A few days ago we were talking on the forum about dressing up or going casual for the holidays. Today is Christmas Eve and this got me thinking about other holiday traditions, like favourite foods you serve every year, opening presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, watching old movies together on TV.

I’ve always loved the image of everyone settling down after dinner, dressed to the nines, to listen to an old radio play or an audiobook. Very nostalgic of me, I know. Although my parents love books, there never was much reading aloud when we were kids. However, we did always watch The Blue Bird. The movie is pretty dated now and it doesn’t actually have a holiday theme, but somehow it always happened to air over the holidays. To this day my sister and I agree that Christmas vacation just wouldn’t have been the same without it. 

A few years ago I started a new tradition when I finally got around to reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. It’s a story with no obvious plot, a boy’s idealized view of a magical Christmas with plenty of presents and mischief around every corner. The tale evokes slower and simpler times, where the world is always covered in snow, there are always hot drinks, many, many aunts and uncles, and snowball fights, of course. To tell you the truth, I was sold the moment I read the passage below. Mrs. Prothero sure is an aunt after my own heart…

“…But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim’s Aunt, Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, ‘Would you like anything to read?'”

Now I listen to it at least once every December. The mix of easy contentment, a child’s carefree excitement and the idea that life and the holidays don’t have to be a continuous succession of earth-shatteringly spectacular events to be special, always gets to me. Hearing it told by Mr. Thomas himself really adds to the experience.

Did you have any similar traditions when you were younger? Is there a special story you, family and friends now love to read every holiday season? A book you can’t wait to revisit this time of year? Or a movie perhaps that brings back memories and always gets you in a festive mood?

This is our last Book Nook post for 2011. We are taking a short break and will be back on 6 January with YLF Book Club and Bill Cunningham New York.

I wish everyone at YLF wonderful holidays and a very happy, healthy 2012 filled with laughter, a touch of magic and a few good books!