I love Christmas. The lights, the carols, my neighbor’s inflatable holiday Snoopy in the backyard. I’ve never been big on tradition, but Christmas is my one exception. Having an event or practice that you repeat every year adds something special to the holiday season. Here are some ideas for bookish Christmas Eve traditions you can start with your friends and family this year.
1. Have a Dramatic Reading of The Night Before Christmas.
I am stealing this idea from my neighbor (not the same neighbor that has an inflatable Snoopy in the backyard). This one is perfect for families with young children. Set aside a special time to read The Night Before Christmas. Find a friend or neighbor with a loud, deep voice and have him stand in a hidden spot outside your house/apartment/trailer/yurt with a set of sleigh bells. Timing is everything here, so make sure you’re coordinated. During the poem, have your fake Santa yell, “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” and ring the sleigh bells a few times. A fade-in/fade-out effect works well here. Have him start quiet, then yell louder, then quiet down again. If your kids still believe in Santa Claus, they’ll think he just paid a visit to the neighborhood.
2. Host a Holiday Book Exchange.
Iceland has a wonderful tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve. Give the traditional gift exchange a twist and host a dedicated book exchange instead. Encourage people to bring passages from their favorite books to read aloud after the exchange. Alternatively, read aloud from a book of Christmas poems and stories. My favorite is Caroline Kennedy’s A Family Christmas.
3. Produce an Impromptu Christmas Play.
Gather your friends, family, and neighbors for a bit of community theater. You can put on a traditional Christmas pageant or you can adapt a different Christmas story or invent one yourself. If you have a large enough group, you can divide people into teams and have them each produce their own short play, then hold a friendly stage competition.
4. Cook a Literary Christmas Dish.
Add a new dish to your Christmas feast from one of your favorite books. There are lots of great literary cookbooks to choose from–The Jane Austen Cookbook, Outlander Kitchen, The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, A Feast of Ice and Fire, and The Book Lover’s Cookbook are just a few to try.
5. Create a Bookish Scavenger Hunt.
This is another great activity to do with kids, though you could just as easily create a version for adults. Write clues or tasks on little slips of paper and hide them around your home or neighborhood. The prize for the scavenger hunt could be a book or a bookstore gift certificate. Alternatively, you could make the clues or tasks book-related. For example, you could do a Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunt or the clues could lead to certain titles in your library. Be creative!
Do you have a bookish Christmas tradition in your family or community?