Books: Christmas Tree & Ribbon
Tasks: Holiday Socks
Door 1: Southern Hemisphere
Book: Read a book set in the Southern Hemisphere, or that has a beachy scene on the cover.
=> Peter Temple: The Broken Shore
Task 1: In Australia, it’s common to brag about having the “biggest ‘X’ in the Southern Hemisphere!” Biggest mall, biggest prawn (don’t ask), biggest pineapple, biggest earthworm. What does your country / city / region brag about having the best or the biggest of…?
=> Of Chocolate, Cathedral Architecture, and Veerry Old Bones
Task 2: It’s Melbourne Cup Day! Time to pick the ponies!
=> My picks: (1) Incentivise, (2) Spanish Mission, (3) Tralee Rose. Alternate: Verry Elleegant. — Results: (1) Verry Elleegant, (2) Incentivise, (3) Spanish Mission […] (9) Tralee Rose (injured during the race but finished). So, 2 bonus points for Incentivise and Spanish Mission.
Task 3: In honor of the depiction of Santa in Australian-style clothing, dress up your dog (or cat), or just use photoshop or another photo editing program, to dress up one of your pets as the Australian version of Santa Paws. Post the picture here – the zanier, the better!
=> Santa Cats
Task 4: Australia has the world’s longest fence, the dingo fence, which at 3,436 miles (5529.7 kilometres) beats the Great Wall of China.
Using an average of 12 books / meter, or 4 books / foot as a guide, if you had to build a fence of your own to keep the dingos out, how long a fence could you build with the books in your library (real or virtual)?
=> Walled in by Books
Door 2: Holiday Books
Book: Read a holiday themed book.
Task 1: Holiday books often have covers that try to evoke a certain emotion in the reader. Post a picture, or a gallery of pictures, of holiday themed book covers that really appeal to you, and, if you want to, tell us why.
=> The Spirit of Christmas Perpetual
Task 2: If you could invent the perfect bookish holiday, what time of year would it occur, and what would it involve?
Task 3: Jólabókaflóðið, or Jolabokaflod: Are you familiar with this Icelandic holiday, where everybody exchanges books on Christmas eve, then spend the evening reading and eating chocolate. Do you celebrate this holiday? Tell us about it.
Task 4: Let’s play Six Degrees of Literation! Start with the book that you are reading right now and make a chain of six books, linked in however you want to link them, to one of the classic holiday reads mentioned in this Guardian article.
=> Six Degrees of Literation
Door 3: Light(s)
Book: Read a book with the sun, or festive lights on the cover, or a book that’s set somewhere sunny.
Task 1: How long is the longest day of the year where you live? How long is the shortest? Does your home town/country celebrate the solstice?
=> Here Comes the Sun
Task 2: Share some photos of your favorite light display, if you have them, or if you have a neighbor who goes ‘all out’, snap a photo to share.
Task 3: Is your community known for any light displays in particular? Are there any displays (anywhere in the world) that you would really like to see in person? Tell us about them.
=> Bonn leuchtet / Bonn Shines
Task 4: (Cheeky): Badly behaving authors: name some authors who think the sun shines out of their … ya’ know.
Door 4: Decorating
Book: Read a book that has an object that can be used as a Christmas decoration on the cover.
Task 1: Do you have any decorations that you anticipate putting out each year because they are particularly meaningful to you or your family? Please take a picture and tell us why!
Task 2: Snap a picture of your favorite church or other interior in all its seasonal glory. Or, give us the opposite – post a picture of the worst, gaudiest or lamest holiday interior that you see – either on the internet or IRL.
Task 3: The Christmas Tree is the ultimate holiday decorating element. Are you fake or real? Green or some other color? Picky about ornament placement or fly by the seat of your pants? Themed or willy-nilly? Handmade or purchased? Tell us your aspiration, and then show us reality.
Task 4: (Cheeky): What is the ugliest ornament that you have, that you just can’t get rid of because someone in your family either made it or gave it to you as a gift? You know that there’s one of those – this is the place to admit your shame!
Door 5: Animals
Book: Read a book that has an animal on the cover, or involves someone who works in conservation.
=> Martha Grimes: The Dirty Duck
Task 1: What’s the weirdest animal you’ve ever ridden or what’s the most exotic, or unusual, animal you’ve ever seen in the wild? Share your funniest animal story – what hilarious thing did your pet do, or what hilarious, comic moment have you seen / experienced with any animal?
