We don’t really “do” Christmas in our home.
It’s not that we go out of our way to avoid it, but it’s not a celebration we wait all year for. M’s birthday is just before the 25th, we’re not a religious family, and we don’t want to be sucked in to a big cycle of (over) consumption, so all in all, Christmas is a quiet time for us. We don’t do stockings, we don’t have faith, but (of course) we can’t entirely do without books.
Findus at Christmas by Sven Nordqvist is one of the few Christmassy books that we have already enjoyed and will no doubt read ever more frequently in the coming weeks. We’re huge fans of eccentric old farmer Pettson and his cheeky cat Findus (for my reviews of earlier Pettson and Findus books click here), and in this story there’s everything we could hope for.
It’s December 23rd and after days of terribly wintry weather, finally Pettson and Findus can set about getting everything ready for Christmas Day. They’ve got so much to do; shopping, baking, felling the Christmas tree and preparing the house. But disaster strikes when out in the forest they have a sledging accident and Pettson badly hurts his foot.
Having limped back home it becomes clear that Christmas isn’t going to happen as they’d planned. They’ve almost no food in the larder and the house is bare of decoration. “Silently they sat and watched their reflection in the window against the darkness outside. It can get this quiet when things don’t turn out the way you expect.”
Christmas morning arrives and a neighbour pops his head round the door to check everything is ok. When he sees the state of Pettson’s foot, and hears Findus’ wailing he steps into the breach and brings in some firewood and promises to return later with milk.
As word spreads of Pettson’s predicament, one by one neighbours rally round, each bringing a basket of delicious food. Pettson and Findus have managed to make a Christmas tree laden with imaginative decorations out of a bits and bobs they have lying around and unexpectedly the house is full of ““Merry Christmas!” and talk and laughter” as neighbours and their families stay and share good will and good cheer. Christmas turns out to be better then the farmer and his cat could have possibly hoped for.
This story is my sort of Christmas story: what really matters about this season, is not the tree, is not the rushing around like crazy trying to do too many things, but rather simply generosity, kindness and community.
The “message” shines through in a gentle but powerful way because the book is packed with humour, both verbal and pictorial. The capers Pettson and Findus get up to, from surfing over the wet floor of the kitchen, to choosing unusual Christmas presents for each other will get you giggling, whilst the affection that is so strong between the farmer and his feline friend will make you feel like hugging those near and dear to you. A pretty good way to start Christmas, don’t you think?
In every Pettson and Findus book there’s a special mention of Pettson’s shed, with his bench and tools spread about like treasures suggesting so many possible adventures. So we decided we’d use Findus at Christmas as our excuse to try to make something in our own tool shed.
We came up with the idea of a (sort of) advent calendar (we’ll actually use it to count down the days to M’s birthday, and next year we’ll re-use is for other family birthdays), in the form of a bookcase full of books.
First M drew up the plans.
Then we set to sawing…
Next up we had to make our books. We used these wooden trinket boxes and decorated them to look like books, by drawing pages around three sides and giving them front and back covers.
These books (a little like mini versions of these hidden book boxes we made a while back) will work perfectly as places to hide hidden treats, and the birthday child will get to open one book a day in the run up to their special day.
Finally we varnished everything and then looked back to admire our bookmaking and woodwork skills!
I fear M, J and I don’t have the carpentry skills that generations of our family have had, but we certainly stayed true to the spirit of Pettson and Findus with all our botching and finding solutions to problems of our own creating! And in the end we’ve created something we’ll enjoy and re-use, remembering a good time in our tool shed, and a great book.
Whilst we made our advent/birthday-countdown bookcase we listened to:
Other activities which would go well with Findus at Christmas include:
Have you made an advent calendar for this year? Have you got any woodworking skills?
Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, reflect my own and honest opinion.