Christmas Traditions: Reading is fundamental

Dec 06, 2018 at 10:00 am by Paulette Jackson

Christmas Traditions

"Few things are more important for a child than to discover the joy of reading. Give a child the love of children's reading, and you have given them, not only the most satisfying and useful of all recreations but also the key to true learning. The home is still the greatest educational force, and parents who make reading attractive, contribute immeasurably to their development.

Children and books go together in a special way. But children don't stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way that they spin out pure joy and magic." ~Helen Hunt, Author of honey for a child's heart

The Christmas Season is upon us. And for many individuals, couples and families, it is also the time of year to look forward to favorite traditions of reading beloved Christmas stories or poems. For my own family, reading out loud was an assumed part of most evenings, from toddlerhood to high school. A lot of literature was covered in those years, with my husband and me taking turns in reading. And without a doubt, the Little House On The Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder was one of our favorites. We got to know the Ingalls' family almost like they were part of our own. And it was the scenes of life, artfully languaged, that allowed us to vicariously experience, the historical stories in our present-day life. 

So, this past week, I decided to give my husband and me the gift, of once again, reading Laura Ingalls', Farmer Boy, out loud. Although we miss our own children sitting on the floor or on the couch with us, we are finding it delightful to revisit the Ingalls' family again and walk down memory lane together.

"The cold was cruel. The night was black and still, and the stars were tiny sparkles in the sky. Almonzo was glad to get into the big kitchen, warm with fires and candle-light. He was very hungry.

Soft water from the rain-barrel was warming on the stove. First Father, then Royal, then Almonzo took his turn at the wash-basin on the bench by the door. Almonzo wiped on the linen roller-towel, then standing before the little mirror on the wall he parted his wet hair and combed it smoothly down. 

The kitchen was full of hoopskirts, balancing and swirling. Eliza Jane and Alice were hurrying to dish up supper. The salty, brown smell of frying ham made Almonzo's stomach gnaw inside him.

He stopped a minute in the pantry door. Mother was straining the milk, at the far end of the long pantry; her back was toward him. The shelves on both sides were loaded with good things to eat. Big yellow cheeses were stacked there, and large brown cakes of maple sugar and there were crusty loaves of fresh-baked bread, and four large cakes, and one whole shelf full of pies. One of the pies was cut, and a little piece of crust was temptingly broken off; it would never be missed.

"Almonzo, you stop that! Mother!"

Mother didn't turn around. She said:

"Leave that be, Almonzo. You'll spoil your supper."

That was so senseless, that it made Almonzo mad. One little bite couldn't spoil a supper. He was starving, and they wouldn't let him eat anything until they had put it on the table. There wasn't any sense in it. But he could not say this to Mother; he had to obey her without a word.

He stuck out his tongue at Eliza Jane. She couldn't do anything; her hands were full. Then he went quickly into the dining room.

The lamplight was dazzling. By the square heating-stove set into the wall, Father was talking politics to Mr. Corse. Father's face was toward the supper table, and Almonzo dared not touch anything on it.

There were slabs of tempting cheese, there was a plate of quivering headcheese; there were glass dishes of jams and jellies and preserves, and a tall pitcher of milk, and a steaming pan of baked beans with a crisp bit of fat pork in the crumbling brown crust.

Almonzo looked at them all, and something twisted in his middle. He swallowed and went slowly away.

The dining room was pretty. But to Almonzo the most beautiful sight was his mother, bringing in the big willow-ware platter full of sizzling ham. The smell of the ham was almost more than Almonzo could bear. 

Mother put the platter on the table. She looked to see that everything was ready, and the table properly set. She took off her apron and hung it in the kitchen. She waited until Father had finished what he was saying to Mr. Corse. But at last she said:

"James, supper is ready."

Father sat at the head of the table, Mother at the foot. Then they must all bow their heads while Father asked God to bless the food. After that, there was a little pause before Father unfolded his napkin and tucked it in the neckband of his frock.

He began to fill the plates. First, he filled Mr. Corse's plate. Then Mother's. Then Royal's and Eliza Jane's and Alice's. Then, at last, he filled Almonzo's plate.

"Thank you," Almonzo said. Those were the only words he was allowed to speak at the table. Children must be seen and not heard. Father and Mother and Mr. Corse could talk, but Royal, and Eliza Jane and Alice and Almonzo must not say a word.

Almonzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes, with brown ham-gravy. He ate the ham. He bit deep into velvety bread with sleek butter, and he ate the crisp golden crust. He demolished a tall heap of pale mashed turnips and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. Then he sighed and tucked his napkin deeper into the neckband of his red waist. And he ate plum preserves and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon-rind pickles. He felt very comfortable inside. Slowly he ate a large piece of pumpkin pie."

As the Christmas season swells around us, calling us to frenzy and distraction, perhaps instead of pulling our hair out, we might find a little more comfort and joy by pulling a favorite book off the shelf and sitting down with old friends and once again be introduced to the "wonder of words put together in such a way that they spin out pure joy and magic." 

Wishing you all pure joy and magic.

For the Support of Your Life
For the Many Sides of Life
Paulette Jackson LPC-MHSP


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