Every Thursday evening, we have Backward Dinner night at our house, where we start with dessert and work our way backward through our meal: dessert, entrées, and then onto salads or starters if I’ve managed something that elaborate for dinner.
Mostly, my kids love to observe Backward Dinner Night when their friends come over to our house. Or, if we’re eating out, they get to explain to our server why we need our desserts first.
Another more recent tradition is to plan a tourist day in our own city on Veterans’ Day, which we’ll be doing again this Monday. We’ve taken the elevators to the observation deck of the Columbia Tower; had lunch at the Fairmont Olympic; gone glass blowing or cupcake tasting. In the evening, we set up our artificial Christmas tree and decorate it. No sense in waiting until December to enjoy the lights and ornaments. (Yeah, sometimes the kids talk me into a real tree as well in December.)
On Veteran’s day, we’ll also wrap our advent Christmas books. Starting on Dec. 1, we open one wrapped book (the kids rotate who gets to choose which present to unwrap) and read a Christmas bedtime story each night. The stories range from silly (Santa’s Eleven Months Off) to sweet (Redheaded Robbie’s Christmas Story); Sentimental (The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story) to iconic (How the Grinch Stole Christmas).
On Christmas Eve, we read the Nativity story.
I’ve change out a few books each year as the kids have advanced from infants to toddlers to grade school and middle school. The scratch and sniff book, The Sweet Smell of Christmas gave way to Pearl Buck’s, Christmas Day in the Morning. And the list is a blend of Christian and secular.
It’s been years of scouring bookstores and book lists and libraries to find some favorites. In case you need to purchase holiday presents for small people or want to start your own Advent book tradition, I thought I’d share my list with you—25 because it’s a nice number even if it means you’ll have to figure out which book you’ll exclude leading up to Christmas!
In random order:
- Redheaded Robbie’s Christmas Story, by Bill Luttrell
- The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
- Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry
- Snowmen at Night, by Mark Buehner
- Auntie Claus, by Elise Primavera (The three Auntie Claus books are my kids’ favorites at the moment!)
- Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas, by Elise Primavera
- Auntie Claus, Home for the Holidays, by Elise Primavera
- Penny’s Christmas Jar, by Jason F. Wright
- How Murray Saved Christmas, by Mike Reiss
- Merry UnChristmas, by Mike Reiss
- Olive, the Other Reindeer, by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh
- Mooseltoe, by Margie Palatini
- Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck
- The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story, by Gloria Houston
- Legend of the Christmas Stocking*, by Rick Osborne
- A Wish to be a Christmas Tree, by Colleen Monroe
- The Legend of the Candy Cane*, by Lori Walburg VandenBosch
- A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story, by Berkeley Breathed
- Santa’s Eleven Months Off, by Mike Reiss
- How Santa Got His Job, by Stephen Krensky
- There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow, by Lucille Colandro
- The Little Shepherd Girl: A Christmas Story*, by Julianne Henry, Jim Madsen
- Humphrey’s First Christmas*, by Carol Heyer
- My Dad Cancelled Christmas, by Sean Casey
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss
(I’ve noted specific Christian-themed books with an ‘*‘ so you can tailor your list in case you want to focus on or avoid the religious books suggested. I’ve also bolded my own personal favorites!)