First, thank you Amanda, for including me in your 12 Days of Christmas series! I am thrilled to be able to share our Christmas tradition with you and your readers. I hope that our tradition of reading together as a family will inspire you to create a Christmas tradition of your own to look forward to year after year.
I love Christmastime. Our family really gets into it. The tree, driving around to see lights, carols start earlier every year, burning Christmas cookies, fuzzy footie pajamas, hot chocolate, scary Santa at the mall… The holidays are busy, sometimes stressful, exciting, and a little magical. Throughout the bustling holiday season we need our downtime. This is when I turn to my very favorite holiday tradition: Our Christmas Reading Box.
A Tradition Born of Necessity
I started this tradition the year my first son was three, my daughter was 1-1/2, and my youngest was on the way. That particular Christmas wasn’t the easiest. Pregnant and sick, I was chasing a toddler, re-potty training a pre-preschooler, hauling out decorations, moving an elf every night, and just generally taking on too much. All I wanted to do was put my feet up.
Every night after dinner I would spread out all of our Christmas books on the couch, and we would read until they started rubbing their eyes. That year, reading on the couch replaced baths on the nights when I just couldn’t be upright a moment longer. It made me feel like a decent mother after we’d watched Christmas movies in pajamas all day long because I felt too awful to even get us dressed.
Fast forward to mid-February. The decorations were long gone, I was as big as a house, and the kids wanted to read to the Grinch again. And again. And again. But after three straight months of Christmas I was D-O-N-E. It was time to say goodbye to our Christmas books. What a relief. I love Christmas, but I don’t LOVE Christmas. My solution was to make a Christmas Reading Box.
Christmas Reading Box
The First Gift of the Christmas Season
The holidays are special because they come once a year. I’m excited when the season begins and by the time January rolls around, I’m happy to see it go. Now our holiday books have the same shelf life. Our Christmas Reading Box has become my favorite holiday tradition – only partially because it’s the easiest one.
The Gift of Reading
After Thanksgiving dinner, when we are stuffed and tired, I pull out the Christmas Reading Box. It’s stored next to the rest of the holiday decorations with the books inside. No set-up needed. Just pull it down, put it out, and let the kids get into it.
They love taking the books out of the box for the first time. My oldest remembers his favorites from year to year. The younger two are seeing them for first time, again. It’s the first gift of the holiday season. I love seeing their little faces light up. Seeing them excited about reading is the icing on the Christmas cookie.
The whole family reads together before bed on Thanksgiving. The first Christmas stories of the holidays. There’s nothing like The Night Before Christmas to get everyone excited about Santa and Christmas and stir up some holiday magic in the air.
Putting it Together
The Box itself is sturdy, a decorative storage box with magnetic closure. I’m not sure if it will survive my youngest. He seems to be on a mission to destroy, but it’s held up against the milder two. I love having a pretty box because it’s out all month.
We have a variety of books in our box. It changes from year to year, but we have several favorites that we will read for years to come. My hope is that we will continue this tradition and one day I’ll be able to pass on these books to my children to read with their own families.
We started with a bunch of different books, but the flimsy paperbacks wore down pretty quickly. I have been investing in two or three quality hard cover books each year to add to the box – beautifully illustrated, classic books that we all enjoy. I also reserve books from the library around Thanksgiving just to fill out the box. I like our classic Christmas stories, but I don’t want to read the same six books over and over for a month.
There is no set time for reading, but it is still usually after dinner. I have been known to put out the box and declare it “Quiet Reading Time” at about four in the afternoon, though. This box works well for that, too!
I keep the box under the tree most of the time. Either my son or I pull it out for reading time. It’s heavy this year! Sometimes they all gather in front of the tree, sometimes on the couch or the big bed. Wherever we are, we stay all together around the box, where the books will stay. When we are finished reading, the kids pack them away and under the tree it goes. This way they don’t wander off or end up in the abyss under the couch.
In early January, when we are ready to take down the lights and box up the Nutcrackers, we say goodbye to our Christmas Reading Box. I pack it away in the garage with all the holiday trimmings. There it stays until November. Then it’s just open-and-go on Thanksgiving night.
Our Favorite Christmas Books
I have recommendations for books to begin a tradition of reading together during the holiday season. Whether you’re looking to start a Christmas Reading Box or just invest in holiday books, I highly suggest looking for well written, beautifully illustrated books that the whole family will enjoy year after year.
Christmas Stories for the Very Young
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
This is my very favorite book for babies and toddlers because the story is told purely through pictures. What a wonderful opportunity to tell a story and have young children begin to “read” back to you.
The Mitten, The Hat, and The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett
I first read Jan Brett when I was teaching first grade. Beautiful and memorable stories and illustrations that children will want to read again and again.
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmens
The Berenstein Bears’ Winter Wonderland by Jan Berenstein
Classics are great, but little ones love character based books. My three have all enjoyed The Bear Books, Madeline, and The Berenstein Bears all year long. Naturally, we love to see our favorite friends at Christmastime, too!
The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Charles Santore
The classic poem, said to be the origin of our modern Santa Claus, is a must read. It’s short and sweet for those nights everyone is ready for bed!
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
My five year old is obsessed with this picture book version of the children’s classic Chronicals of Narnia. I love introducing literature to him this way.
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
One of my personal favorite Christmas stories. I have fond memories of seeing The Nutcracker at the ballet when I was a kid. I love sharing this story with my own children.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Always a favorite. I can almost recite this one by heart.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
The Polar Express took Christmas by storm! It seems that our holidays would no longer be complete without reading this new classic and watching the movie!
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola
Another author I was introduced to while teaching elementary, Tomie de Paola writes and illustrates humorous and touching stories with truly memorable characters from around the world like Strega Nona.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laural Long
This one is the favorite this year! We love singing the classic lyrics and making up our own. Honestly, until last year I had them all mixed up!
Frosty the Snowman by Wade Zahares
My favorite carol about wintery, Christmas magic.
Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani
I love Iza Trapani’s books. My son received I’m a Little Teapot as first birthday gift. Fantastic! Trapani takes classic children’s song and adds verses with the same tune. Jingle Bells takes you in a one horse open sleigh to see how Christmas is celebrated around the world.
Thanks for reading about our Christmas reading tradition. I hope that this post inspires some of you to start a similar tradition with your own families. There’s no better gift than time spent together. Spending time reading and snuggling during the holidays is my favorite tradition of all.
Ashley Fox is a mom of three, homeschool parent, avid planner, and blogger at somerandomlady.com. Click to follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.