by Kristen Lehman
The holidays are full of to do lists and traditions. A few years ago, I was so overwhelmed with December that I vowed to do everything in my power to enjoy the holidays and not “have to” my way through them. So, I said no. I said no to Christmas Cards and the Elf on the Shelf. I said no to cookie exchanges and ugly sweater parties. I said no to white elephant gifts and Christmas caroling.
Along with all that saying no came a whole bunch of saying yes. I said yes to family time and cookie baking. I said yes to homemade bread and Christmas movies. I said yes to Christmas lights and hot chocolate. But the most important yes we kept in our holiday life was the preservation of New Year’s Gifts.
Growing up my family had a unique holiday tradition. Every New Year’s morning we would each find a gift at the kitchen table. It was always a book – just one, and it was a most coveted treasure. It was the part of the holidays that I looked forward to most. While my brothers raced to the Christmas tree with the dawn, I stayed up late into the night on New Year’s Eve dreaming of what treasure I would find at the kitchen table come morning.
I remember the year I received the entire Anne of Green Gables Series in hardcover and the year that The Sound of Music book came out and how I cried when I found it New Year’s morning. So many of the characters that shaped my young life arrived on the first day of the New Year. Ramona, and Laura Ingalls, Pippi and the Little Women were the girls that I spent long winters curled up with on the couch and stayed up with late into the night.
Now that my children are growing and their interests are widening, I find such joy searching for just the right book for their New Year. I spend hours at book stores and online choosing just the right story. For us it’s more than just a book, it’s even more than the gift of reading, it’s the gift of present.
The present we share when we all climb onto the couch in the living room for a few minutes or hours with our new treasures. The present that disappears when reading about the past, or the future, or places they’ve never seen. We are giving them the freedom to escape the present for just a few minutes into a world that doesn’t exist anywhere but in the palm of their hand. It is a present of the present, if you will.
For most of us, New Year’s Day begins our journey of new self, new diets, new exercise plans, or new resolve. We begin with those things too, but first our New Year begins with a new story. It’s a reminder to the grown-ups that we are authoring our own story and each year we begin a new chapter. For the children, it’s the reminder that a new story opens a world of what might be.
This week begins my book hunt. The Christmas presents are purchased and the house is decorated. All that’s left is hours at a bookstore with my family in mind. It’s not a bad way to spend December if you ask me.
Kristen Lehman is a Southern Girl living in the Midwest who stays at home with her lovely husband, three children and two silly dogs. She blogs about the truth and hilarity that ensues when children are given a voice. You can find her at fiveforflying.com and on Facebook and Instagram.
*This post originally appeared at Almdiem.com as Making It To Monday: Keeping It Simple.
What great books are you giving this year? Here are some of my favorite books to give and a few other meaningful gifts.