If you visit you’d find no Christmas decorations, cookies, holiday songs in the background, and peppermint scent. (I feel bad for peppermint, since its only time to really shine is December.) If you turn on your radio, you won’t hear Christmas music. After listening for weeks they suddenly cut you off. Personally, I think they should gradually stop the songs. Perhaps just a few Christmas songs every hour.
We spend weeks or maybe months for some individuals preparing for the holidays. We plan meals and return to stores for ingredients we forgot the first time. We hope our best clothes or that
ugly Christmas sweater looks presentable. There’s debate about who should get what. Perhaps even family arguments and conflicts occur with those you hardly see. (We secretly wish they’d perhaps leave the gathering sooner.) Christmas decorations are hung and they soon look part of the room. And the actual event takes place for just a few days.
Most people have traditions during the holiday season whether they realize it or not. Perhaps you spend a weekend picking the perfect Christmas tree in the woods. (I’ve never done that. I’m always reminded of the scene in the movie Christmas Vacation.) Maybe you view Christmas lights all over town. Maybe you cook certain foods only during the holiday. Our hearts pour out with goodness as we donate, share, and give. Traditions and the it’s-Christmas-so-I-must-be-kind feeling makes everything special. The season may be over, but hopefully that cheer and goodness carries throughout the year.
Even though the season may be over, there’s still positive aspects. You can easily get a parking spot and won’t be waiting in long lines at the store. Those annoying Christmas songs vanish. Our schedules are back to normal. There’s no more delicious food to tease us, which we know shouldn’t be eaten.
We may say goodbye to Christmas, but keep that holiday spirit within you throughout the year. If you need a refresher, don’t be afraid to enjoy Christmas music anytime of the year. If you’re lucky maybe you’ve even saved holiday treats in the freezer. It comes just once a year, so hopefully yours was memorable.
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
― Charles Dickens
José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad
written and illustrated by David Diaz
song lyrics by José Feliciano
All Ages, 28 pages
I was excited when I discovered this book at the library, since “Feliz Navidad” is one of my favorite Christmas Songs. (Go ahead and click the video to listen while you read.) In the book, José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad the reader almost sings along as the lyrics are slowly written on the pages. José Feliciano was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York at a young age. He wrote “Feliz Navidad” when he was homesick during the Christmas season. Feliciano was born blind, but that didn’t stop this songwriter who won six Grammy Awards with more than sixty-five albums. The book describes a parranda that is a Christmas tradition in Puerto Rico. A parranda is basically a caroling parade when neighbors and friends surprise each other from house to house with small instruments. The festive parade lasts hours and moves through the neighborhood with singing, dancing, and food. At the end, there is a huge feast and cookout often with a roasted pig that brings everyone together. The book was very colorful and festive, which is appropriate for such an upbeat Christmas song.
The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale
by Aaron Shepard, illustrated by Wendy Edelson
Ages 8 & up, 32 pages
Van Amsterdam is an honest baker in the Dutch colonial town that later becomes Albany, New York, who gives exactly what his customers pay for. Van Amsterdam was always busy, because people trusted him and his treats were so good. He was especially busy before December 6 to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. The gingerbread cookies painted red and white with a bishop cap are famous throughout town. An old woman enters the store and demands another cookie, but Van Amsterdam isn’t tricked since a dozen is twelve. However, after meeting the old woman everything goes wrong in his bakery and no customers enter his bakery. Van Amsterdam has a dream that Saint Nicholas himself gave him one of his own cookies but realizes that it was the old woman. He awakes and realizes that he can give his customers more. Van Amsterdam is determined to get his customers back as he bakes many Saint Nicholas cookies. The old woman enters and she’s pleased when the baker hands her thirteen cookies instead of a twelve.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
― Dr. Seuss (How the Grinch Stole Christmas!)
A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas
By Pat Mora, illustrated by Magaly Morales
Ages 5 & up, 32 pages
A Piñata in a Pine Tree is a delightful Spanish version of Twelve Days of Christmas. The only English is the first line on each page then the other items are listed in Spanish. Instead of a true love the girl receives gifts from her amiga. The pictures are colorful and capture a festive Christmas mood. The end of the book provides a glossary and pronunciation guide. The author also highlights Latino traditions, such as luminarias (paper lanterns) with a brown bag that has a candle inside. Luminarias symbolize lighting the way for the Christ Child. Another tradition mentioned are various foods eaten, such as pastelitos (small pies or turnovers) and tamales. The illustrator explained that the Twelve days of Christmas begin on December 26 and end on January 6 when Los Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men) visit young children with gifts. I enjoyed this cultural and informative book.
Uno piñata in a pine tree
Dos pastelitos (two turnovers)
Tres tamalitos (meat wrapped in corn husks)
Cuatro luminarias (four paper lanterns)
Cinco guitarritas (five guitars)
Seis trompos girando (six spinning tops)
Siete burritos bailando (seven dancing donkeys)
Ocho pajaritos serenando (eight serenading birds)
Nueve campanitas sonando (nine bells ringing)
Diez estrellitas saltando (ten stars skipping)
Once lunitas cantando (eleven singing moons)
Doce angelitos celebrando (twelve angels rejoicing)
How Santa Got His Job
By Stephen Krensky, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Ages 5 & up, 32 pages
Have you ever wondered how exactly Santa found his perfect job? His first job was a chimney cleaner, but nobody believed he did a good job since he never got dirty. He tried his luck at delivering the mail, but nobody enjoyed getting their mail late at night. He worked at a zoo and knew when the animals were awake or sleeping, but became too attached to the reindeer. Santa and the reindeer joined the circus, but he was having too much fun getting shot from a canon. Finally, Santa stumbled onto the perfect job when he met some elves. They made wonderful toys, but it was too difficult to deliver all the toys. Santa and his reindeer are up for this challenge in this delightful book that will surely make you smile.
How Santa Lost His Job
By Stephen Krensky, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Ages 5 & up, 32 pages
Santa has his own system before getting ready on his big night. He checks the weather, carefully packs the sleigh, and feeds the reindeer. However, the elves believe that Santa is too slow and needs a better plan. So, one elf builds a replacement for Santa, which is machine called the Deliverator. Santa states that there’s more to his job, but trusts the elves since they make the toys. The elves have a contest between Santa and the Deliverator to determine which is faster and more productive. Santa and the Deliverator race to get ready, sort through the presents, and deliver presents down the chimney. Santa lost the contest, since he stops to eat the cookies and takes a long bubble bath before getting ready. However, situations occur when the elves need Santa to help save the busy night.
Three French Hens
by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Richard Egielski
Ages 6 & up, 36 pages
On the third day of Christmas a mademoiselle from Paris sent her true love three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree. However, there was a major problem with a smudged address because the hens never arrived to the true love. Colette, Poulette, and Fifi decide they will deliver themselves and find Monsieur Philippe Renard. They look in the New York City phone book and discover that they’re actually searching for Phil Fox. As you may have guessed, Phil Fox is a fox and hasn’t had a good meal in a month and has no friends. Phil Fox opens his door and sees his next meal. Before he realizes it, the French hens have bathed him, decorated his house, and cooked delicious food. Phil Fox feels somewhat guilty, because he’s not who they think he is and isn’t even French. Colette, Poulette, and Fifi don’t care at all and like their friend just as he is. Phil Fox is touched that the French hens consider him a friend. A great friendship forms between three French hens from Paris and Phil Fox from the Bronx.
The Christmas Wish
by Richard Siddoway
Fiction, 203 pages
Will Martin lost his parents at age four due to a car accident and his grandparents raised him as their own in a small town. When Will’s grandfather died he left his busy life in New York City and returned home to manage his grandfather’s business that lacked technology and where a firm handshake was worth a signature. His grandparents wrote in journals every year that they didn’t share until death. His grandmother tells Will that she’s been reading the journals and discovered that when Will and her went on their traditional shopping trip on Christmas Eve, her husband secretly saw a woman named Lillian. His grandmother’s Christmas wish is to discover who Lillian is and why her devoted husband never mentioned the name. Will learned more about his grandfather from others in town as he attempts to discover information about Lillian. Will also grew as a person as he respects the business, town, and realizes who the real Will is.
