The Gift from Saint Nicholas

Oh, this is a beautiful story, one that I especially love to read my children because it sends just the message I hope my children will learn about gifts and gift giving.

The Gift from Saint Nicholas by Dorothea Lachner
and illustrated by Maja Dusikova is the story of a village with two little children living in it.  On this Saint Nicholas Eve the villagers are all in their own houses as a massive snowstorm continues to dump snow.  It’s too deep for the postman to deliver mail, or for anyone to make it to a ship.  The book says, “They just stayed in their houses and watched the snow pile higher and higher.”

The children are worried.  They’re tired of being indoors and so they decide to make a wish.  “If only Saint Nicholas would blow a path through the snow!”

The wish made it to Saint Nicholas, who went searching through his storeroom for the perfect thing.  Not anything would do on a year like this. It had to be something special.  He found it.  “It was an old thing, not much to look at.  But it was exactly right.”

Here is where I really fall in love with this book.  Look at that workroom!  Doesn’t it melt your heart?  I love the idea of Saint Nicholas hunting around for the perfect thing, and coming up with something that ISN’T brand new and sparkling and expensive.  I love that the perfect thing can be old and not much to look at.

And so Saint Nicholas gets on his skis and in the dark of night he leaves a large bag in the middle  of the village.  The villagers awake the next morning, see it, and begin digging walkways through the snowdrifts to get to it.

So Saint Nicholas didn’t blow a path through the snow.  What he did was give the villagers a reason to shovel their own paths.  They meet in the middle and begin what turns out to be a process of discovering what is in that brown bag.  It turns out to be something none of them wished for, but it’s just the thing they NEED.  It sparks their hearts and the villagers end up with a Christmas to remember.

I just love this book.  I love what it teaches.  Sometimes what we need and what we think we need (usually code for what we want ) are different things.  I love that the answer to their wish lay in their own effort.  I love the way the villagers accept this gift with happy hearts.  Most of all, I love the idea that bringing people together is the best gift of all.  I particularly delight in reading this book to my children and hope that as they hear it over the years it’s message becomes a part of them.  The Gift from Saint Nicholas was published in 1995 and is now out of print, but used copies are readily available.  Our copy is an ex-library copy that has held up well for years.  A special addition to any Christmas library.

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree

Robert Barry’s Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
was originally published in 1963, then updated in 2000.

It is a delightful tale of Mr. Willowby’s fine tree, “Full and fresh and glistening green – The biggest tree he had ever seen.”

It’s delivered on a pink truck, but when it arrives in the house, the tree is too tall.  What follows is the tale of the top of a Christmas tree and how it gets snipped and moved from house to house, leaving joy in each place.

We love the rhyming text which is easy to read and even to memorize.  My children also love the idea of a tree that gets smaller with each cut, and yet is the perfect size for yet another creature every time.

And the final location of the tip of the tree?  Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

With happy colors, great illustrations and a fun vintage feel, this is one of our absolute favorites.  I’m usually asked to re-read it several times when we get it out.  This year we chose Mr. Willowby’s Christmas tree as our evening story on the day we put up our own Christmas tree.  This book was a special gift from a dear friend years ago and oh, how we’ve loved it over the years.  I highly recommend it!

Season’s Readings!

Years ago a friend gave me a copy of this painting of Santa reading a child to sleep and I’ve loved it ever since.  I wish I could read the author’s name better so I can credit him/her and find additional copies of it.  (If you know, please tell me!)

I love Christmas stories, particularly stories that have been illustrated in a children’s book format.  The prose and illustrations bring such beauty and depth to the Christmas season.   I’ve been collecting Christmas books for almost twenty years now and have a great collection.  Some are tattered and curled at the corners.  Some I’ve protected more carefully.  Some were gifts from friends I love, some reminders of my childhood.  Several years ago I compiled a list of them all, and this year a friend asked if she could use the list for a presentation she was preparing.  I went through my books to update the list and sent her off with a load of Christmas books to share.

The books are back and I’ve been thinking it would be fun to share them here.  Many of them are classics, stories most of us probably own, but many are less known, some out of print, some available in countless editions.  I have a mix of cheerful stories and stories laced with meaning, all of which help to capture and enhance the spirit of Christmas.  I’ve decided that few things bring the real meaning of Christmas to light better than Christmas stories.  I love reading them to my children because they bring a bit of magic to our home.  They also preach sermons about giving and selflessness that fall on deaf ears if I just start talking.  These books, with their luminous pictures and beautiful words, open the hearts of my children to plant seeds of goodness in their souls.

So, welcome to a series of spotlights (in no particular order) on Christmas books our family treasures.  I’m calling it Season’s Readings and I hope you’ll find a new treasure or two, and share your own with me.

Merry Christmas!


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