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the magic christmas: lessons from my holiday tradition



There aren't many Christmas traditions that I stick to no matter where I am or no matter what I'm doing and there certainly aren't many Christmas traditions that involve only me. But there is one thing I do every year, without fail, and it's something that concerns only me and a well-worn paperback book. For as long as I can remember, every Christmas I pull down one of my favorite books off the shelf and crack it open. While I'd love to say that every year I re-read Dickens' A Christmas Carol or even Richard Paul Evans' The Christmas Box, the book I crack open every December is Francine Pascal's The Magic Christmas. Yes, I'm aware that this Sweet Valley Twins book is geared to girls in middle school. Yes, also aware that I'm an adult. However, even though I'm all grown up, I can't seem to break the tradition of reading The Magic Christmas every year. Even though I know the story by heart and even though my time would be better spent reading a new (adult!) book, I cannot seem to shake the notion that there's something important about the book. It's been over fifteen years since the book came out (which means I've read it at least 15 times!), but I can't seem to break myself from the tradition, from diving into the magic of the story.



This year, of course, I was all  about analyzing the book as I cracked open its aged cover. What was it about the book that I loved so much? What was it that kept me reading it over and over again every year when I have always have a huge stack of books I'm dying to read? Even though you might not be interested in the book (or what it means to me personally), I did take away some pretty stellar lessons from re-reading it this year. As I was reading, I started realizing that there were some really positive messages that probably taught me a lot about life (even though I'm sure I didn't realize it way back in middle school...). Whether or not you've read (or ever will read) The Magic Christmas take a look at the lessons I've learned from the book. I'm pretty sure you'll get something out of them and realize that even children's literature can offer a lot in terms of positive messaging! 

10 Lessons Learned from The Magic Christmas



  1. Never, ever give up -- no matter what. No matter what challenges you're faced with -- and, being trapped in a foreign, mythical land, the Sweet Valley Twins face some crazy ones in the book! -- giving up shouldn't be an option when you're striving toward an important goal. It's tempting sometimes when you're facing hurdles that seem insurmountable to want to throw up your handsThemagicchristmas and say, "Forget it!" -- but don't. If you want something badly enough and you work as hard as you can to get there, you'll be able to achieve what you set your mind to. Re-reading this book and seeing all of the crazy struggles the twins faced in order to get back home reminded me that you really can get through the tough times if you keep persevering.

  2. Appreciate what you have. One of the themes in the novel is appreciating family and realizing how important they are to you. While, of course, I think it's very important to appreciate your family, I think it's also really important to appreciate all the things you have going for you in your life. One of the greatest lessons in the book is that, at any time, the things you love and care about can disappear from your life. While that might sound a tad dramatic, it technically is true, which is why it's so important to be appreciative of what you have. Even the most basic things -- like your food and shelter and abilities -- are things we shouldn't take for granted. The holidays seem to be a time when gratitude is celebrated even more than usually and The Magic Christmas really offers a great reminder to appreciate all we're lucky enough to have in our lives.

  3. Open your mind and try new things. When twins Elizabeth and Jessica find themselves in a magical land filled with unexpected adventures and discover that just heading home is not an option, they're forced to try new things. At first it's not easy for them to embrace some of the differences in the culture around them, the fact that they have no other option than to adjust is a great reminder for the reader that, when you open your mind and try new things you just might find that you enjoy them. At various times over the course of the book, the twins encounter experiences that make them nervous or uncertain, but they give them a try and find that they're not nearly as bad as they thought. In fact, they're actually fun. Life in the real world can be that way too. When we encounter something completely new and different, we may want to resist it, but if we give it a chance, we usually will find that it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be.

  4. Learn to compromise with others. Compromise isn't always one of my favorite things to do, but sometimes it really is the only way. In the novel, the twins are forced into a situation where they really have little choice but to compromise and deal with their surroundings. While sometimes it's tempting to force things in your favor, it's usually not worth the struggle. The work you would spend on getting your way is usually much better spent trying to come up with a compromise. In the novels, the girls had to find ways to compromise with those they were traveling with. At times it wasn't always easy, but it almost always benefited them when they were able to let go of preconceived notions of what "should" be and accept the limitations placed before them. Compromise isn't always easy, but it's worth all of the effort that goes into it.

