(I'm temporarily suspending the seven comment rule for today so I can participate in this blog tour. But it's coming back tomorrow!)
The Santa Letters by Stacy G. Anderson is a sweet holiday story coming out from Cedar Fort books. It was fun to read the ARC a couple of months ago and feel like I got a little Christmas in July, especially since I'm a Christmas Eve baby and the tiniest bit nuts about all things Christmas.
The story focuses on a family grieving the loss of their husband/father nearly one year after his death in a car accident and the mysterious packages that begin arriving on their doorstep, each with a gift and a letter of instructions from "Santa."
The gifts are items that help the family refocus on their love for each other and more importantly, the love of their Savior as they are asked to complete tasks that range from sharing family memories with each other to completing acts of service for others. The challenges are designed to remind them of the true meaning of Christmas. A big part of the story comes from trying to figure out who's really behind the Santa letters as the mysterious benefactor watches over the family. The reader gets periodic narration from his point of view and it's fun to guess who it might be.
Since it doesn't take much to get me talking about Christmas (last night I was making my list and checking it twice which made my husband laugh because hey--it's September!), I seized the opportunity to ask Stacy about some of her favorite Christmas memories and feelings.
Q: What made you decide to set your book during the Christmas season?
A: I'm a self proclaimed Christmas junkie. I love everything about Christmas - the sights, smells and symbols. But I do miss the world understanding the importance of the season and the reason we celebrate it which is why besides bringing Christ back into Christmas for my own family to find peace and joy again, I decided to have a Christmas setting for this story.
Q: What is one of your favorite Christmas memories?
A: The memory of my son the year we did our own Santa Letters Christmas, sitting in front of the fire snuggled under his blanket sharing his testimony of the Savior and talking about how grateful he was to have a family around him that loved him and supported him. It was the first time he'd ever really felt that way. For me, that was the best Christmas present a mother could ever receive and made all of my efforts worthwhile.
Q: What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
A: Bringing out the ornaments and reliving the memories associated with each of them - some good and some a trial that we've found a way to laugh over but each nonetheless, a cherished part of our lives.
Q: What is your favorite Christmas treat?
A: On Christmas morning we always do crepes with different fillings (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, apple, cream cheese, lemon, peach) for breakfast and invite anyone and everyone over to enjoy them with us. It's become a special tradition that tastes good as well and my sons think it's the perfect cap to the morning. *She'll give you the recipe!*
Q: What is the best Christmas gift you ever got or gave?
A: The best Christmas present I ever gave was to my mother and father and my in-laws the year I wrote to each of their siblings and parents and sent tapes and scrapbook pages asking that they compile their memories of our parents. I then had them send them back and gave them to our parents for Christmas. Those items became extremely cherished to them as their parents passed away and later on to us children when my dad and then my mom passed away at rather young ages. I had captured stories about them in childhood that we would never otherwise have had.
Q: How do you define "the spirit of Christmas"?
A: It encompasses all the Savior was and is - all of his attributes like charity, good will, peace, love - and what we can take from those and put into our own lives and countenances. It just seems that at Christmastime, people are more open to doing this and a little more in tune to what this means.
Q: What's your favorite Christmas song or hymn?
A: I absolutely love O Holy Night, What Child is This and Winter Wonderland.
Q: What's your #1 Christmas wish this year?
A: That people across the earth could be blessed enough to have learned what I have and understand the true 'Spirit of Christmas' and put it into their everyday lives so that they too can experience all the peace and joy it brings.
The Santa Letters is a great little gift for someone who appreciates the spiritual side of Christmas. And it has a gorgeous cover!