Pearl Buck’s Christmas Day in the Morning, first published in 1955, is a timeless treasure perfect for reading aloud. Reissued a decade ago with beautiful, wintry illustrations by Mark Buehner, this tender story features a man who lovingly recalls the time when, as a 15-year-old, he overheard his father telling his mother how he hated to awaken Rob so early to help with the farm chores. At that moment Rob begins to feel the enormity of his father’s love for him. How he yearns to do something to show his own love for his big-hearted dad.
Rob realizes the most meaningful gift of all would not involve purchasing an object. Rather, the boy decides he will slip out before anyone else — at 3 a.m. Christmas morning — to relieve his father of all the morning chores and let him enjoy just one morning of leisure. It would mean the farmer could at last witness his children’s expressions when they first see the Christmas tree and open their presents.
Perch yourself by the fire and read this touching story to older children. Be prepared for tears — and for sweet memories.
Another warm story set in a long-ago Christmas is poet Donald Hall’s recently published Christmas at Eagle Pond. The author circles back to the year 1940, when he experiences the treat of spending Christmas with his grandparents at their farm in New Hampshire. Hall lovingly recalls the sights, smells, and sounds of a life centered on family, community, and the land.
Twelve-year-old Donnie fondly falls in with his grandparents’ routines. He joins Gramp in the barn, as he milks the cows and relates stories of the past or recites poems to the boy. At night, Gram fills hot-water bottles for the beds. “I walked through their icy bedroom to mine, even icier, and stuffed my hot-water bottle under the sheets to warm my feet. Crawling beneath the covers I shivered a moment, but the quilts were thick, my feet almost too hot, and soon I fell asleep in my familiar goosefeather bed at the house I loved most in the world.”
Donnie’s week in New Hampshire involves other simple events, such as seeing the Christmas pageant at church, getting new socks, and feasting on the huge meal Gram prepares. As the boy prepares to return home, the air becomes “heavy with fine snowflakes, the kind that fall at the start of a big storm.” How, Donnie wonders, will he be able to return home to Connecticut?
This quiet, nostalgic novella holds no dramatic action (although vegetarians might want to skip Gramp’s selection of chickens for the meal). Instead, Christmas at Eagle Pond offers a comforting, slightly bittersweet respite from the clash and bang of modern life. Be sure to read the author’s note.
and for ages 6 to 8, consider these picture books: