Friday, January 7, 2011
Two Special Traditions
I love so many things about the holidays that they always go by too quickly for me. This year, I didn’t even get my cards sent till after New Year’s and I’m still trying to plan a day for the last of my holiday baking. (At this point I think I should just put away the Christmas cookie cutters and get out the Valentine hearts!) Putting away the decorations is always a little sad and the living room always looks a little lonely for the first days after the tree is gone. We’ve adopted two traditions to make the end of the holiday season a little more bearable.
For some, the tree is out on the curb the day after Christmas as they breathe sighs of relief that the radio station has returned to its regular play-list. Many continue to indulge in holiday celebrations through New Year’s, often starting the new year by cleaning up holiday messes or resolving to lose those holiday pounds. Some of us aren’t ready to bid the joy of the holidays farewell on the first, so we decided to choose a more historical date to mark the end of our season: January 6, or Epiphany. Traditionally celebrated to commemorate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, Epiphany is significant in the symbolism of holiday gift-giving.
A Gift from the Heart
I received a copy of The King’s Christmas List, by Eldon Johnson, to review courtesy of Booksneeze. Emma is a little girl who finds herself magically transported with her dog on a magical adventure to a birthday party for the King. They take along a Christmas cake as a present, but before they reach the party, they meet fellow travelers in need. Emma shares not only her cake, but her warm cape and her treasured teddy bear. Arriving at the party empty handed, Emma and her dog are surprised that the guests exchange gifts with one another. The King explains that while many people show their love at Christmas by giving one another gifts, some have forgotten that he, too, wishes for a gift from the heart. When Emma begins to apologize for arriving without a gift, the King reveals that the families she met along the way are in fact his angels, and that her kindness has demonstrated the true spirit of gift-giving to his people. The King proclaims that any gift to the needy is a gift to Him, and the final page of the book has suggestions for charitable gifts as well as a link to explore gift and prayer connections at TheKingsAdventure.com. The symbolism and allegory is quite transparent to the adult reader, but is potentially useful to make the cognitive concepts of charity and gift-giving more understandable for little ones. The generosity and self-sacrifice demonstrated by Emma are traits we could all learn from, but Emma makes it seem easy. The text is a little self-aware (pointing out Emma’s surprise that her dog can suddenly talk with her) but generally smooth and appropriate for preschoolers or younger elementary children. Expressions in the illustrations are cartoonish, but the details and colors are rich. I decided to revisit the book in honor of Epiphany as we talked about the gifts bestowed upon Jesus. We decided to pass on some of our good fortune and make a gift to the needy by sorting through some outgrown clothes and unused toys for a donation.
Saving a Little Christmas
Our second tradition was inspired by a book discovered at our library, The Tree that Came to Stay, by Anna Quindlen. Immediately appealing to my fondness for Christmas tree decorating, I was even more engaged by the heartwarming way the family in the story manages to hold on to the warm Christmas feelings even as they deposit the drying tree on the snowy curbside. The story begins with the family’s selection of the tree, describes careful decorating, and briefly captures the glow of Christmas morning. The emphasis of the story comes after Christmas, as the decorations are removed and each member of the family feels a twinge of sadness seeing the tree stripped down and prepared for disposal. The resourceful mother devises a way to bolster spirits and create a Christmas keepsake: she collects dried needles from the tree in a basket. Decorated with Christmas ribbons, the basket is kept all year as a fragrant reminder of their happy Christmas memories. B and I decided a basket of Christmas sounded like a brilliant idea, so we’ve already collected our needles and now just have to find a place to keep them safely out of T’s way.
I allowed myself a holiday break, but I hope I still have some faithful readers with some book suggestions to link-up and share! I’ll also be linking up at Read.Explore.Learn with JDaniel4’s mom to spread the word that Feed Me Books Friday is back and meet some new friends!
If you have ideas to make Christmas clean-up a little more fun, I’d love to hear about them!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received The King’s Christmas List free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com