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Worth & Soul of Words
A newsletter by Ken Baker,
author for young readers
December 2023

What's the secret sauce to a happy holiday season?

Holiday traditions can be the secret to better relationships, mental health, and joy during the holidays.

Did you know?

Health benefits of holiday traditions

Studies indicate that holiday traditions can help create meaningful connections with those we care about, bolstering our own mental, emotional, and physical health.1 Holiday traditions can also amplify family closeness and involvement.2 According to UNC Health psychiatrist Nadia Charguia, MD, when we engage in a family traditions, they can help center us and remind us of what truly matters.3

No matter your belief system, engaging in holiday traditions or creating new ones can bring joy to your holidays. So, exchange gifts, serve others in need, decorate a Christmas tree, light candles, reflect on your beliefs, read books to your children, enjoy holiday meals and time with ones you love, or whatever holiday traditions—new and old—that can bring you and you loved ones joy this holiday season.

Snowmens 12 Nights of Christmas


Shout out! - Bestselling picture book authors on holiday traditions

If you're looking to start or continue a tradition of reading classic Christmas children's books during the holidays, a great place to turn is to the award-winning author and illustrator Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner. Perhaps, best known for their New York Times Bestseller, Snowman at Night, this husband and wife team have created several wonderful Christmas books to kick off your holiday reading tradition. In fact, you'll want to make sure to check out their recently published Snowmen''s Twelve Nights of Christmas.

When I asked Caralyn about some of hers and Mark's holiday traditions, this is what she had to say, "Mark and I were both fortunate to grow up in homes that were emotionally warm, with yearly holiday traditions that we have carried on in our own family. When we got married we discovered that we both owned the same 35¢ grocery-store edition of T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, which we both loved. When we had children of our own, we began collecting a few Christmas books to share during the season, and still pull them out each year even though our children are grown. Most important than the stories is the opportunity to sit close to a child and share a moment of joy together. With our own books we have tried to recreate that feeling of warmth and nostalgia, and hope that each time they are read those feelings return."

Book business and life - Balancing family & work during the holidays

For me the holiday season is a time to spend more time with family, especially with my wife, kids, and grandchildren. But I still try to squeeze in some writing time. Right now, I'm closing in on my edits for the second draft of my latest YA fantasy, which I hope to send to my alpha readers soon. I also hope to finish some edits and reworks of an epic fantasy I wrote a few years ago. In the meantime, I'm waiting to hear back from a few publishers on some picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels that I've sent them.

Heart with Christmas tree

Heart image by Ken Baker

What I love - Diversity of holiday traditions

Everyone celebrates the holiday season differently. Those of the Jewish faith light candles on the Menorah, African American celebrate Kwanza in many ways, including pouring libations into a unity cup to honor their ancestors who have paved the way for the living.

Many across the world look with excitement to the coming of Santa Claus or St. Nick as the jolly giver of gifts. As a Christian, I love the focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, my Savior and redeemer.
Some holiday traditions I love include making treats, listening to Christmas music, giving gifts, helping those in need, and of course reading Christmas books. When our children were little, one our traditions was to let them open one special gift on Christmas Eve–identical pairs of homemade pajamas. The tradition brought fun, excitement, laughter and unity to our family. Plus, I scored some awesome superhero, zebra‐striped, minion, and BYU Cougar jammies. With our now adult children, we’ve switched that tradition to gifting them each a favorite Christmas picture book. In fact, last year's Christmas Eve gift was Snowman at Christmas by Mark and Caralyn Buehner.

My hope is that all will embrace the spirit of joy, fellowship, and love that personal, family, and religious holiday traditions can bring into our lives.

Note: Looking new Christmas tradition ideas that can lift your spirits and others, check out Light the World.

P.S. - Enjoy the holidays

Please consider sharing this newsletter on social media using the buttons below or link to it from your website or blog. Thanks and have a great holiday season.

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Thank you

Thank You image by Ken Baker

Special thanks to Caralyn and Mark Buehner for their willingness to contribute to this month's newsletter!
  1. Kimberly Zapata and medically reviewed by Seth Gillihan, PhD, Why Making Time for Holiday Traditions (and Splurges) Is Self-Care, Too, Everyday Health, October 5, 2023
  2. Ovul Sezer, Michael I. Norton, Francesca Gino, and Kathleen D. Vohs, Family Rituals Improve the Holidays,/q> University of Chicago Press.
  3. Nadia E. Charguia MD, 3 Ways Holiday Traditions Can Improve Mental Health,/q> UNC Health Talk, November 25, 2022

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T-Rex animation
How to Care for Your T-Rex
Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound
Old MacDonald had a Dragon
Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound
Cow Can't Sleep
Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound
Brave Little Monster
Picture book collection

Copyright 2001-2023 by Ken Baker

How to Care for your T-Rex pictures by Dave Coverly
Old MacDonald had a Dragon pictures by Christopher Santoro
Brave Little Monster pictures by Geoffrey Hayes
Cow Can't Sleep pictures by Steve Gray