By Maria T DiVencenzo
Illustrated by Elaine S. Verstraete
Opening the Christmas tree box is an emotional experience in our home. Nestled inside last year’s newspapers are fragile handmade ornaments from our children, treasured gifts from distant friends or relatives that have passed away; each ornament laden with happy memories. Our girls get possessive over certain pieces collecting their own little pile to hang on the tree. They each have their “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments, their ballet dancers, and baseball players, birdhouses and kitties, Santa, and Elmo, but mostly there are stars and angels, and images of the Madonna and Child. We have tried to maintain in our Christmas tree a balance between the lavishness of the Christmas season, with all its glitz and giving, with the stark reality of the humble manger which was honored to hold the Son of God. We look for books and music that do the same, and have found such a treasure in “The Star of Christmas”.
“The Star of Christmas” is written from the point of view of a charming little girl who falls asleep under her Christmas tree, waiting, though the magic of Christmas, to hear the ornaments speak. She is awakened by the sounds of her Christmas tree ornaments talking. It seems they are arguing among themselves about who is the star of Christmas. At first the China Doll, claims to be the VMIP (Very Most Important Person) of Christmas because of her beauty. “Christmas is beautiful! It’s full of sparkle and shine, just like I am,” she says while dancing around the floor.
The little girl with the tousled curls and the sleeper pajamas gently explains to the China Doll and the rest of the ornaments, that, although they symbolize important aspects of Christmas, there is still a deeper meaning. We see how the dazzle, the gifts, magic, the songs, the love and even the giving and the peace of the season are not the center of Christmas. Like the mother of the toddler, who, on Christmas morning becomes engrossed with the wrapping of his first present, forgetting the toy inside, Maria T. DiVencenzo, takes us though the peripheral joys of the season, gently reminding us to enjoy the gift hidden beneath the trappings.
Elaine S. Vertraete’s extraordinary illustrations lend an intimacy to the story, enabling the young audience to share the tenderness of the little girl towards each ornament and emphasizing the simple, yet moving conclusion. Each illustration is bathed with that singular light that emanates from old-fashioned Christmas tree lights.
“The Star of Christmas” is one of the treasured occupants of our family Christmas boxes, and will be shared for years to come as we remind ourselves once again, who is the Star of Christmas.
Recommended for babies through age 7, although this could be a thought-provoking family read aloud.