Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Edie's Favorite Christmas Memories

1. Favorite Christmas Ritual—Since early in our marriage, Doug and I (and our two children when they were younger) have gone out to cut our own Christmas tree each year. I always lose my sense of proportion when outside, so we invariably come home with a tree too tall or too big around. And my husband always swears we won’t do this again, since it’s his back that gets the hard end of the deal. This year was no exception, but at least we have a very high ceiling in our log cabin to accommodate a large tree.
2. Favorite Christmas Song—“Lullay Thou Little Tiny Child,” also known as “The Coventry Carol.”
3. Favorite Christmas Picture Book—THE LITTLE FIR TREE by Margaret Wise Brown
4. Favorite Christmas Gift I’ve GivenFor the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration, Good Housekeeping Magazine sponsored a contest for an embroidered picture that depicted something about our American Heritage. Since I loved to embroider, I decided to enter. However, I work slowly, so when the deadline passed, the picture became a Christmas gift for my grandmother, inspired by a cradle built back in 1864 for the birth of her mother, Edith Call (for whom I was named). The cradle was shared by her younger siblings and passed down through multiple generations. I myself slept in it. The picture included the first stanza of a narrative poem written by my great grandmother’s older sister (who did not get to sleep in the cradle) and entitled “Eda’s Cradle.” The gift brought tears to my grandmother’s eyes, and I remember her holding it in her lap all of Christmas Day. After she died, my grandfather returned it to me, and it now hangs in my guest room.
5. Favorite Christmas Gift I’ve ReceivedThe Christmas I was ten or eleven, I received a Magic Designer, also known as a “Hoot Nanny.” That particular Christmas our entire family was sick with bad colds, so we spent all day in our pajamas, making elaborate hoot nanny designs and coloring them with my new set of colored pencils. I saved the hoot nanny, and my own children spent many happy hours creating their own designs.
6. Favorite Christmas Scene from a Children’s Book—The final chapter of THE GOOD MASTER by Kate Seredy


Navidades en Puerto Rico

Christmas in Puerto Rico starts with Advent and ends with the octavitas, eight days after Epiphany. People go parrandiando, singing Christmas songs from house to house. Some of the songs are not religious, like Si me dan pasteles (pasteles are like tamales but they are made with yucca or plantains and are wrapped in banana leaves). The song, accompanied by guitars, drums, trumpets and maracas--or pots and pans--calls for warm pasteles. Each house owner opens her doors--even if it is after three in the morning--and treats the singers with food and drinks. Then the owner joins the group and they all go to the next house. If you can, you stay up until the Misa de Aguinaldo at five in the morning. After Mass, you eat breakfast and go to bed. Work? It's on hold until after the octavitas. Do not expect much service during Navidades en Puerto Rico.


The Best Gifts of All

When I think about all the Christmas gifts I've given, my favorite is one that cost no more than a couple dollars. When I was in my mid twenties I bought a small hardcover blank book. Beginning several months before Christmas I filled it with memories of my mother. I included silly jokes that the two of us shared, anecdotes of times spent together, and reasons why I loved and appreciated her. The quality of the writing was not very good and I didn't fill the book completely as I had hoped, but when Christmas Eve arrived I wrapped it up and placed it under the tree. My mother was oblivious to all its imperfections and it became one of her most treasured possessions.

Several years later I did the same thing for my father and mailed it out to Colorado where he lived. His wife later told me that when he unwrapped the book and began reading, it was the only time she ever saw him cry.

Both of my parents have died now. I'm so glad I took the time to make these books for them while they were still alive. It's true that you don't need money to give a meaningful gift.

On the other hand, the best gift I ever received was not handmade.

As a child I was fascinated by balloons. I wanted to grow up to be a balloonman. Then one Christmas when I was a teenager I received only one small package beneath the tree. When I unwrapped it, it was a bag of balloons. "Go look in the garage," said my mother. Next to our car I found an industrial-sized tank of helium. For the next six months I was the balloonman I had always wanted to be, sending notes up into the sky, making a tiny gondola to carry the neighbor's hamster, and flying anything that was light and could be filled with helium (balloons, baggies, plastic gloves).

Sometimes the best gifts are free, and sometimes they're the result of creative thinking.


Christy Kringle’s Christmas Workshop

This little elf is busy! Each year I enjoy transforming odds and ends into gifts. Yesterday my husband came home to find candle stubs melting in a pot on the stove. Nearby I was peeling labels off pet food cans. After raising his eyebrows he remarked, “I’ve learned that at this time of year it’s better to keep my head low and not ask questions.”

Since moving to California I’ve harvested our trees to make gifts. You think this red and green is for Christmas? Think again! This concoction transports me to Scotland, thus the plaid. I developed a taste for marmalade my sophomore year while living with the Middleton family in Edinburgh.

These are just a couple of the many projects I’m cooking up. I'm never happier than when I'm making gifts.


Christmas traditions

Decorating for Christmas at our house means bringing out ornaments and decorations we've gathered over the past twenty years. It is always fun to open up the boxes as they get dragged out of their storage spots, and reconnect with the holiday things we only see once a year. I think the one I look forward to the most is the carved Nativity scene I got in December 1990, when we were Peace Corps volunteers in Tanzania. At the carver's market in Dar es Salaam, I traded my pair of Nike running shoes, quite well worn, for the set. I think both the carver and I thought we got the better part of the bargain. I know I did, because I couldn't imagine our house for Christmas without seeing these figures up.
I hope all of you have a lovely holiday season!