100 Fun Things to Do At Christmas

There's a reason so many people feel like the holiday season is an impossible whirl of activity, errands, and obligations: took me less than an hour to brainstorm the following list of 100 traditional ways to celebrate the Christmas season.

Perhaps this list will help remind you of traditions you might otherwise overlook ... or inspire you to build new holiday traditions with the people you love.
  1. Find the Perfect Tree.  Nothing gets my family in the Christmas mood like our annual trip to the local Christmas tree lot in early December.  The smell of fresh-cut evergreen, our breath emerging in puffs in the chill evening air, little kids playing hide-and-seek among the stands, the thrill of finding the perfect tree and tying it onto the top of the car ... all of these make this one of my very favorite Christmas rituals.
  2. Slay your own Christmas tree. Or, look up Christmas tree farms, load up your handsaw, and get the freshest tree there is.
  3. Decorate the tree (or trees!). You can use the same ornaments every year, or get creative and create a new tree every year with decorations you collect and/or make yourself.  (See Theme Christmas Tree Ideas.)
  4. Make Christmas Tree ornaments.  Check out any of the hundreds of websites, books and/or magazines packed with homemade ornament ideas: there's something for every taste, price, and ability level.
  5. Set up a train around the base of your tree.  All the kids in your family will flock to your house to play with it.
  6. Create a Wreath.  Choose from dozens of ideas: floral wreaths, grapevine wreaths, holly wreaths, fruit wreaths, candy wreaths, jingle bell wreaths, etc. (See Wreath Ideas)
  7. Deck the halls with boughs of holiday. Channel your inner Fezziwig and drape festoons of pine and holly from the rafters or doorframes.  (Those 3M wall hooks with the removeable two-sided tape work well for this.)
  8. Don't forget the poinsettia. Every part of the house looks more festive with forsythia.  Grocery stores often sell small pots very inexpensively - as low as $1/plant - so buy a bunch!
  9. It Takes a Village.  Set up one of those store-bought holiday villages on a nice crisp piece of white felt to simulate the season.  Kids particularly enjoy the sets that feature moving parts.
  10. Light a candle.  The tradition of placing a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas eve harks back to the day when it was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they travelled looking for shelter.  
  11. Go retro.  Revive bygone holiday traditions such as draping your tree with tinsel, spraying your windows with fake snow, or draping popcorn/cranberry chains over the doorways of your house. 
  12. Countdown to Christmas. Advent calendars come in all sizes and shapes, but the idea is the same: starting Dec 1, members of the family open one door each day until they reach Dec 25.  My favorites are the advent calendars with a little gift (a piece of candy, a candle, an ornament) behind each door.
  13. Create an Outdoor Display. Share the joy of the holiday with your neighbors.  Feel free to do this tastefully (modest white lights along the roofline, perhaps a grapevine deer grazing in the yard) or dazzle them with a display of lights gaudy enough to humble Chevy Chase's character in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
  14. View Outdoor Christmas decorations.  The internet has become a great source for finding local houses and neighborhoods that stage particularly beautiful and/or tacky displays
  15. Decorate the table for holiday dinner. The holidays are the perfect opportunity to show off your best china, linens and glassware.  This year, consider leaving the table set so others can admire the finery.
  16. Enjoy a traditional holiday dinner.  Prepare a traditional holiday dinner, complete with roast beast (beef, duck, goose), robust side dishes (pumpkin, potatoes, carrots), and festive desserts (plum pudding).
  17. Enjoy Christmas Day breakfast. Christmas dinner may be more traditional, but don't overlook the opportunity to establish Christmas day breakfast/brunch as a family favorite.  We make the meal special for the kids by serving pancakes in the shape of snowmen, with chocolate chip eyes, mouths, and buttons.
  18. Prepare traditional foods.  Many families use the holidays as an opportunity to incorporate foods that reflect their racial or cultural heritage.  For instance, it wouldn't be Christmas at our house without the Baking of the Pasca, a traditional Slovak bread that's served with ham and pounds of butter.  (See It's Beginning to Taste a Lot Like Christmas.)
  19. Get nutty.  Back in the day, nuts were called "sweetmeats" and were a major holiday tradition.  So pull out your favorite nutcracker and indulge.
  20. Bake cookies. Perhaps the most traditional of holiday traditions!  To make this traditional activity more fun, my BFF and I always get together to do our baking at the same time, then we swap half of what we make so that each of us ends up with twice as many varieties.
  21. Give cookies.  Cookies are a great way to spread cheer to coworkers, teachers, neighbors and others who are an important part of your life.  My second favorite thing to do with cookies (besides eating them): cookie exchange parties! 
  22. Create with gingerbread. Make gingerbread cookies, gingerbread people, or gingerbread houses.  (One of our family customs is an annual gingerbread house decorating contest.)  It's festive and it smells great!
