Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Traditions for Readers

We hear all the time about Christmas traditions--things that people do every December with their spouse, or their kids. Some people want to hear Christmas songs over and over. I am apparently developing the need to listen to the same audiobook every Christmas.

I've always had books I love to read every December, that help me get into the spirit. I'm a little disturbed about how my habits have changed, though. I seem to have slid from inspiring Biblical fiction to brain candy and fluff.

For a long time, I kept rereading a wonderful book called How Far to Bethlehem. I think it's out of print now, but if you've never read this, check for a used copy on or at your local used bookstore. It's written by one of my favorite authors, Norah Lofts, and it follows different characters from the nativity story (each of the Wise Men, Mary, Joseph, Herod, a Roman soldier, the innkeeper, the shepherd) in the months and hours leading up to Christ's birth. All these characters you've come to know separately converge in Bethlehem at the crucial hour, brought together through heart-stopping, dramatic turns of events. Lofts was a secular historical writer, but she had such an amazing way of bringing characters and past times alive, and this book was no exception. So by the end of each reading, I was ready to sing "O Holy Night" and literally fall on my knees!

My tradition for the last three years or so is not as lofty. I've gotten hooked on the audio version of Skippnig Christmas by John Grisham. I'm not sure why I enjoy it over and over. Maybe because Grisham also has a way with characters. By the time you finish this short bit of fluff, you feel as though you know every resident of Hemlock Street, including my favorite, the roving boy busybody, Spike.

Luther Krank is not exactly Scrooge, but he is definitely--well, cranky. In the beginning of the book, I sort of sympathize with his desire to escape the shallow, materialistic mess that Christmas has become. Trouble is, he substitutes another shallow, materialistic pursuit in its place. He and his wife decide to skip Christmas altogether and take a cruise, which involves new clothes, dieting, tanning beds and the like. By the end of the book, the plan has backfired on them in a big way and--you guessed it--Luther learns about true generosity and giving.

Do any other readers out there have Christmas favorites that you're dipping into again this year?