The holidays can be a duplicitous bitch.
Either you’re adorning all your flat surfaces in twinkling lights and tinsel, or chugging down enough “adult beverages” to make all the family gatherings bearable.
Abhorring this ambivalence is totally natural, no worries. We’ve all hated the holidays at some point.
So, next time you’re curled up with some Irish coffee, and attempting to avoid ABC family’s “25 days of Christmas” marathon, bury your nose in one of these books.
I’m not promising butterflies to warm your Grinchy soul, but these stories will remind you of something you’ve forgotten to be thankful for.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Awarded the Caldecott Medal for children’s literature in 1986, this wonderful picture book starts with the story of a boy losing faith in the meaning of Christmas.
So, Little Boy Blue is contemplating his existential Christmas crisis, and a magical, Hogwarts-style train shows up, complete with conductor.
The boy succumbs to the charms of the candy-filled train where he befriends other children his age and continues on a magical journey to meet Santa and watch the elves present the first gift of Christmas.
Now, while the above summary sounds a lot like a “To Catch a Predator” plot line, the most important part of the book is the ending.
While our protagonist is visiting the North Pole, he asks for a single bell from a reindeer’s harness. And, on his way home, the bell mysteriously vanishes.
Will the bell return? Will the boy re-connect with his inner Christmas angel?
The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado:
Complete with beautiful and rich illustrations, The Christmas Candle descends on a boring, English town where nothing ever seems to happen—well, except for at Christmas time.
An angel visits a candle-maker and his wife, touches one of their candles and causes it to glow. The two keep the secret to themselves, but are astounded when a widow buys it and her prayers are magically answered.
The magic continues for 200 years on one night around Christmas time. Every 25 years, the angel visits a descendant of the candle maker and answers his, or her, prayers.
But, what happens when someone has a mishap with the candle? How does it end?
This was one of my favorite books to read with my Mom around Christmas time. It’s a truly beautiful and touching story that will make even the angriest elf soften inside.
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
This 32-page children’s book and winner of the Kate Greenway Medal appeals to the crotchety, old man in all of us.
Following the life of a gloomy, reserved carpenter, this beautifully-illustrated picture book takes the reader on a journey of grief, hope and eventual closure.
Toomey is commissioned by a widow and her son to create nativity figures. Through the creation and perfection of the figures, Toomey searches for forgiveness as he struggles to come to terms with his own sadness.
The book is poignantly written, embracing the “bah humbugs” in the family. Toomey represents the people who struggle through the holidays—the ones you don’t hear too much about. Both Toomey’s transformation and his story are touching and sincere.