Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Essential Reading: Traditions

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It seems that as my children get older and our collective life gets busier, I do an increasingly terrible job of sustaining the holiday traditions with which I grew up (and to which they have already grown accustomed). Nevertheless, we still manage to cut and decorate our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, at least, and we still find time to read a few of the books that define the season for our family. My dad always read his children The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, without fail. Our book was one of Tasha Tudor’s many illustrated iterations of the poem, and I rustled up a used paperback copy so that I could read the same version to my boys. I've just discovered Holly Hobbie's charming new version, however; it may yet edge out its predecessor in our household. Whatever we manage (or don't manage) to fit into this holiday season, there will be The Night Before Christmas! Read on for further seasonal inspiration:

Literary Reflections Editor Andrea Lani shares, "One of my favorite traditions is wrapping up all of our holiday books for a kind of Literary Advent Calendar (or 'Christmas Book Countdown' as friends dubbed their own similar tradition). Each night before bed, the kids take turns opening the day's book (or two or three--we have a lot of holiday books) and then we all snuggle together on the couch while I read. My personal must-reads in the collection are A Jolly Christmas with the Patterprints by Vera Nyce, Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas by Russell Hoban, and A Christmas Stocking Story by Hilary Knight--all fun, original, non-dogmatic takes on the holiday with delightful illustrations. As for myself, every December I enjoy sipping a glass of eggnog while reading 'Santaland Diaries' from Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris for a little laugh-out-loud, dark holiday humor."

Profiles Editor Rachel Epp Buller adds, "The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden (illustrations by Barbara Cooney), is one that we read every year at the holidays. Moving between the stories of Ivy, an orphan girl, and Holly, a doll in a shop, this beautifully illustrated tale captures tender characters whose resilience and determination helps them find their way to each other and to a family at Christmastime." (This book is a long-time tradition in my family, too! See my review here.)


Libby Maxey lives in rural Massachussetts with her husband and two young sons. With her academic career as a medievalist having died a stunningly swift death by childbirth, she now works as an editor, writes poetry, reads when able, and sings with her local light opera company. Her work has appeared in The Mom Egg Review, Off the Coast, Tule Review, Crannóg Magazine, Mezzo Cammin and elsewhere.


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We have an Advent calendar of wrapped up Christmas books too. Some are stories that my girls and I love. Some are ones I tolerate because they enjoy them. The Story of Holly and Ivy is on my list to add for next year. I don't know the Emmett Otter book, but we have the video of the Christmas special that we watch each year. One of our favorites is The Best Christmas by Lee Kingman.
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