  23. Enjoy holiday libations. Enjoy any of the many libations - wassail, egg nog, hot chocolate, mulled wine - traditionally associated with the season.
  24. Eat fruitcake.  Do yourself a favor - bypass the store brands and spend a little extra to purchase a gourmet version from one of the better outlets: Macys, Harrods, etc.  Your stomach (and your teeth) will thank you.
  25. Go to church.  Remember the reason for the season.  Give thanks to God for all His blessings.
  26. Host a pageant. Sunday schools are the absolute best place to recruit for actors to reenact the night of Jesus's birth.
  27. Display your creche. Remember Christ's birth with a creche inside or outside your home.  Stores sell nativity scenes ranging from traditional to art deco, from tabletop size to larger than life.  The one we display is really quite simple - curved grapevines arching over unpainted creamy ceramic figures - but suits our decor, and our faith.
  28. Listen to the pealing of bells.  For me, there's no sound more associated with the holidays than the sound of bells - from the great booming peal of church bells to the hearty music of sleigh bells to the tinny clatter of jingle bells.  I like to hang sleigh bells from my doorknobs so that everytime I go in or out, I get to enjoy their heartening cheer.
  29. Light candles.  Christmas is best celebrated by candlelight, from chandeliers alight with candles at ancient churches to the flickering glow of cinnamon-cented tea candles glowing through festive hurricanes at home.
  30. Put on a pot of potpourri.  Christmas is also a season of delicious smells - evergreen, clove, frankenscence, cinnamon.  Fill your house with pretty bowls of potpourri or a leave a teapot filled with fragrance heating on your stove all season.
  31. Put on a play.  Challenge the kids in your family to stage their own version of A Christmas Carol or The Night Before Christmas, or to invent a script of their own that celebrates the magic of the season.
  32. Go wassailing.  Go caroling around your neighborhood, or carol in front of a local church or landmark.  (See Most Popular Christmas Carols)
  33. Burn a yule log.  One of my favorite pagan traditions is the burning of the yule log.  The Druids would bless a log and keep it burning 12 days during the winter solstice; part of the log was kept for the following year, when it would be used to light the new yule log.  At the 400yr old college I attended, a yule log was burned in the largest, most ancient of the school's fireplaces: students would then file by hurling sprigs of holly into the fire for good luck.  (Predictably, there was always a rush to fit this in before taking finals.)
  34. Roast things over the fire. All you need is a fireplace to indulge in such seasonal favorites as making popcorn over a live flame, roasting chestnuts, or melting marshmallows for homemade s'mores. 
  35. Hang stockings.  Just make sure you use hooks sturdy enough to support a weight of coal ... just in case.
  36. Go shopping. It's a shame this is the tradition most people probably think about first, and devote the most time to.  Which isn't to say that shopping isn't wonderful fun, especially that warm glow that comes from finding the perfect gift for someone you care about.
  37. Enjoy the last minute panic. I have my grandmother to thank for introducing me to this seasonal tradition.  The idea is to finish your own shopping, then sit yourself up at a small table in the middle of your local shopping mall (preferrably with a cup of coffee to sip and perhaps a couple of gourmet chocolates to nibble on) and enjoy the energy - and occassional panic - of folks rushing by who aren't yet done.
  38. Plan your Day After Christmas holiday shopping.  As you are shopping, make a list of items you'd love to purchase but that are to extravagent - or pricy - to justify.  Then use the list to guide your "day after Christmas" shopping, in hopes the items you covet will be on sale.
  39. Indulge your inner child.  It is said that Christmas is a holiday for children: fortunately, all of us are children inside.  So go ahead!  Give yourself permission to visit a toy store; linger at a storefront to watch the toy train wend their way through tunnels and around bends; gape at gingerbread house displays; or thumb through the Sears Holiday Giftbook and figure out what you'd ask for if you were a kid.   
  40. Make wish lists.  Someone's sure to ask you what you want for Christmas.  Be ready!  Online stores are especially convenient for windowshopping, and often offer "wish lists" where you can store your favorites.
  41. Gape at shopping mall decorations.  Malls typically pull out all the stops to turn themselves into festive destinations during the Christmas season.  (Don't feel bad - they have a lot more money to spend than you, and professional designers to help them.)
  42. Visit historic houses. Hunt out historical/notable homes in your area and enjoy the period decorations.  I'm fortunate enough to live in  the Virginia/D.C. where it's possible to visit a different historic house, mill, estate, or manor every day.
  43. Take a hay ride/sleigh ride/horse-drawn carriage ride.  There's something magical about feeling the crisp air on your face and looking up at the stars as the rhythmic clop of horse's hooves keeps time.
