Since Benjamin was born I’ve tried to collect books and music that are special for Advent and Christmas. My mom was always very intentional about Advent even though my parents are Protestant and we always listened to special music and had an Advent wreath. Here are some of our favorites:
Handel’s Messiah: This is the music that I remember listening to the most during Advent and Christmas as a child. I think we even had a record of it before the digital age. Since I was 8 years old, my mom and I would always attend try to the Tallahassee Messiah Sing, a December tradition at a local church where the attendees are the impromptu chorus (we’re always in the Alto section). I’m 26 now so that’s a lot of Messiah Sing-Alongs. I missed a few years but…still…we can Hallelujah Chorus with the best of ’em. This is really a MUST HAVE Advent and Christmas album. The music is simply incredible and the biblical readings used as the lyrics are so beautifully woven together. I also love that it includes songs about the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Advent is, after all, a little Lent. And the Incarnation and the Crucifixion/Resurrection are parts of one story.
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: I just discovered this one this year when Daniel and I took Lucy to see this performed a few weeks ago when we needed to get out of the house after some new baby cabin fever. Sweet girl slept through the whole thing and we loved it. It’s made of six cantatas that were performed beginning on Christmas Day up to Epiphany. It’s really great. I do love me some Bach.
Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas: A compilation of EPs of Christmas songs Sufjan recorded as Christmas presents for his friends. I first heard one of these amazing tunes in 2003(?) and then listened to them nonstop when they were released five or six years ago. There are some beautiful versions of some of my favorites: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” as well as some of Sufjan’s original Christmas songs (some of which are amazing and some are…eh.) I start listening to this album as soon as it’s Advent because I can’t make myself wait until Christmas and rationalize it because there are a couple of Advent songs.
The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola: I love Tomie dePaola and I love this Old English Christmas carol. Daniel’s mom got us this for Christmas two years ago and it’s still one of Benjamin’s very favorite books. The illustrations are gorgeous and now we’ve all memorized the song which Benjamin frequently requests at bedtime.
George Balanchine’s The Nutracker: I love the beautiful photographs and Benjamin is a little bit obsessed with Drosselmeier. “Isn’t Drosselmeier WEIRD?!” he’ll ask/tell me.
The Nutcracker Doll by Mary Newell DePalma: Daniel and Benjamin brought this one home from the library the other day and I think it’s absolutely precious. It’s about a little girl’s first year in a ballet company and her first Nutcracker
A Little House Christmas by Laura Ingalls Wilder: A collection of Christmas stories from the Little House books. Benjamin isn’t quite ready for this one yet but I can’t wait til he is. Because I love Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Helen Berger: I don’t own this one yet but I need to add it to my wishlist. My friend Marianna showed this one to me when I was pregnant with Benjamin and I’ve meant to find a copy ever since. It’s about the donkey that carries the Blessed Virgin Mary to Bethlehem. It’s so lovely.
Jingle, the Christmas Clown by Tomie dePaola: Another Tomie dePaola. This one’s about a little clown in an Italian circus. It’s precious and there’s a recipe for special Christmas cookies in the back that I plan on making this year with Benjamin.
The Mitten by Jan Brett: I love Jan Brett’s illustrations so much. This one isn’t really about Christmas, just winter. We actually need to buy a new copy of this one because when Benjamin was a baby he drooled over this one so much that it completely fell apart.
Trouble with Trolls by Jan Brett: Same story with this one. Not a Christmas tale but lots of snow.
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson: This was Benjamin’s favorite favorite book for the longest time. And I still like it after reading it a million billion gazillion times. Like the Brett books I mentioned, it’s just a winter book.
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson: A new one that some sweet friends gave Benjamin at Thanksgiving. I really like it and so does he.
What is your favorite music for Advent? For Christmas? What books do you like to read? Which ones do you read to your kids? We want to know!