  5. Accepting differences is cool. How boring life would be if we were all the same! When Elizabeth and Jessica find themselves in a new place filled with completely unfamiliar things, they realize that there are a lot of differences between their old lives and the place they are now spending time in. The culture is different, the people are different, and the expectations are different. At first they both resist, not wanting to fully embrace the ways of this new place, but as they spend more time there, they learn to see the good in the differences. Not only are they in a completely new place, but they are each traveling with guys who are totally unlike them. Because of this, they are forced to deal with the differences (which are sometimes great) and, instead of fighting against the differences, they each learn to embrace them. It's not always easy to accept the ways people and places are different from what you're familiar with, but, as Elizabeth and Jessica found, when you open your mind to new things, you can have some pretty wonderful experiences.

  6. A good attitude is everything. When the twins first found themselves in a new place, neither of them were very pleased and immediately wanted to find a way home. However, as time went on and they realized that they'd have to go through a lot before they ever returned to Sweet Valley, their attitudes began to change. Instead of becoming discouraged or frustrated, both began to take on a positive attitude. And even when they were faced with some pretty tough situations, they both remain upbeat and hopeful that they'll someday make it home again. Honestly, if I were in their shoes, I don't know if I would be able to handle some of the things they faced without having a serious meltdown, but both of them really seemed to keep a positive attitude which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest lessons in the book.  

  7. Don't be afraid to get creative. As Elizabeth and Jessica encountered more and more strange situations, they (and their companions) were forced to get creative. When you're in a strange land filled with magic, I'm sure it becomes a little more imperative to make use of creativity, but I think we can all apply this in the real world. When we're faced with situations that are new to use and we feel like we have no idea what to do, the best bet is to get creative. Elizabeth and Jessica were forced to come up with some pretty clever ideas when they found themselves in some tricky situations. Re-reading the novel reminded me that we really are more creative than we give ourselves credit for, and, if given the right situation, we're likely to see just how creative we can get. But why wait for our creativity to be forced out of us? We don't have to travel to some imaginary place to get creative -- we can start right now!

  8. Trusting is sometimes the only option. When the twins arrive in this new and unfamiliar place, they are not with one another and, instead, find themselves with two complete strangers. Since they don't know where they are (or even how they arrived there!), they're left with almost no choice but to trust these two characters. Of course, I'm all for being wary of strangers, but I do think the book offered a good reminder to me that sometimes strangers aren't necessarily the worst people to trust. In fact, sometimes you don't have an option but to trust others. Trusting doesn't always come easily for everyone (and it certainly would be hard if you found yourself in a completely unfamiliar place with a stranger!), but it's important to be option to it while still being smart about your surroundings. It can be tempting to put up barriers when it comes to people you don't know, but if you let others in a little bit, if you trust just a little bit, you might just be surprised by how much you can benefit.

  9. You are stronger than you think. Often we don't realize just how much strength we possess until we're put to the test. This was definitely the case in the novel. Had someone given them a preview of what was to come, Jessica and Elizabeth probably never would have believed they would have been able to do some of the things they did when they were journeying throughout this foreign land. It's the same with us. More often than not, we don't realize how strong we are until we experience our own power and stamina. It truly is amazing what some people are able to go through -- and many of them never would have thought they could do it. Even in my short life, I feel like I've been through a lot and I don't think, if someone had told me 10 years ago about all of the things I've been through, that I would have believed I could do it. One of the key lessons I learned when re-reading this book was that we're usually a lot stronger than we give ourselves credit for and, when we're facing a tough time, we need to remember that.

  10. Be prepared for the unexpected. The book begins with the twins mysteriously entering into this completely new and magical place and, while I'm well aware that things like that don't happen in real life, we generally have a lot of unexpected things occur. It's often when I finally feel like I have a plan in place that something happens and my whole world is turned upside down. While I suppose there's no really good way to be prepared for things you can't expected, you can be aware of the unexpected and realize that even the most carefully laid plans can be disrupted. As I was reading the book, I realized that sometimes you really do have to go with the flow. Life can throw you some pretty crazy curve balls and, while we're not going to wake up in some mythical kingdom one unsuspecting morning, we're probably pretty likely to be faced with some unexpected situations throughout our lives. So, don't fear the unexpected -- be on the lookout for it and realize that sometimes it really is a pleasant surprise in disguise.



