Merry Christmas to all and to all a good read

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 23, 2011

SALISBURY — There’s so much noise and fuss leading up to this day, so many loud commercials on TV, grandma getting run over by reindeer, mommy kissing Santa Claus.
The big stores are so crowded tempers flare, moods swing and fights break out.
We get in a pattern of getting this and that, the newest, the biggest, the cheapest, the most expensive.
We make out longs lists of “must do’s” and then get frustrated and angry when we can’t do it all.
I’ve been there and done that.
We lose loved ones and vow never to celebrate Christmas again (give that a long thought — who are you punishing?)
I understand grief, too.
Something happened to me over the last couple years, after a loss, after years of feeling harried and pushed and overwhelmed.
I took a deep breath. I dropped things off my list. We kept old traditions, made them a little simpler.
I was losing the spirit of the season, forgetting that it’s all about celebrating Jesus’ birth, God’s love for us.
The tree is up, the cards sent (mostly); presents bought. We’ve baked and shared.
There’s time to open up into the spirit.
Time to read Luke 1:1-20, the Christmas story aloud, savoring the wonder of what the angels are saying and remembering that this is what we celebrate, not the presents under the tree, but the ultimate gift.
Maybe families could take some of that rush-like-a-madman time and convert it into spending time with each other.
Maybe you could skip that last party and use those two hours to read together. Studies have shown that families who read together, read aloud to each other, have closer bonds and smarter children.
If we’re getting back to homemade foods and crafts, why not get back to homemade entertainment?
Here are some suggestions to appeal to a wide audience.
• O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” a story of sacrifice in order to put the other person first.
• “The Angel Doll: A Christmas Story,” by Jerry Bledsoe, a former journalist, North Carolina native and writer of true crime. Here the story is sweet and genuine, about a little girl who wants an angel doll for Christmas, and how two 10-year-olds help. Poignant and realistic, based on Bledsoe’s 1950s childhood memories.
• “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” by Dylan Thomas, truly a beautiful piece of prose from the poet, an enduring story that will appeal to everyone.
• “A Christmas Memory,” by Truman Capote. The author’s memory of his boyhood in rural Alabama. “It’s fruitcake weather!” is a line sure to draw you in. Author Jenny Hubbard likes this one, too. As does long-time teacher and counselor Margaret Basinger.
Lifestyles Editor Katie Scarvey and Washington Post copy editor Jenny Abella, a Salisbury native, both suggested “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” by Barbara Robinson from 1972, about a family of troublemakers and their redemption. It turns up on lots of favorites lists. Jenny also suggested “The Polar Express,” a beautiful book by Chris Van Allsburg that teaches a simple message: Believe.
Drew Sechler, a former Salisbury Post intern, remembers “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree,” by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Barbara Cooney. It’s all about keeping promises.
Anne Caldwell Cave suggests the story we think we know so well, “A Christmas Carol.” Experience its message of love for your fellow man and let Charles Dickens work his magic.
And my friend Mary Ann Nance Roberson suggests “The Littlest Angel,” by Charles Tazewell. The new angel is homesick for earth, but earns his wings when he gives his favorite things to the Christ Child. It’s one of the bestselling children’s books of all time.
• A new picture book of the 1955 Pearl S. Buck classic “Christmas Day in the Morning” tells of a son’s love for his father and his simple, heart-felt gift.
• “The Tale of Three Trees,” by Angela Elwell Hunt, hauntingly illustrated by Tim Jonke, tells a traditional folk tale about three trees in the forest and what they want to be. It’s really about understanding God’s plans.
There, that’s a nice Christmas.
Let me leave you with some words from my favorite Christmas carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter:”
“What can I give him, poor as I am?
“If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
“if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
“yet what I can I give him: Give my heart.”