The Christmas Wish was a fast read with a wholesome and inspiring message. It had a Hallmark or Lifetime movie feeling and my prediction was correct after reading other book reviews. I never saw the movie version, but I’m sure it’s a nice Christmas ‘feel good’ movie. The mystery of who Lillian is may be easy to guess after a while, but it’s still a meaningful book.
A Chanukah Noel: A True Story
by Sharon Jennings, illustrated by Gillian Newland
Ages 8 & up, 24 pages
Charlotte’s family moves to France and she’s not happy since everything is different and she’s called a foreigner. She’s placed in a lower grade and her mother tells her that she’ll catch up when other’s have their holiday, which is Christmas. Charlotte doesn’t want to study hard while others celebrate. Her mother reminds her that they’re Jewish and celebrate Chanukah. She feels left out, since all over there are Christmas decorations, treats, and toys. Her class has a holiday party and a classmate, Colette, who teased her states that she forgot a gift for the trade. Charlotte believes it’s silly that she forgot until she learns that Colette is poor and can’t afford a class Christmas gift. Charlotte thinks of an idea to bring a hint of Christmas while celebrating Chanukah. Charlotte’s family help provide Christmas for Colette’s family with food and gifts.
I thought this was an enjoyable book that highlights that even though individuals may celebrate different holidays, the spirit of generosity remains the same. Charlotte didn’t exactly celebrate Christmas herself, but she learned that a good deed forms friendship and cheers others. A Chanukah Noel can be especially helpful if a family celebrates more than more than one holiday.
A Bellbird in a Flame Tree
written and illustrated by Kilmeny Niland
Ages 5 & up, 32 pages
Most people know the original version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but this is an Australian version. I had difficulty finding this book on Amazon and I was lucky enough that my library had it. Kilmeny Niland is an award winning artist who lives in Sydney, Australia. I thought this book was educational to learn about different animals. A Bellbird in a Flame Tree can be used to introduce Australian animals and then gather more information about them.
Here is the full list of the animals:
One on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
twelve koalas clowning,
eleven lizards leaping,
ten dingoes dancing,
nine numbats knitting,
eight quokkas cooking,
seven mice a-marching,
six penguins peeping,
and a bellbird in a flame tree.
Additonal Information about Australian Animals
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
written and illustrated by Robert Barry
Ages 6 & up, 32 pages
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas tree is the biggest and fullest tree he’s ever seen. However, there’s a problem. The tree bent and touched the ceiling, so he chopped off the tree’s top and gave it to the maid. The problem occurred again for the maid and she chopped the tree’s top and threw it away. Individuals and creatures continued to chop the tree’s top until it was the perfect size for a mouse. I thought this was a cute book that pass along the Christmas spirit and used all of the tree.
A Wish to be a Christmas Tree
by Colleen Monroe, illustrated by Michael Glenn Monroe
Ages 6-9, 32 pages
The Christmas season means families and individuals attempt to find the perfect tree. Some people are brave enough to visit a tree farm. All the trees hope to be picked and taken home, but one tree feels that it no longer has a chance. I’ll never be taken home, I’m too big and too tall. His sobbing and crying made his pine needles fall. Animals in the forest hear the tree’s cries and comfort with words. A cardinal keeps safe from the wind on the tree’s branches. The tree’s needles make a good bed as a deer sleeps underneath. The tree falls asleep dreaming about becoming a Christmas tree one last time. The forest animals decide to make the tree their own Christmas tree and show how much they care as they decorate with berries, acorns, and icicles. The tree awakens and discovers that it’s now a Christmas tree and a friend to all those creatures.