Task 2: Show us your feline and non-feline pets. Try to get as many of them into a picture as you can without causing mayhem or the fur to fly and share it with us. If the animals just don’t feel the love, multiple photos are ok too, but make them the zany shots that would cause embarrassment to said pet if they could feel such emotion. Alternatively, show us a picture of an animal you wish were domesticated so you could have it as a pet, without the risk of being eaten or having your house destroyed!
Task 3: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is probably the best known animal associated with Christmas, and was created as part of an ad campaign. He began life in a poem written in the same meter as the other iconic poem, The Night Before Christmas. If you are feeling poetic, write a (short) poem (any meter is fine) about one of the animals profiled here as associated with Christmas.
Task 4: (Cheeky) If you have a cat (or can borrow one from a friend), take a picture of him / her looking particularly fierce and ready to eat a naughty child. If you really want to go all out, photoshop a giant version of your cat onto a picture, prowling the countryside looking for lazy children to eat.
=> Charlie, the Gothic Romance Virgin Eater
Door 6: Color(s)
Book: Read a book with a cover that is more than 50% red or green.
=> Akashic Noir: Helsinki Noir
Task 1: Post a photograph of a stack of books with covers in your favorite color or color palette, or, show us a stack of books in all of the colors of the rainbow.
Task 2: Did you get into the colouring book craze? If you did, what was your favorite colouring book?
Task 3: How do you use color in your personal living space or for your holiday decorating? Do you paint your walls in all the wild colors, or do you rely on accents? Do you have a color palette that you have selected for your decorating schemes? Show us a pic of a particularly colourful spot in your home (either decorated for the season, or not – whichever you prefer!).
Task 4: (Cheeky) Describe your most spectacular bruise – how did you get it?
Door 7: Gift Giving & Wrapping
Book: Book task: Read a book with a cover that would make beautiful wrapping paper; or read a book that you would have enjoyed giving or receiving as a gift..
=> Beryl Bainbridge: According to Queeney
Task 1: Are you a fan of gift giving, or is it a burden? Have you figured out a way to balance the commercialization of the season with the desire for a sense of meaning (whether religious or not)? Tell us about it and, if you want, post a picture of your wrapped gifts under the tree, or wherever you display them before the unwrapping celebration.
=> Gifts, Part 1
Task 2: Gift wrapping: Friend or Foe? Fancy or utilitarian? To bow or not to bow? Do you make your own wrapping or do you purchase? Are you a toss it all out at the end kind of person, or do you quietly grab the reusable ribbons, etc. to tuck away for another year? No judgements, we promise.
=> Gifts, Part 2
Task 3: Judge a book by its cover! Choose a book you’ve never read and speculate on the quality of the story based on its cover, OR, Post a cover of a book you’ve read that you think is beautiful and tell us if the book lived up to its ‘wrapping’.
=> Gifts, Part 3
Task 4: (Cheeky): Tell us about the worst, or cheesiest gift you ever received, or, tell us about the BEST present you ever received, whether it was something you really wished for, or something you never knew you needed or wanted but treasure now.
=> Gifts, Part 4
Door 8: Music
Book: Read a book where the plot involves music or the people who perform or write it; or read a non-fiction memoir by a musician.
=> Edmund Crispin: Swan Song
Task 1: What’s your favorite type of music to listen to during the festive season? Rock? Classical? Opera? Country?
Task 2: Do your have any traditions in your family / amongst your friends centered around music this time of year? Carol singing? Concerts? Performances?
Task 3: List your 3 favorite holiday songs – if you have a favorite playlist on Spotify or a similar place, share that with us.
Task 4: (Cheeky): Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer was originally performed in 1979, and remains a high (or low) water mark for holiday songs.. Do you love irreverent holiday songs or hate them? What about holiday parodies? Link us to your favorite YouTube music video of either a parody or a holiday song that is not to be taken seriously and, if you’re up to it, give us a title or few verses of your own parody. To get you started, here is a holiday parody of Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball called Deck the Halls by Dave & Brian.
Door 9: Cycles
Book: Read a book that has something lucky on the cover or in the title; or that has a cover that is more than 50% red, yellow
and or green, which are considered lucky colors in China.
=> Martin Edwards: Gallows Court
Task 1: Come up with your own New Year luck ritual, designed to ensure a year of great bookish experiences, the weirder the better. Describe it to us in detail, or provide a tutorial for everyone to follow.
Task 2: Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Why or why not? What is the worst/best resolution you’ve ever made?
