5 of my favorite Christmas things. And a book giveaway!

December 13, 2014 — 4 Comments

I’m sort-of a Scrooge when it comes to the holidays. This time of year can be stressful and overwhelming. Before we were parents, there were some years David and I didn’t even put up a Christmas tree. This year, we DO have a tree, but it’s a “minimalist” wooden Christmas tree my friend Mike made for me a few years ago. I told Desta it was a “special” tree and no one else has one like it. However, I’m wondering if it borders on child abuse to not have a real Christmas tree. Sigh. Now that we have a kid, there’s more pressure to make the season amazing for a 5-year-old.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things I’m enjoying during this season: Creating new traditions for Desta. Small gatherings with close friends. Visiting family. But I’m trying hard to keep things small, simple, and meaningful for all of us. I’m planning on taking Desta to a “Lessons and Carols” concert next week, and we may go down to the Art Institute and take in the Holiday Thorne Rooms.

And I’m enjoying a few CDs and books — some new and some old. Typically, I find one or two Christmas albums each year that I play over and over again through November and December. And a few books I read in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Here are a few of my favorites this year:

Over the Rhine: Blood Oranges in the Snow


I get tired of sappy sentimental Christmas songs. I need a bit of reality–not glossing over what is often a difficult time of year for many. That’s why I love this new CD from Over the Rhine. The songs on this album add a dose of reality to Christmas.

I’ve been playing this song on repeat:

Let it Fall:

Have you been trying too hard
Have you been holding too tight
Have you been worrying too much late at night
Whatever we’ve lost I think we’re gonna let it go
Let it fall, like snow.
Cause rain and leaves and snow and tears and stars
And that’s not all my friend,
They all fall like confidence and grace
So let it fall, let it fall.


Light Upon Light, by Sarah Arthur

This beautiful book is compiled by an author friend of mine. It includes readings from John Donne, Frederick Beuchner, Scott Cairns, and many others. It has readings for every week of Advent. I’ve been reading a bit of it every morning.



Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas

Stevens started recording an annual Christmas album in 2001, usually in his home with a collection of friends, roommates, etc.  The result is a collection of quirky, unique, and re-imagined Christmas carols along with some original songs. I’ve had this collection for several years and it’s still one of my favorites.








Watch for the Light

This is another oldie but goody. It includes readings from Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Annie Dillard, and more.








Advent at Ephesus

This CD was recorded by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, a young monastic order of sisters in rural Missouri. Advent at Ephesus includes an amazing variety of traditional Latin and English hymns, polyphony, Gregorian Chant, medieval harmonies. It’s beautiful.









What are you listening to and reading this holiday season? Any Christmas music recommendations? Book recommendations?

The first five people to leave comments will get a FREE copy of my book Rock-Bottom Blessings. Perfect for your own holiday reading or for giving away as a Christmas gift.




Posts Google+

4 responses to 5 of my favorite Christmas things. And a book giveaway!

  1. Karen ~ Thanks for this post! I didn’t know Over the Rhine had a new Christmas album out. My five favorite Christmas music/book things that come to mind at the moment are: 1. Amy Grant’s first Christmas album (from 1983). 2) “Noel” album of solo piano songs by Nashville musician Jeffrey Taylor 3) The chapter in the first “Little House on the Prairie” book where Mr. Edwards brings Mary and Laura their Christmas stocking presents, saying he had run into Santa Claus in town and that Santa had asked him to bring the presents to the girls. It’s a great scene, always very sweet to read. 4. This year Carolyn Arends has a new Christmas album out called “The Story of Stories” that is fabulous! 5. The Advent/Christmas album called “In the Town of David” by the group (who happen to be friends of mine) called Ordinary Time. Lovely folk/acoustic arrangements of songs both traditional and new. [Obviously I need to expand my Christmas and Advent reading — haha! 🙂 Thanks for your recommendations.]

  2. I’d love to read your book, Karen!

  3. “It’s a Wonderful Life”
    “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” (book and Denholm Elliot movie)
    “A Christmas Carol” (book and Alistair Sims movie)
    “A Celtic Christmas” (album)
    “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” (carol)

  4. Although I just found your blog, I’d love to read your book. The themes of our favorite Christmas books, carols, etc. Should follow us throughout out the year but perhaps that’s what adds to the magic of the season. I am with Katherine on The Christmas Carol, with A.S. and my family sees the play every year.

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>