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December first is a magical day.

When we were kids, our kitchen was transformed during the night and we arose to a resplendent table, complete with candles lighting the early morning hour. Mom started the tradition of “December First Breakfast” sometime when we were in elementary school, though sadly none of us remembers the exact year it began. The traditional meal from the beginning was croissants, bacon, and frozen raspberries. Nowadays it might not seem all that fancy, but Mom tells the story of only being able to buy croissants in packages of two in the 70’s. Sometimes it would take her weeks to stockpile enough for us. And raspberries in stemware. I tell you, there is nothing fancier. It was elegant and sacred and full of wonder as we also received a Christmas book, an ornament and an advent calendar before partaking in the meal.

All day long at school we anticipated racing home to unpack our Christmas books. As old friends emerged from boxes we would ooh and ahh, getting caught up in reading them and retelling memories. There are so many wonderful Christmas books, it’s hard to narrow it down, but here’s the list of my nine favorite:

  1. Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr – Mog’s personality is winsome and the illustrations have kept this a family favorite over the years.
  2. The Nativity by Julie Vivas – The picture of the angel sitting down with Mary over a cup of tea explaining what would happen to her, is very much how I like to think it could have happened. No rush, just calm explaining. Another page that captures my fancy involves the angels coming to tell the shepherds about the birth and getting caught up in the joy of the moment by riding the some sheep.
  3. The Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair – My Dad reads this in the best Cajun accent a Colorado girl could imagine.
  4. Star Mother’s Youngest Child by Louise Moeri– I am mocked the most over this book. I’ll admit that the story is kind of long for little kids and the illustrations are not as endearing as others; but there is something about this book that keeps me coming back to it year after year. When Star Mother’s Youngest Child returns to the heavens after spending Christmas day on earth and his mother asks him how it was, his response is priceless: enough. Oh may that be all of our responses!
  5. Wombat Divine by Mem Fox – Endearing story, illustrations, and Australian animals. This is one that can truly be read over and over.
  6. Uncle Vova’s Christmas Tree by Patricia Polacco – The illustrations are a beautiful portrayal of Christmas in Russia.
  7. Emma’s Christmas by Irene Trivas – This twist on the twelve days of Christmas is charming for its mathematical fun and the playfulness between Emma and the prince, who is trying to woo her.
  8. The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola. His illustrations are simply beautiful.  This book also reminds me of what a good man my brother-in-law is. He had only been dating my sister a few months when he was first exposed to our book tradition. Why we asked him to read this book out loud to us, is now dim in memory. He continued to read, as his future wife, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law started crying near the end, showing his solid character and endearing him to us forever.
  9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – if you have not read this, you must get a copy immediately and read it. It is amazing. More amazing than the plays and movies made. Truly!

What books would be on your list?