It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start. -Mother Teresa

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Tradition: Unwrap a Book

This tradition was started with my Aunt. I want to be sure to give credit where credit is due because this is a GREAT idea. We have done it every year since Nan was one year old. (Her first Christmas she was only a few weeks old and really no fun at all!) 

Here is how it works. I wrap at least 25 Christmas books and put them under the Christmas tree. We unwrap one a night and read it as a family before bed.  It is that simple.

Unwrapping a Christmas book before bed.

Why I love this tradition:

1.) I love children's books. You can read a book from beginning to end in a few minutes. It doesn't matter how old you are, books with good pictures keep you interested.

2.) Unwrapping the books every night is somehow both exciting and tedious. It gets all the crazies out about unwrapping stuff so by the time we get to Christmas morning there isn't the need to rush through the unwrapping.

3.) It is practically FREE. I already own the books and have for several years. Most were gifts or from book order though a few I bought from the library discard sale.

4.) It is a way to share the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus without being boring. Each book presents a little different 'spin' on the story: from Mary, a bird, a cow, a get the idea. It brings up great conversation about how things really may have been and allows us to discuss point-of-views, legends, and truth.

5.) It is also a way to share some Christmas traditions both from your family and in general. We include books that aren't religious but traditional such as the A Christmas Carol (abridged, of course although our family does own an unabridged copy signed by Charles Dickens grandson!) and the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Books may also have some of our favorite characters that our children may not be as familiar with such as Raggedy Ann, Charlie Brown, and Clifford.

We unwrapped these two books on the same night. One was a baby gift to Nan and the other was purchased from a library discard sale.

6.) EVERYONE can participate. Like I said, we have done this since Nan was 1 years old. In that time she has shared this tradition with siblings (4 months old - 20 years old). We are able to include friends and family who may be visiting during the holiday. In fact, a guest reader makes it even more fun! Some years, Michael and I have done all the reading but depending on the ability of the children, some years they take turns reading too.

7.) It is a very, very forgiving tradition. As I type this, I feel like a bit of hypocrite because we haven't been very good at doing this every night. Some nights we don't even do it. Some nights we read a few books. Some nights we only read one. We aren't a slave to this tradition!

A few tips that have worked for us:

  • Wrap the gifts as you put them away after Christmas. I wrap the gifts before putting them away for the year. It is a tiny bit of pain but well worth it in my opinion. I get to use up all the little bits of wrapping paper I have left (or buy a clearance roll or wrap in newspaper). In addition, the books are all new to me each night too! 
  • Remind young children often this is a family gift and it is a book. One year, Nan just couldn't grasp the concept it was going to be a book each night. After about 5 days she started crying and asked if she was going to get anything else ever! (So much for a fun tradition! We still tease her about this.) We either put them back under the tree or on a certain shelf. Knowing how it is going to work is necessary for kids like Nan who have serious expectation issues! 

  • Get rid of books you don't like. The first few years, I kept using books that I didn't like because we had so few books. I was intentional about find books at thrift stores, garage sales, and the such throughout the rest of the year. The next year, I got rid of those books that were just dumb or too long for us to enjoy in one sitting. 

If you don't have anyone in your home to share this tradition with, consider helping another family start this tradition. Books are such a great gift! (or start picking up books so one day you will be ready).

Maybe a whole month of books would be too much for you. How about trying this out for a shorter period of time like a week?

One more cool thing: My Aunt who passed along this tradition to us, has a houseful of teenage boys, who just aren't into this tradition right now. She has loaned out her books to a family with younger kids. Maybe someday my cousins may have children of their own and the books will be passed along to them. In the meantime, someone else is building memories with them!

What are some of your family's Christmas traditions?


  1. I like this lots better than our Christmas tradition of getting up at 5am!

  2. I LOVE this! I want to try it next year! Our Christmas books are sitting in a boring pile in my living room- this is MUCH more exciting! I was afraid to try it due to the time before Christmas being SO busy, but I love the idea to do it after Christmas is over so it is ready for next year! Thanks for sharing and passing on your great tradition.

  3. This is such a great idea and I love the way you broke it down with all the reasons you love it and tips for others. Great memories!!

    Also, I for some reason am just noticing your "about me" blurb. Is that recently edited? Cuz there's some new information there! :) And I find it funny the similarity in how we both expressed our homeschooling. chuckle

  4. Just now seeing this and I've missed four years time like the PRESENT> :) Thanks for a great idea!