(Note: there is no Perfect Picture Book post today. Instead, if you go over to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, you will find the finalists for her holiday story contest, and you will be able to cast your vote for your favorite story.)
This time of year, usually referred to under the umbrella title of “The Holidays,” is filled with traditions. Most people, most families, have their own treasured ways of doing things and look forward eagerly to the fond repetition.
Sometimes, I admit, people can get so caught up in doing things “the way we’ve always done them” that they miss out on the joy of new experiences, or they cause unneeded stress for themselves and/or others when things don’t go exactly right. Traditions — and the Holidays — are meant to add joy to our lives, and to the lives of those around us, not to pile more stress into an already stress-fraught time of year. Sometimes, we need to just relax and let go of the outcomes, and perhaps of some of our cherished traditions. Do not fear. New experiences will fill the spaces left by those worn-out actions, and will perhaps blossom into new, meaningful, and loved traditions.
Sometimes, also, a tradition may hold too much pain when the one(s) that used to share that special time are no longer on this earth. That is another signal to alter, or set aside, the old and try something new.
In recent years, I have had to let go of some of the traditions that were bound up in family Christmases, and have let go others because of time and monetary constraints — but I have added some that are true treasures, that make my Holidays a joy. I’d like to share a few of them with you — perhaps they’ll become your newest treasures, as well.
The book tree depicted at the top of this post, built last year, didn’t become a yearly tradition — but the Mousical mice that can be seen on the book tree are certainly a part of this Christmas as they were the year before last. This year, they’re performing on the stage I built for my Great American Mousical teaser posts in September, and they look to be having a great time. I predict that they’ll show up somehow in my holiday decor for years to come. My decor also includes little elves who sit in my Christmas tree — and have done so since my childhood. What are your most cherished decorating traditions?
It won’t surprise you to learn that books play a great part in my holiday traditions, as well. Some time in December, as Christmas approaches, I am sure to be found reading (for the I-don’t-know-how-manyth time) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, and laughing and delighting once more in the Herdmans — “the worst kids in the history of the world.” Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is usually a part of my reading tradition, as well. Christmas Eve just wouldn’t feel right without William Kurelek’s A Northern Nativity, and at breakfast time on Christmas morning, I will read aloud the Christmas story from my mother’s wedding Bible as I have done for many, many years. And likely, just for the joy of it, I will fit in a reading of The True Meaning of Crumbfest, which I have in an anthology put together by “Fireside Al,” Alan Maitland. Do you have any reading traditions at the holidays?
Speaking of Fireside Al, he also contributes to one of my other favorite Christmas Eve traditions. While I once read Frederic Forsyth’s eery and wonderful story The Shepherd from the aforementioned anthology, I now listen to it, read by Alan Maitland himself. Mr. Maitland first read this story aloud on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) program As It Happens on Christmas Eve 1979, and it has been repeated on that program every Christmas Eve since, even now, when Fireside Al is no longer alive. It is also available on the CBC website, so that one doesn’t have to make sure one hears it when the radio program is actually on. Despite its title, it is not about one of the familiar “shepherds in the fields abiding.” It is a very different type of shepherd, in a very moving story. Do you have any special listening or viewing traditions at this time of year?
I could go on at length, sharing other traditions, particularly those involving music. Instead, I’ll just leave you with the traditional wish for a happy holiday season. May there be peace on earth, and peace in our hearts, now and always.