Everything is better by candlelight

Hands down my children’s favorite Christmas tradition is the Advent Wreath.

Lighting The Advent Wreath

Every night before bedtime during Advent we light the candles in our wreath and sit down to listen to our Advent story. Most of the time the children will have cookies and eggnog while I read. It helps to keep the mouths of the younger children busy doing somethig else besides talking.

Some years we have made the wreath, some years we have made the candles. We have had candles that were colored other than the traditional purple and pink. We have kept the wreath in various rooms in our houses depending on how we decorated that year. This year for the first time we have it as a centerpiece on our kitchen table. It may not survive to use another year.

But those things aren’t the important part of the tradition. What the children like most is all of us gathering together around the candle lit wreath and reading together. Each night a different child has a turn lighting, and then blowing out, the candles.

For the past six years or so we have been alternating reading the books in the Jotham’s Journey trilogy. We have tried other books, but none of them have held their interest the way that these books do.

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These books have a child as the main character who faces some some sort of adversity that they must overcome. Their paths cross in the three books and they all end up in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. The stories are along the lines of historical fiction in that the settings and places give a picture of what life must have been like 2000 years ago.

This year we are reading Bartholomew’s Passage. Bartholomew is a boy who was kidnapped by the Roman army and sold into slavery. These stories have the added benefit of givig me the ability to say to children afflicted with the gimmees, “Do you think Bartholomew would have been grateful?” Okay, I am kidding. (Maybe)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting This book is beautiful for youger children, I’d estimate 4-8 yrs old. It is a great coffee table book for any ages. I really like this hefty book, but for our nightly reading I wanted something meatier to read.

The description for amazon says: There are 25 pages–one for each day of Advent–that feature a door that actually opens. And behind each door is an appropriate picture and a part of the Christmas story with simple text that even the youngest can understand.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting I have been selectively chosing readings out of this book this year. Today I read from it a retelling of the classic O. Henry story “The Gift of the Magi” and it prompted a good conversation with my older children about giving.

The stories give the scoop behind many of the customs of Christmas (What is frankincense? Who were the magi? What was the Christmas star?) These are stories about a strange Christmas truce, about Charles Dickens, an unusual Christmas tree, and many other items you may never have heard about. Each story begins with a portion of the words from Handel’s “Messiah” and is linked to the music which is included on the free CD included with the book. Each story is illustrated by a beautiful full-color drawing from classic works of art, and there is an end-section that is chock full of fascinating facts, trivia, and activities. (description from the amazon website)

We listen to a CD of Handel’s Messiah that is not the one that came with the book. It makes nice background music in the house during the Christmas season. The linking of the stories in the text to the CD seems a bit forced to me in the case of many of the stories, but overall if you are looking for a way to work listening to this classic piece of Christmas music into your Advent season, you couldn’t go wrong with this book/cd set.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting A friend just told me about this book and I am considering buying it to add to our repetoire for next year. These short feel good type of stories are perfect for the kids to listen to.


Even if you are not Christian or particularly religious I think gathering together every night with your entire family, reading by candlelight, and sharing some good stories is a worthwhile experience. It sets apart this time of year as special. A time that encourages us to think more of others, to be a tad more considerate than we might ordinarily be, and to build some memeories that will be cherished for years to come.

13 Responses to “Everything is better by candlelight”

  1. Tina Says:

    VERY interesting…thank you for sharing those books–several were just added to my “Wish List”. I LOVED your idea on the other blog about wrapping the books up and reading a new one each day. That is one I want to start (but we only have 3 books, so I must do some book shopping! ;-).

  2. min Says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas! I love the book ideas and hope to use it in the near future. You are an inspiration!

  3. Lori Says:

    Chris that is such a great idea–lighting the advent wreath for the story time. I so wish I’d had some great idea like that when my son was small. I may have to get the Christmas books out again!

  4. Mir Says:

    Will you adopt me? :)

  5. T in HD Says:

    We’ve always lots of fairy lights and beeswax candles lit at Christmas. I just love it.

    We’ve never used pink and purple candles. Usually ours are beeswax so they’re, well, yellow! ;-)

  6. julie Says:

    Thanks for the great book ideas. My Family loves to read also.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    THANK you - you just saved me from wasting time I don’t have. I try to get a new Christmasy book to share with my kids each year, but when I go to the store and see the rows and rows of lovely books I start picking them up and thumbing through them until my eyes roll back in my head, and then I buy a pretty one that may have a truly obnoxious message once I read it. Okay, that only happened once, but how nice to have actual recommended books someone has actually checked out. Thanks again!

  8. Meg's Mom Says:

    If you can find A Small Miracle or On Christmas Eve (both by Peter Collington), they are well worth any price. Both are picture books, but are not cutesy. Small non-readers can easily capture the story, but older children and adults are entranced by the pictures and how well they portray a story without the use of words.

  9. Susan Says:

    I love your traditions. I love your LIFE!

    Another good Christmas story is “The Small One.” Makes me cry every, single time.

  10. julie Says:

    You inspired me. I posted about our family traditions. Thanks for the good ideas.

  11. julie Says:

    the url on the above comment is incorrect. Here is the correct one.

  12. Ang Says:

    I just hit the Christmas clearance sales at the bookstore - we are going to be wrapping up books next year! I loved this idea. (I think I am actually going to wrap the books before I pack them away, as I still have all the Christmas wrap out. Surprises for everyone next year.)