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December 10, 2008

Kristin Hannah: Holiday Traditions

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Kristin Hannah, author of FIREFLY LANE, reminisces about childhood holiday traditions that she's since passed on to her own son, and muses over just what makes the presents they share so special.

In my family, books went with the holidays like turkey and cranberries. I literally can't remember a Christmas morning that didn't included a much longed-for novel waiting under the tree. It was a tradition in our house to open one gift on Christmas Eve --- always a book. As kids, we waited all day for that moment. The idea was, of course, that if we were going to stay up all night, waiting for Santa, we might as well be reading. We tore off the beautiful paper and bows and ran upstairs, diving under our covers and turning on the lights. I have saved every one of those books, and the inscriptions --- often in my mom's elegant handwriting --- still move me. She always managed to capture both the essence of the novel and the purity of her love in those words. And isn't that what a book as a gift is really all about? The giver is saying, "I know you, I love you, and this story will become one of your favorites." What better gift could there possibly be?

My husband and I have passed on this tradition to our son. One of the best aspects of parenthood --- and I didn't see it coming --- was the ability to hand memories from your life directly to your child, through the books you recommend. The books I've given my son are really a timeline of my own life: THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, The Lord of the Rings, DUNE, THE STAND, and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I introduced him to Stephen King and Anne Rice (when he was old enough), and he introduced me to J. K. Rowling. Together, we met Stephenie Meyer. And all of it kept us connected, gave us something to talk about and share. This Christmas, I think he's finally ready for ATLAS SHRUGGED, and I can't wait to sit with him on a chair lift, on a snowy January day, and talk about the book.

If I'm lucky, he's got one hidden under the tree for me, too.

Tomorrow, Joseph Finder opens our eyes to a side of Dr. Seuss we've never considered before.