Saturday, December 1, 2007


Today is the first day of December - a blank new white page in a journal or engagement calendar - or upon the land. We have a beautiful blanket of snow covering the ground today. It has snowed a couple of times already this season, but nothing that covered the ground or stayed. This is our first real snow. Soft, fluffy and fresh, it covers the dirty and the ugly and makes everything pristine.

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 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.

(Below: Carol Bird, the Bird family's
very own Christmas Carol.)


Carole Burant said...

Good evening dear Julie:-)

Such wonderful vintage Christmas books you found, both of them sound so interesting. As for how you want to spend Christmas and the days leading up to, it sounds like a wonderful idea to me too. I'm cutting down on a lot of things too and I refuse to go back to the mall...when I was there last week, it actually sickened me at how manic everyone seemed. To me that's not Christmas at all. Take care my friend!! xox

Janet said...

Since I'm also a book lover I enjoyed seeing these two old books. And I wholeheartedly agree with you about this season and how to celebrate it. I hate going to the mall at any time of year and avoid it like the plague! We seldom do anything huge for Christmas since we have a small family. I think a lot of people get into so much trouble trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Annie Jeffries said...

Hi Julie, Such lovely books. I dipped over to Britt's as well to see what was there. I see that we are Bimbedeen sister. How wonderful to share in this.

I experienced snow for the first time in at least 15 years, today. It was wet snow and disappeared quickly but I have wonderful pictures to share when I return home.


Leanne said...

JUlie- your thoughts on the festive season rang so true with me...i could have written that. the world goes crazy, sucked into the must buy, must have, must do mentality. I dont do that, our christmas will be inexpensive and low key, and a time for my family just to be together, our gifts inexpensive but thought-filled, and made or chosen with care. spiritually Yule means more to me than christmas does.

your old books are wonderful. I wish i could teleport over the ocean for a day and have a cup of tea with you, look out at your lovely snowy world,and browse your lovely books!

leanne x

Rowan said...

Lovely post JulieMarie - I especially liked the illustration right at the end. There are often wonderful illustrations in books from the early 1900s and reading of preparations for Christmas in those days tells of a much pleasanter way of life than the manic rushing about and buying of the latest craze at extortionate prices especially where children's things are concerned. I like the sound of your December plans very much and shall be trying to do much the same. How great to have proper snow - it's just grey and wet here, a pottering sort of day.

gma said...

Your post is beautiful. Sounds like you have the true spirit of Christmas. I think it's meant to be a time of peace and reflection.
All of your plans to simplify this season are so pure. YES Books always books!(I have a Christmas pop-up book from 1949 in perfect condition)...will share with you later.
Enjoy a warm and festive day with your friends.

Darla said...

Old books are the best aren't they?
I'll be checking in here to read you Christmas posts and of course keeping up with Advent over at Britt-Arnhilds place.


Sheila said...

Hi Julie, I will decorate less this year, but with the things that have more meaning to me.
I love to find old books with inscriptions in them too. Whenever I give books I always write inside, with the date. Maybe someone many years from now will find them, and wonder about us..

Rowan said...

Forgot to say that your December painting of the month is beautiful - do you know who the artist is and the title of it?

Anonymous said...

Julie Marie,

The painting is Summer
(1910) by Emma Florence Harrison (British, ?-1920s)

Lila Rostenberg said...

As ususal, I love reading your thoughts on the coming month.
Ours will be as simple as possible with the trip home at the end of this week ... and then back here again for Christmas with my daughter's family. I can't afford lavish gifts...and am short of time to craft many..but being together is the greatest gift!

Mary said...

Oh Julie - I used to love reading Dee Hardie's articles in House Beautiful - always transported me back to New England and the great memories of my 12 years living there!

Your old books are lovely - you have such interesting things to tell always. I've enjoyed your thoughts on this Christmas season, how not to spend it but rather how to enjoy it in a more simple way. Like you, no mall shopping this year - in fact we are not gifting adults, giving monetary donations to health research charities instead. The younger children will get bookstore gift cards and art supplies. We do not want gifts - remember we are trying to downsize and simplify!

Beside enjoying the music of Christmas, I am playing Dylan Thomas' 'A Child's Christmas in Wales' in my car. Yesterday we attended the annual Candle Tea and Choral Concert at the local Moravian Church, beautiful. My granddaughter's 5th gr. chorus will be singing at several venues around town - I'll enjoy that - and here in the house I've loaded up the CD player with my Christmas favorites including Il Divo, Josh Groban, Celtic Christmas, Jane Oliver's Songs of the Season and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Christmas Canon with the children's choir being so wonderful!).

Re: the Dickens Village, hmmm! I planned to sell on e-bay last year but Bob wouldn't allow it - said we'd keep them for the grands - that's why they're packed away!

Hope your book club party was fun!

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

I love those images of old vintage looking books;-)
Since several years ago, we decided gift cards for everyone.
I love to shop. Privately. For little meaningful things. No malls. And "if" on weekdays only. And handmade for my daughter and Jim and also for some close friends.
Hoping for a great week and snow to make you stay at home to admire it and maybe to inspire you to create.

Britt-Arnhild said...

Have a blessed advent!

Thanks for your book suggestions.

Unknown said...

This is a lovely post! I like your game plan which really declares that you are not going to be ruled by the commercial aspect. The vintage books are gorgeous! Boy, would I love to leaf through those pages!

I am mostly Irish, but my Great Grandmother was Norwegian and Great Grandfather was Danish. They lived in Brookings, South Dakota. I know that this northern region was a huge area for Scandinavians.

Have a great, music filled day!


P.S. I have a Celtic Christmas album that is awesome. If you email your address to me, I will be happy to send you a burned copy!

Bimbimbie said...

Hi Julie

Lovely post and much along the lines of how I feel too ... shopping center madness people making new purchases of furniture/white goods/massive tvs to impress the relatives MADNESS!

I've just put my favourite Christmas books out along with my music which I like listening to, no decorations so far I usually do that around the 15th or 20th *!*

smilnsigh said...

You've been to my blog. But please read here and see why I can't comment in yours, for a bit. Yish...


Sue Simpson said...

Oh Julie! YES YES YES, to your idea of no shopping malls during Christmas and the few weeks leading up to it!
People are already starting to act a little crazy here and already...I'm outta here! I've no ontention of shopping where the masses are loosing the plot.
So dear Soul have a friend!

Love and bright blessings,
Sue xxx

Lena said...

Hello Julie,
I've enjoyed this post so very much, and I've been thinking many of the same things. The books are beautiful. I was always a big fan of Dee Hardie's stories and have a lovely book that she wrote, about her home, lambs and hollyhocks.
The quieter things of this season are some of my favorites, and I try to center my holidays around them, but I also enjoy some of the more festive times as well. I do my best to avoid malls most anytime of the year though!