Well, there are several children's books I love getting out at Christmastime. Since I love all things Madeline, of course I love Madeline's Christmas and we always use Bemelman's phrase "ice-cold-in-the-morning-feet." On Christmas Eve by Margaret Wise Brown--the story conveys such magic through the eyes of the children, and the illustrations by Nancy Edwards Calder are just beautiful. The language may feel a bit dated as it is a few decades old, but The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore has been around for about 187 years and I just love it. I like picking up various copies and seeing how the different illustrators have interpreted the scenes.
I am also a fan of The Christmas Conversation Piece by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie. It's got 300 simple (and clean!) questions designed to elicit the reader's thoughts, feelings, and recollections about Christmas. Leave it out on your coffee table. Pick it up and open to any page, choose a question. It's a fun thing to do with friends or family but also just for yourself in a quiet moment or two of personal reflection. An appropriate example: "You're writing a new Christmas classic. What would be the setting--time and place--for your holiday story?"
As for songs, my favorite Christmas songs are "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" but only if sung by Judy Garland, no one else! It does make me cry though, more with each passing year. Movies? Miracle on 34th Street (the original with Maureen O'Hara), Elf, even the first Home Alone. I must watch Love Actually every year. I will watch It's a Wonderful Life, though I have such issues with it. Hence, I submit another Jimmy Stewart movie that takes place mostly at Christmastime but is definitely not the typical holiday fare: Bell, Book, and Candle--especially fun for members of the Write 6 who like to write about the supernatural.
Finally, when I think about Christmas books, I feel I have to include Louisa May Alcott's Little Women since the book opens with the sisters discussing Christmas plans and chapter two describes their actual Christmas. It just sticks in my head and gives a feel for the characters and the tone of the book, the time in which it took place. I need to re-read it. I think my blogmates would truly identify with Jo in a later chapter, vowing to never forgive Amy for throwing into the fire a book that Jo had been working on for years! I guess today Amy would have to erase Jo's hard drive.
A very happy and peaceful holiday to my fellow Peabodies and anyone else who reads us. I hope for reconnection in 2011--with my writing and with my wonderful critique group, but it's still looking like that's a little way off for me. Thanks for letting me have a few moments here to wax nostalgic in the midst of the craziness.