For me, Christmas has always been about family time, music, and comfortable traditions.

My parents are no longer alive, my sisters, cousins, nephews, aunt, children, and grandchildren are all out of state. I am no longer a member of a Church choir or participating in Church events. As Christmas time approaches, I find myself leaning on old Christmas traditions to fill the gaps. Much of it is food-related: cooking Lebkuchen using an old family recipe and making fruitcakes with Cindy, with her family’s recipe. Christmas cookies. Droste chocolate apples. But there is more to the holidays than getting fat. 

One of my favorite old family memories is reading aloud ) the story of the Peterkin’s Christmas Tree (1886) by Lucretia P. Hale (1820-1900) from our old collection of bound St. Nicholas Magazine.


Peterkin Papers


If you have not read The Peterkin Papers, you are missing out on some fine Americana. The Peterkins are a wonderfully silly family whose ineptitude leads to a series of comical scrapes and absurd misadventures that always end well, often with an assist from the lady from Philadelphia.

The story of the Peterkin family Christmas tree is one of my favorites. (Along with Snowed Up, a favorite during Maine blizzards, Eliza’s Piano, and The Lady Who Put Salt in her Coffee.) The adventures begin in early autumn when Mr. Peterkin selects a tree from Mr. Bromwick’s woodlot and stores it secretly in the Larkins barn. Agammemnon, Solomon John, and Elizabeth Eliza know about it, but it was to be a surprise for the three (perpetually unnamed because the family was too busy) ‘Little Boys’ of the family. Despite a series of obstacles, and with an assist from the lady from Philadelphia, the oversized tree is installed and a fine Christmas celebration is held. I will not ruin the story by revealing the details - but I encourage you to read it yourself. Aloud if possible, and preferentially to some young children. I suspect it will become part of your Christmas tradition as well.


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