105 Ways to Give a Book

It’s a Tradition

I make the rounds of a few mommy and daddy blogs, but only if they’ve got a bit of the funny about them. Notes From the Trenches is written by a mom of seven kids who seems to handle it all with a laid-back style and a sense of humor. On her sub-blog she talked about a special holiday tradition with Christmas books. She wraps them up and opens one a day as sort of a literary advent calendar. I think that is so cool.

When she opened up the comments to other holiday traditions from readers, I could only think of two long-standing traditions. We always order pizza on Christmas Eve because we’re so blown out from all the holiday preparations. We did it a couple of times, and then it seemed funny to keep doing it, and that’s how traditions start in my family. Also, for years we had the tradition of the Domino-experience Christmas tree. We wanted a tree that we could pick out, pay for, and bring home in thirty minutes or less. For years my in-laws would try to get us to go to this Christmas tree farm an hour away to trudge through the cold and chop down a tree. They could not get it that we wanted a tree with minimal fuss. Last year my mother gave us her artificial tree, and though I don’t love it — it’s pretty skinny — I don’t care enough to get a better one or pay seventy dollars for a live tree.

But I forgot our most important Christmas tradition. I always take my kids for a Christmas picture at JC Penney (the $9.99 package of one pose, 37 pictures) and then to see Santa in the mall. We have done this every year, except the one year I tried Target’s photography studio, which appeared to be staffed by employees on rotations from the stockroom. They were rude, used bad poses, and took terrible pictures. At JC Penney the employees are nice, actually seem like they do this job often, and keep taking pictures until they get a good one.

This year we were early for our photo session. I know, unprecedented. We finished quickly and were on to see Santa in no time. My husband skipped out of work early to join us for what will probably be my seven-year-old’s last Christmas of believing in the mall Santa Claus. It was very sweet, especially my ten-year-old playing along and sitting beside Santa. Our picture of them with Santa is total crap. The seven-year-old is squinting, and Santa looks like he has a hangover, but it’s still special.

Hanukkah at Valley ForgeMy other holiday tradition is reading to my daughter’s classes. Today I’ll go to the fifth grade and read Hanukkah at Valley Forge, by Stephen Krensky. For my oh-so-careful-it’s-politically-correct school system, the book is a little heavy on the religious history of Hanukkah. However, since it continually makes the connection between the fight of the Maccabees and America’s fight with the British, I’m calling the whole thing historical and I’m going with it. The book does have basis in historical fact, as it was noted in an American Revolution period diary that General Washington had learned about Hanukkah from a Polish soldier.

A Christmas Tree in the White HouseI’ll also read A Christmas Tree in the White House, by Gary Hines. It’s an interesting book with a historical background that makes it ideal to share with fifth graders. The book recounts the fictionalized story of the Roosevelt children sneaking a tree into their bedroom in the White House when their father said that they couldn’t have a tree. Theodore Roosevelt was concerned about conservation of the forests and didn’t think that the president should set an example for the country by cutting down a tree. Can you imagine — a president who cares about conservation? It seems so quaint.

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