Task 3: The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on cycles of the moon and the sun. Next year’s animal sign is the Sign of the Tiger, which means that babies born in 2022 are predicted to be “brave, competitive, unpredictable and confident.” What was the animal sign of your birth year? Let us know how it does, or does not, fit you.
=> Here Be Dragons
Task 4: (Cheeky) Jump on your bicycle & go for a ride! If the weather is kind, take a bike ride and snap some pics so we can enjoy the ride with you.
Door 10: Peace
Book: Read a book in which the ending of a conflict is a major theme.
=> Martha Gellhorn: Travels with Myself and Another
Task 1: What’s your favorite symbol of peace?
Task 2: Have you got a spot, or a place, where you feel most at peace? Tell us about it (we promise, we won’t crash your paradise).
Task 3: If you could choose one world conflict to wave a wand over and bring lasting peace to everyone there, which one would it be?
Task 4: (Cheeky) Which book or author makes you feel very non-harmonious? Would you like to give that person/book a piece / peace of your mind? Do it here!
Door 11: Family Traditions
Book: Book task: Read a family saga, a book about an especially dysfunctional family, or an entry into a series that focuses on one specific community.
=> Catherine Aird: The Religious Body
Task 1: Each family celebrates things in a way that is unique to them! Does your family (by birth or by choice) have a particular holiday tradition above and beyond the classics? Family travel? Family movie night? Family snowball battles?
=> Family Theatricals
Task 2: Are there any family happenings that have made it into your family “lore” that you revisit telling and retelling each year? Are your holiday get-togethers notorious for misbehavior by any of your relatives? Tell us about them, if you are in a sharing mood.
Task 3: Alternatively, do you have a favorite dysfunctional family scene in a movie or book? Give us the highlights and why you love (or love to hate) it!
Task 4: (Cheeky): Put together the worst imaginary holiday get-together with fictional or real people and tell us how it went.
Door 12: Northern Hemisphere
Book: Book task: Read something with snow or ice on the cover or read a ghost story.
Task 1: Let it snow! Take a picture of the local snowfall in your area. Any pretty icicles? We’d love to see them. Bonus: make a snow angel, or snow man or even a snowball and take a picture of it so we can admire it.
Task 2: Make us a collage or display of your favorite snowy book covers.
=> Snow Covers
Task 3: “Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”
In honor of this wonderful English cultural tradition, get your hands on a Victorian ghost story (that is not A Christmas Carol) and read it – aloud if your family will listen!
=> Margaret Oliphant: The Library Window
Task 4: (Cheeky) Do the modified “polar plunge” – pick a chilly day and dress in your most summery outfit to go outside. Minimum required time outside is 60 seconds – and if you are feeling really brave, have someone take a picture of your blue…lips and post it here!
Door 13: Holiday Shopping
Book: Read a book about someone who works retail, or that has a retail establishment on the cover (shop, café etc).
Task 1: What was the best or worst holiday “bargain” you ever indulged in? Did you get a post-holiday steal on something you’ve had your heart set on or really needed? Have you ever bought something in an after season sale only to find out it was not at all what you’d hoped it would be?
=> Holiday Shopping, Part 1
Task 2: Remember back to when you were a child? Was there a present that you desperately wanted that was the “hot” present of the year that you either did or did not receive? What is a gift that you remember receiving when you were 8 to 12 years old and why has it stuck in your memory so clearly?
=> Holiday Shopping, Part 2
Task 3: Do you love it or hate it? Play “Wheel Decide” to see if you want to do the choice that the wheel gives you, or spend eight hours at the mall on Christmas Eve. Let us know what you got, and what you chose!
=> Holiday Shopping, Part 3
Task 4: (Cheeky) Fire the opening salvo in the war on Christmas! Tell us the commercial, jingle, or especially irritating marketing practice you would ban and why?
=> Holiday Shopping, Part 4
Door 14: Games
Book: Book task: Read a book written by an author whose last name begins with the letters G, A, M, E, or S.
=> Nancy Mitford: Wigs on the Green
Task 1: Does your family play games this time of year? Tell us about your best family ‘fight’ resulting from a board, card or video game. Was it an epic battle, or a stunning whitewash? Hotly contested or highly debated? Do you have a “Comet” in your family – that person who makes the game playing too serious and competitive and makes the entire process a chore?
Task 2: What would your ideal holiday family game night look like? Would it involve a board game? A card game? Food? Who would be there? If you can, put this idea into action & either take a picture or tell us about it. If you can’t, make something up, with your own family members, or with people who are either real or fictional.
Task 3: If you, or someone in your house, is a sports fan, describe your perfect “sports cave” – the place that you would watch the game, who you would watch with, which team you would be rooting for, and what you would eat/drink while you are watching.
