. One year when my son had my name, he gave me a huge box of books to read. He had searched used book stores for authors he thought I might enjoy. I’ll never forget the thrill of seeing a whole box of books from which to choose. Plus being aware of how tuned in he was to my tastes in books.

A few years later, I decided to read all the Man Booker Prize winners in order (which has been an interesting project). While some were easily available, I was having difficulty finding some. My daughter gave me for that year’s gift a complete set. I know she spent a great deal of time acquiring them. Once again, I was stunned and thrilled at the thoughtfulness.

Karen writes: When I was young, my siblings and I sat at my father’s feet while he read the story of Christmas in our great big white family Bible. The lights twinkled on the tree and we could smell good things in the kitchen. Then we were allowed to open one gift before going to church on Christmas Eve. My father is gone now, but that memory of his deep voice reading to us and the feeling of love as he brought out that book stays with me as a favorite Christmas moment.

Hayley writes: We have mixed religious backgrounds in our family. To help our children learn about all of our traditions, one year we bought several children’s books about a variety of Christian and Jewish holiday traditions. The set of books is still showcased on our family room bookshelf. At least once during the holiday season, one of the kids will bring out one of the books and remind everyone of how a tradition began or will read or tell a story about one of the rituals.

Dont-SweatGeorge writes: As we all grew up and moved out of my parents’ house, we each took different paths and some of us entered more stressful lives than others. But all of us dealt with little things that had the potential to grow into bigger things. One year, I read Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. That year, I gave everyone in my family a copy of it for Christmas.

The following year, my sister, not to be outdone, gave us all a copy of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. We both still give out books like these to friends when it seems like the little things are starting to grow.

Paige writes: My sister and I always look for an amazing novel that neither of us has read (which is really hard to do). We dig deep, talk to our local librarian (who knows everything about everyone in our lives by now), and shop local used bookshops. Sometimes we actually get the book from the library on loan a few days before gift time! Even though we live fairly near each other, we have such a short time together over the holidays and such limited time to read, but we love to start reading our novel-gifts one of the first nights we’re together for the holidays and then share our impressions with each other. Last year, her gift to me was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – on loan from the library. I loved it for the language. She got the idea from reading the Books Make a Difference story about Lucia Graves who translated it. Thank you!

emerilGordon writes: My wife always, every year, gets me a cookbook. Now before you think that’s a hint of some kind, you should know that I love to cook. I mostly grill and use a crockpot, but I make pretty amazing stews, soups, and even gourmet fish dishes on the grill or in a skillet. I’m a one-pot wonder. It all started after I watched Emeril’s cooking show a while back and got interested in things like how spices or even the way you cut up a vegetable or piece of meat affects its taste. Last year, she got me Emeril’s Cooking with Power: 100 Delicious Recipes Starring Your Slow Cooker, Multi Cooker, Pressure Cooker, and Deep Fryer. A couple years ago it was Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders. I like to think Emeril and I have a few things in common. And I love that my wife keeps the kitchen interesting for me. We’re having about 50 people over for the holidays this year, so I might need a bigger pot.

Peyton writes: Thanksgiving weekend, our extended family comes to Grandma’s house. We get out her really, really old cookbook that has years of scribbles, sticky notes, and dried on batter. All the cousins have a job to do and we bake lots and lots and lots of cookies and pastries and breads and other treats. We divide up all the baked goods at the end of the weekend, bring them home, and distribute to our neighbors in our own neighborhoods. Everyone looks forward to the fun time in the kitchen with family and fun follow up with our neighbors. Great stories are told, memories relived. It all starts with Grandma’s cookbook.

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