Reading and Traditions

One of my favorite things about books is that you never know what they’ll inspire. As a kid, I was always pretending that I was living in whatever book I was reading, which meant a lot of spying and scribbling in notebooks, since I read Harriet the Spy over and over again, and plenty of tree naming with Anne, writing for The Pickwick Papers with Jo, and trying to figure out how to make a bow and arrow by following the instructions in Sign of the Beaver. Now, I love when books like The Montessori Toddler and Station Eleven worm their way into my thoughts and I can see the ways in which they’re having an impact of my day to day life. It makes me happy when lines from favorite poets pop into my head and make me notice something a little differently on our walks.

What does this have to do with tradition? And Carson Ellis?

I recently had the pleasure of attending a talk and signing of Carson Ellis’s at our local bookstore. She is a favorite of ours- from the hanged print we have in the place of honor (a.k.a. seen from the couch and table) to inscribing her book “Home” as a way to reveal Maeve’s name to our family.  I find it nerve racking to meet authors and artists I really admire: never meet your heroes and all that, but I’m happy to report that Carson Ellis is thoroughly charming. I particularly loved how she answered a question about the struggle to get what you imagine in your head to look like what you actually create. Basically, she said she works until she achieves it. I love that.

The book she just put out, “The Shortest Day”, is beautifully immersive. It’s a poem written by Susan Cooper (of The Dark Is Rising series fame) and I love how Ellis draws us into its timelessness and the fear and the joy of the Winter Solstice. Reading the book and listening to Ellis had me  immediately wanting to begin a Winter Solstice tradition of our own. What should we do? Obviously there will have to be a roaring fire and lots of candle.  We’ll be reading this book, with the joyful shouting of “Welcome Yule!”, but what are your thoughts about music? Food?  Anything else that would make this a special tradition?

Other books that have or will become part of tradition:

“The Polar Express” and Betsy Tacy Go Downtown

I mean…that hot chocolate scene in “The Polar Express”.  The stuff dreams are made of. When she’s older, I’m planning on taking Maeve on our local train into the city with an extra chocolate-y cup of hot chocolate and following in the footsteps of my beloved Betsy, Tacy, and Tib, by going window shopping and then finally choosing an ornament at the last store we go to.

Felicity by Mary Oliver

I read this book over breakfast every New Year’s Day. It’s short, powerful, wise, and full of…felicity. Just the way I want to start each year.

The Harry Potter series

I make rock cakes every year on Harry’s birthday and we’ve also started baking treacle tart and sticky toffee pudding thanks to all the mentions. I’m sure that maaany more traditions will come from these family favorites, including a big deal out of the initial presentation of the books. I’m thinking beginning with a Hogwarts letter and ending with a Great Hall feast.

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

I don’t even remember what the specific prayer was, but I was inspired by a prayer that Corrigan’s friend who passed away used to say with her family over their meals.  “Thank you for the food in front of us, the roof above us, and the love all around us.”

Please help me add to our book inspired traditions and tell me about some of your own or some you think would be fun to begin! My brain has been whirring about this lately.
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  • Laura says:

    A great way to celebrate the solstice is to buy holiday pajamas each year. They keep you warm & cozy & the kids look great for Christmas morning photos. We also take walks, on the same trail on the first day of every season. It’s fun to see how everything changes.

    As for other book traditions, my daughter and I like to recreate picnic menus from books like Frog & Toad or Swallows & Amazons.

    • Erin says:

      We do family Christmas pajamas, too : ). We bust them out a little earlier, though!

      I absolutely love that idea of returning to the same trail. That is so beautiful. And recreating picnic menus- how brilliant!

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