If you're interested in learning more about the book (without actually reading it), check out the following: Sweet Valley Twins: The Magic Christmas. It's an interesting review and synopsis of the book (though it definitely contains some spoilers so don't read it if you think you might read the book!). I suppose, after giving it some thought and re-reading the book for the 15+ time, I realized that there are some pretty great lessons in the book. It's definitely geared to young girls, so I can't say that my mind is super stimulated every time I read it, but I do feel like there's a reason that I keep coming back to it year after year. Yes, it's a tradition, but there's also something meaningful in the book for me. Now that I've revisited it with a fresh perspective I see that I probably learned a lot from the book as I a kid and, even now, as an adult, I learn new things every time I read it. As silly as it might be, I can say for sure that I'll be picking it up and reading it again next December...


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Hey Dani.

About point #1 there, I am glad about that, as I sure don't plan to give up. I think a few of us have that attitude in some categories, and we should appreciate that, as it means we are in good shape to be key figures in those categories.

On that point about getting creative, I got something valuable from that, and know exactly how I will use that reminder, so I am glad I saw that. Aside from that, I often think about how it is a shame if we don't put out creative creations we have in our mind, because I have never done so without having a few people be quite glad for it. Self-expression taken seriously can make a lot of other people happy and/or fulfilled.

Solid set here.

My tradition is to watch "it is wonderful life" every christmas, movie about hope, inspiration and feeling good in people around you. No matter how bad your life is, how would it be if if you were not in it? I ponder sometimes and things do not seem so bad. Good post Dani

I love young adult fiction and when I worked in a school library I often picked up seemingly simple little tales to read... it is amazing how much you can get out of these kinds of stories. What a wonderful tradition... there is something very comforting in re-reading favourite books!! You have shared some lovely insight once again, thank you!!

One of my Christmas reading traditions is the Hogfather by Terry Pratchet and it deals with some of the same ideas as a magic Christmas. Notg iving up and the importance of those people in our lives are both important topics and ones that it is always good to be reminded of.

(WOW, way to take me back! I don't think I've picked up a SVH book in a while and I agree, it's time!)

We are stronger than we think, we really are.

thanks for a book tip that holds so many great life tips, Dani. guess i'll be borrowing my great-niece's copy of Sweet Valley Twins Magic Christmas this year to check it out for myself.

i hope all of your Christmas celebrations are rich and filling in many ways.

Armen - Not giving up is so important and that really was one of the main themes in this book. I'm glad the point about getting creative resonated with you. It's really important to take whatever we have a find a way to use it that works for us. Self-expression is definitely a great way to fell fulfilled!

Zengirl - Great movie! It definitely has a positive message about family and how important it is. When you think about the lesson brought up in "It's a Wonderful Life," things really don't seem all that bad.

A.Simplicity - YA fiction is great! I stopped reading it years ago (aside from The Magic Christmas) but recently decided to look into it again. There are some great books out there! After all, look at how well that Twilight series is doing!

Quinn - Sounds like a great one! I'm going to have to check it out since I'm always looking for new books to read!

Hayden - Haha, I know! Every time I re-read The Magic Christmas, I feel like I'm going back in time a little bit. It's fun! And i'm glad you picked up on that one point. We really are so much stronger than we realize.

Lisa - You're welcome! It's a great book and, of course, a very quick read. I hope you get a chance to read it and that you enjoy it! :)

Hmm I was never a Sweet Valley girl...I might just give this a try, though. :)

AllWomenStalker - I know a lot of people weren't really into Sweet Valley, but this is a great book and it can definitely stand alone. No need to read the rest of the series to get this one! :)

I really like "you are stronger than you think."

One of my themes in life has always been testing my strength (on multiple levels.)

J.D. - Me too! It's such an important message and I think it really is true. That's awesome that you're testing your strength. It really is amazing what you can accomplish when you try!

A good attitude is everything =) sure is !

Rocky - It really is!!!

I LOVED this book! You brought back so many fond memories I have of it. I remember being awed by the twins' powers, how they were transported to that magical land, and how their bond stayed strong despite the challenges. It did not however make me any less afraid of harlequin clowns :P

Toni - Yay! I'm so glad you loved this book as well. I definitely still love reading it. I think because of it I'm pretty much scared of most dolls in general. Hahaha.

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