You’re doing lots of gift-giving this month, no matter which holiday you celebrate. Our family celebrates Christmas, but what I write here works for any December holiday of light and peace.
Painting by Jessie Wilcox Smith, who also illustrated The Night Before Christmas.
After each child of mine was born, I began a family tradition of giving and inscribing a Christmas book to our children every year. Over time, they build up a sizeable library of Christmas books, with a different inscription to mark each holiday.
Adding an inscription—a personal message, signed and dated by you—on one of the first pages–turns a book into a unique gift. I still have a few books given and inscribed to me before I could read. Reading an inscription from an older relative remains meaningful, even years later.
If you buy books for children this Christmas, here are four I recommend:
The Night of Las Posadas, Tomie de Paola (author and illustrator). Puffin Books. For picture book lovers.
Illustrator Thomas Nast of the 19thc. gave us one of the most famous images of Santa Claus.
The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Moore; I like the version illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. (“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents!”). The version edited by Daniel Sheely includes photos of Concord and Orchard House as well as fascinating annotations. Remember that it’s a book for boys, too.
The Gift of the Magi, by O.Henry. in The O.Henry Short Story Collection. I like the 2009 volume published by Merchant Books.
Enjoy thinking up an inscription that’s special to the child and remember to date it. Whatever you write is unique because it comes from you, and will stand the test of time.