Task 4: (Cheeky) Who would you most like to pummel into submission by beating their pants off in a game and why? This can be a sports team you particularly hate, a family member who is a terrible winner, or a real/fake person that you just want to take down a peg or two.
Door 15: Correspondence
Book: Read a book that includes a billionaire, a villain, or some other character who is especially smug or pretentious.
Task 1: Do you still send holiday cards? Do you go for amusing, inspirational, or make your own?
=> Correspondence, Part 1
Task 2: Christmas letter – yay or nay? Do you include a Christmas letter with your cards? Have you received any especially obnoxious or especially charming Christmas letters? If you want to share an excerpt with us, feel free!
=> Correspondence, Part 2
Task 3: What about letters to Santa? Do you remember your first letter to Santa? If you have children, did your children write letters to Santa and did you pretend to mail them?
=> Correspondence, Part 3
Task 4: Cheeky: Write us a pretend Christmas letter from a villainous character of your choosing. Let your imagination run wild with how they turn their bad deeds into a positive. Read this obnoxious Christmas letter for inspiration!
Door 16: Charity
Book: Read A Christmas Carol, or read a book in which poverty or hardship are significant plot elements.
Task 1: Have you ever paid it forward, or had someone pay it forward and you benefited? List some ideas for clever ways to pay it forward.
Task 2: Name a public figure who could benefit from a ghostly visitation, à la Scrooge. Who is it, and what form would the visitation take? Why? What would be the effect you are trying to achieve?
Task 3: Many people use the end of the year to clean out and donate – do you have plans to do a shelf clean up and donate your books? Where do you take them? Show is a pic of your “to donate” pile.
Task 4: Cheeky: Imagine that you just won a huge lottery or inherited a pile. Which charities would be receiving a large bequest from your winnings and why?
Door 17: Food and Drink
Book: Read a book about food, or where the main character is a chef, gourmand, or bartender, brewer or distiller.
Task 1: What’s your favorite seasonal drink? Can be alcoholic or virgin, complicated cocktails, festive punches / noggs or just plain juice. If there’s a recipe, share it with us. Pour yourself a glass and take a pic of it alongside what you’re currently reading for us.
=> Holiday Food, Part 1
Task 2: What food defines your holidays for you? Is it just not the same without a turkey, or goose, or ham, or vegetarian equivalent? Is it the side dishes or desserts that make the meal for you? Recipes (and photographs) welcome.
=> Holiday Food, Part 2
Task 3: Many of us live in, or have lived in, cultures different from our own. What food or drink did you find most exotic when you lived away from home? If your significant other is from another culture, how do you incorporate both your favourites into your traditions? Alternatively, do you have any cultures whose holiday food traditions particularly intrigue you, that you have incorporated into your own celebration?
=> Holiday Food, Part 3
Task 4: Tell us about your favourite comfort food. Is it a pint of ice cream? A bowl of buttery mashed potatoes? Brownies? Maybe something totally unexpected. You’re among friends, and no one will judge, so tell us: when you’re alone in your kitchen, what do you eat for comfort?
Door 18: Spiritual Practice or Religious Observance
Book: Read a book with a split timeline — one that takes place in the present and one that takes place in the past — or a book where people from different ends of the spiritual spectrum (believers / nonbelievers, people from different religions etc.) come together to jointly overcome a threat or a crisis..
Task 1: Are there any places or events that are particularly spiritually meaningful to you this time of year? Share a picture or description with us.
Task 2: In today’s society, particularly in the so-called ”First World”, many people struggle to find meaning in a season where the focus on materialism and/or commercialism seems to have overtaken all other elements. Do you struggle to balance this, and, if so, how do you manage it?
Task 3: Would you like to bring more spirituality into your winter holiday season? Come up with an idea to put into practice, and then let us know how it went!
Task 4: The town of Caerphilly in Donna Andrews’s Meg Langslow mysteries is known for its Christmas traditions, which not only encapsulate the spirit of the season as understood in Christianity, but often also incorporate elements from other cultures and holidays (e.g., Diwali, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah).
If you are part of a church or other spiritual community: Has your community ever done something similar, or has it maybe even found a way to give a nod to other religions’ ”end-of-the-year” holidays as part of its annual traditions? Or: Have you ever participated in the celebration of an important holiday from a culture other than the one you were born into — or is there such a tradition that (whether or not meaningful to you personally) you would like to experience at least once in your life?
Score to date: 40 points