“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”
Every year in late November, my town library hosts a cocktail party/silent auction fund raiser to kick off the holiday season. People donate gift baskets, wreaths, and gift cards to local restaurants and businesses, but the highlight of the event are the Christmas trees. The decorations on each tree are inspired by a book, which is of course part of the package. My dear friend, Colette (of Used Books in Class fame), and I have been contributing a tree for at least the last 15 years, and it has become one of my favorite holiday traditions.
Our trees have most often been based on a children’s book, but we have done a few trees based on adult books. Our Under the Tuscan Sun tree was especially beautiful. Sometimes we’re inspired by the book itself; other times we find an ornament that strikes our fancy. Many of our trees were inspired by the incredible handmade soft sculpture ornaments by Gladys Boalt. These usually adorn the tree top. The rest of the ornaments are generally a mix of purchased ornaments and ornaments that we make. We’ve gotten very creative over the years about making ornaments out of almost anything. Tiny terra-cotta flower pots and raffia became bells on the Tuscan tree, yellow grosgrain ribbon was transformed into the yellow brick road with the help of a black Sharpie, and a hand-knit I-cord became the garland for a tree full of little sweaters and hats.
Ideas for a tree can strike at any time of the year. Colette is usually the mastermind, but I’ve had my share of brainstorms too. This year’s tree was inspired by a set of wooden magnets Colette found in the gift shop at the Eric Carle Museum back in March. With the help of brightly colored bakery string and scrap book paper (to cover the black backs), these adorable magnets became ornaments. Plastic alphabet links were turned into a garland, and the Very Hungry Caterpillar himself sat atop the tree.
Every year we ask ourselves why we do this, as it takes a fair amount of time to make sure we have all the materials we need, make the ornaments, and decorate the tree. Trees have to be delivered to the library (a big challenge in itself!) right before Thanksgiving, a very hectic time of year for teachers. But every year, as we’re making the ornaments, we remember why we do this. We love it. We love supporting our local library. We love using a creative part of our brain that we often neglect, and we love creating beautiful Christmas trees that bring joy to someone. Most of all, we love giving a child a book they will never forget.
Thank you to everyone at Two Writing Teachers for creating and nurturing this supportive community!