An Early American Christmas
Written & Illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Review by: Christina Mark
This is a wonderful story about traditions and how they spread from one family to another and are then handed down from generation to generation. Tommie dePaola tells this wonderful tale based on historical fact regarding New England in the 1700’s. In that time most of the residents did not celebrate Christmas and sometimes would chase out those who did. Mr. dePaola, after researching his own home town in New Hampshire, began to imagine what if might be like for a family with rich Christmas traditions to come to such a town. The result is this beautifully written story of the “Christmas Family”.
The story begins long ago in a New England village where there were no indications that it was Christmas; no wreaths, no Christmas trees, no caroling–until one particular family moves in. This family had come originally come from Germany to Pennsylvania and now to this quiet village. This family celebrated Christmas and hence were know to the community as the “Christmas Family”. The story follows the family who begin making holiday preparations in the fall when they gather bayberries to make candles and shiny red apples to set aside in the root cellar until Christmas. The grandfather carves out wooden nativity figures while the other members of the family cut out paper ornaments and bake cookies to hang on the tree. As Christmas approaches, the father and the boys find the ideal tree and place a red ribbon around it so they can easily locate it on Christmas Eve Day. The women bake cookies and pretzels and pop corn to string on the tree. On the day before Christmas the whole family decorates. They bring in the tree and decorate and place a candle in each window. The family gathers in the parlor to read from the Bible. Meanwhile, the curious neighbors quietly stand outside to look at the beautifully decorated home and to listen to the Christmas songs coming from the house of the “Christmas Family”. As years go by, Christmas candles begin appearing in the windows of the neighbors’ homes, wreaths are hung on their doors and Christmas trees are seen in their parlors until practically the whole village becomes one of “Christmas Families”.
This is a wonderful story that truly captures the essence of Christmas and all of its beautiful traditions. Christmastime is really such a sentimental time of year. This book makes you feel warm inside as you can’t help but think of the many Christmas traditions that you and your family hold dear. This is a wonderful way to talk to your children about traditions, explaining to them how your family celebrates and showing them cherished ornaments, nativity sets, or even Christmas recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next. It’s a perfect time to share with them the wonderful memories you have of past Christmases. I recommend this book for children ages 3-8.