What marks the start of the holiday season for you?
Christmas is the most special time ever at our house. We mark the start of the season by decorating our house, transforming it into a Christmas wonderland the day after Thanksgiving. Pretty soon after that we have a gingerbread house-making competition for our six kids. They form teams of two and spend an afternoon working on their houses and listening to Christmas music. It's always a day we look forward to, and the resulting creations become part of our decorations. We also start on December 1st with our Advent calendars.

Does your family have one very special holiday tradition?
We have so many! One favorite is going Christmas caroling every year. We take a day and bake platefuls of Christmas cookiesóall the old family recipes that have been around for generations. Then we decorate them with festive wrappings and bows and take them to friends and family. We never go in or accept other gifts, but rather we stand on the porch and sing a few songs, then we're on our way. It's always a great time, and part of our what makes Christmas the most special time of year for us.

What are you most looking forward to during the holiday season?
I look forward to the atmosphere of Christmas, and the traditions that make it so memorable. Baking cookies, playing special Christmas music, reading books aloud, doing the Advent calendar, Christmas moviesThe Preacher's Wife, It's a Wonderful Life and Scrooge; and spending more time with family. Here in the Northwest, it gets dark before five o'clock during the Christmas season. This is always a wonderful thing, because it invites cozy nights near the fireplace.

What ís your favorite holiday book or song?
Every year we read The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever. We read it out loud over five or six nights, and the kids hang on every word. We also love reading my Christmas book, Gideon's Gift. The kids love the part where old Earl has a change of heart because of the gift from sick little Gideon.

Why do books make the best gifts?
Books bring people together. They create moments and special family bonding times along with memories of shared togetherness. Also, books give us a way to connect our emotions and feelings through the words of someone else.

What was the best book you read this year?
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I love his approach and voiceóvery authentic.

Whatís your number one resolution for 2010?
As always, it'll be to make a plan and stay with it.

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