The holiday spirit is as close as the library

With Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa just around the corner, it’s the time of year to get into the holiday spirit.

I’ll admit that sometimes with the stress surrounding the holiday season, it’s tough for me to get fully into that spirit. I get hung up on things that do not matter much in the grand scheme of it all.

Will my kids care exactly which toys they get for Christmas when they look back years from now? Will they remember which wrapping paper I used to wrap their gifts? Nope.

They’ll remember the fact that their parents gave them the time and attention to be fully present and celebrate the holiday season together. Their memories will be of the time we spent together baking cookies, playing games, reading stories, listening to music, talking and laughing, and sharing a special meal. That’s the good stuff that makes the holiday spirit.

Whenever I start to feel frazzled during the holidays, it helps to read a book or watch a movie that brings all of that stuff mentioned above back into focus. There are a few movies I always watch at least once during the month of December.

Fortunately, all of them are available for free checkout at the Bartholomew County Public Library, which means I don’t have to wait for them to come on TV or pay to buy them. I always watch at least one version of “A Christmas Carol.” If I’m watching it with my kids, it’s likely Disney’s version.

I also can’t let the holiday season pass by without watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Both of these movies feature main characters that are struggling during the holidays, but then have an epiphany about what really makes their lives meaningful. After they put their focus back onto loving others, their Christmas ends up being full of joy.

When I need a movie that shares this same message in a lighthearted, humorous way, there are a couple that I return to each December. “A Christmas Story” tops my list. While the little boy, who is the narrator of the story, is very concerned about which gifts he’ll find under the tree on Christmas morning, all of the most memorable parts of his story are the experiences shared with his family.

For instance, the viewer gets to share the experience of the family eating an awkwardly memorable Christmas dinner in a Chinese restaurant, after a pack of neighborhood dogs sneak into their house and eats the turkey that was supposed to be the main course. “Mixed Nuts,” with Steve Martin, is a close second. In this movie, a seemingly oddly-matched group of people, including employees of a suicide-prevention hotline and some of their clients, end up spending their Christmas together in a hilarious comedy of errors.

In terms of books, most of my reading these days consists of the picture books I read with my kids. I have several favorites — all available for free checkout at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

“Christmas in the Big Woods,” written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and illustrated by Renee Graef, encapsulates the warmth and wonder of spending time together as a family during the holidays. Jan Brett’s “Home for Christmas” also focuses on the value of spending time together with loved ones, and contains a dose of child-friendly humor, too. For older children who can sit for a bit longer story, O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” is a great story to communicate that the gift of loving sacrifice for others is the best gift of all.

These books and movies are just a smattering of what the library has to offer to lift your holiday spirits. I haven’t even touched upon our wonderful holiday music offerings. Best of all, you don’t have to spend a penny at the library, which leaves more money in your wallet for gifting and lightens your holiday stress level.

Angela Eck is the assistant director at the Bartholomew County Public Library and can be reached at