I had written on several occasions that I hadn't been getting into the spirit of the holidays this season. But with the fresh new calendar page and the fresh white snow, I am coming around. And I want to clarify that what I was bah-humbugging about were the awful aspects of the silly season: The commercials, the jammed stores, the lunatics waiting in line for bargains in subzero temperatures, the carols in November, the encroachment upon Thanksgiving and even Halloween, the overspending and debt building, the whirl of parties laden with alcohol and false cheer, the endless and exhausting decorating, baking, entertaining, buying and wrapping.
I have decided that from now until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (the FIRST day of Christmas, remember?) I will make this a time for quiet reflection. For basking in the glow of tall white candles and Christmas lights, which I love so much. For listening to Christmas music of my choosing when I choose it. For contemplation, for introspection, for attending to the needy. For writing to new friends and old far away, and for getting together with my very best friends, my book club members, for our annual Christmas party tomorrow afternoon.
I am going to try not to enter the mall at all, if possible. If I do, I will not be struggling with large shopping bags and my heavy coat and purse, getting overheated and overwhelmed with choices, and then going outside to minus 20 degree weather and a frozen car.
Dee Hardie, who used to write columns for House Beautiful and House and Garden, wrote that she did not "go to the market place" the week before Christmas. I think that is a smashing idea, and I hope to carry it out if I can. There are antique shops and small gift shops with handmade items that will better suit my needs this year. And yes, the Internet will be employed.
I have a shopping budget and I am going to stick to it. Nothing novelty, nothing wacky, nothing trendy, not "the latest thing", just a couple of items for each person, that are sensible and beautiful and sturdy and warm and instilled with love. And books, yes, always books!
I am not going to buy one new ornament or Christmas decoration. I have enough to last one woman several lifetimes. I think I'll put out fewer decorations too - just my very favorite ones - and not try to cover every single surface with Christmas. I think my husband will probably appreciate that as well!
And I am going to try to write, each day, about Christmases past when so many more of my family members were alive. Or about the Christmas books I love, the vintage decorations that remind me of the Johnson and Munro homes of long ago, about my favorite songs of the season, about my memories (good and bad!) of school and church programs, about the Norwegian Christmas traditions my North Dakota community held so dear. I will also print the Christmas and December poems and quotes that speak to me.
(Below - illustrations from "Why The Chimes Rang")
So today, I am showing you two lovely old Christmas books, both purchased at antique shops or flea markets. The first is "Why The Chimes Rang," by Raymond MacDonald Alden, and the other is "The Birds' Christmas Carol" by Kate Douglas Wiggin (and I swear that until this minute I always thought her name was Wiggins).
The Wiggin book, especially, is old fashioned and sentimental, and always brings a few tears, but what better season for it?
I love these old books as much for their lovely illustrations as for their stories. And for their histories. I was thrilled to look in the front of the books and learn that the Alden book has a copyright of 1909 and spent time at Voltaire (School) Special #26, and that the Birds' book was given to someone named Ruth Welch of Menoken, ND, on June 19, 1918.
Britt Arnhild of http://www.brittarnhildshouseinthewoods.typepad.com/ asked participants to bring books to her Advent party today in Norway, so I offer these two. Of course, you know me as a book lover so these will be just the first of several Christmas books I will share.
I hope you come along with me on my journey of remembrance, and join me as I celebrate not the silly season but the shining season.
Edited on Sunday, December 2, to add: These two books are available on eBay, both in their vintage and newer editions. Some are available through bidding only, but many can be purchased directly through Buy It Now.