  44. See a show.  Local theaters often perform holiday-related works.  Here in D.C. it's not really Christmas unless you land tickets to see A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theater.
  45. Take in a concert.  Local choirs, symphonies, bands and performing groups all traditionally perform during the holiday season.  I'm a particular sucker for chorus sing-alongs, acapella groups, big-band swing Christmas celebrations, and handbell concerts. 
  46. Messiah sing-along.  Tradition has it that upon finishing the final note of his Hallelujah Chorus, Handel burst out of his study, tears streaming from his eyes, exclaiming: "I think I did see Heaven before me, and the great God Himself."  Join a few dozen of your fellow citizens to perform this amazing work of music live and I dare you not to experience a similar sense of the miraculous.  
  47. See The Nutcracker. Another holiday tradition, and who knows? Maybe you'll witness the next Gelsey Kirkland making her 12-yr old debut as Clara Stahlbaum.
  48. Attend (or watch) a holiday parade. If your community doesn't host a holiday parade, then be sure not to miss the granddaddy of them all - the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - on television.  
  49. Visit holiday destinations.  If you're lucky enough to have one in the area, take a roadtrip to a holiday destination such as Santa's Village (many states have them) or specialty Christmas super-stores.  Large amusement parks like Busch Gardens, Six Flags and Kings Dominion sometimes also open their gates for the season, highlighting holiday entertainment, decorations, and activities for the kids.
  50. Visit a holiday craft festival.  Lots of local organizations (churches, schools) raise money by selling crafts during the holiday season. Or attend one of the larger, more commercial craft fairs that often rent out expo or conference centers at this time of the year.
  51. Go ice skating. Strap on a pair of skates and remember that no matter how many times you fall, there's always the consolation of a steaming cup of hot chocolate at the end of the outing.  I have a particular affection for outdoor skating rinks because I like to pretend I'm gliding through the stars above.
  52. Order a holiday beverage at Starbucks. It's simply not Christmas until I've had my first gingerbread latte of the season!
  53. Dyour car.  Favorites around here include mounting wreaths on the front grill and/or affixing red rudolph noses between the cars' headlights.  However, I save my highest praises for those who figure out how to actually drape their cars with Christmas lights!
  54. Decorate your pet. Buy your dog/cat/bunny/etc. a santa suit/hat, take their picture, and then use it as your Facebook picture for the rest of the season.  You know you want to.
  55. Watch holiday movies. So many to choose from! But we have certain favorites that we watch every year, always in the company of the same traditional group of family/friends.  (See 60 Favorite Christmas Movies)
  56. Watch holiday specials on television. I know that these days you can buy just about any holiday special on DVD, but there's something special and a little magical about checking each weeks' television listings to see when ACharlie Brown Christmas is due to air, and then counting down the days to it's arrival, that can't be matched in video format.  Or perhaps for your family it's How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, or The Little Drummer Boy.
  57. Listen to holiday music. You can create your own holiday playlist on iTunes or tune into a local radio station that plays holiday music 24/7 throughout the season.
  58. Enjoy old time radio holiday broadcasts. Go to the Library of Congress audio site and download the Campbell's Playhouse version of A Christmas Carol, with Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge.  Or download Lux Radio Theater's radio version of the movies It's A Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, featuring the original actors.  Or if you're in the mood for something really sentimental, download the Command Performance Concerts that were beamed to our troops oversees during WWII, featuring guest appearances by Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and a bevy of starlets. 
  59. Play. Take advantage of time with your family to bond over board games, card games, jigsaw puzzles.  Or, make like Scrooge's nephew and amuse yourself with such Victorian favorites as Blind Man's Bluff, charades or 20 Questions.
  60. Tell stories. Share stories about Christmases past: long past or your past. To this day one of my most treasured holiday memories was listening to a friend's grandfather recount his memories of the Christmas truce of WWII.
  61. Christmas coloring. An activity everyone in the family can enjoy, and when you're done you can cut out the pictures and hang them on walls or windows as decoration.
  62. Show off your tackiest holiday sweater. Embrace this unfortunate tradition by embracing "Your Tackiest Holiday Sweater" as a theme for a holiday gathering. I particularly enjoy the ones that manage to work in kittens, gold lame, and/or flashing lights.
  63. Show off your tackiest holiday jewelry. I'm always amazed at what otherwise fashionable people will wear in their ears, around their necks, or pinned to their sweaters over the holidays.
  64. Wear your Santa hat in public. It's the one time of the year when you can wear a goofy hat out of doors and no one will think any less of you.  (Additional advantage: Santa hats tend to be wonderfully warm, which makes them perfect for outdoor holiday events like caroling or ice skating.)
  65. Christmas on your computer. Download a Christmasy screensaver, send ecards, hunt for holiday recipes, look up craft ideas, and/or visit holiday websites to enjoy such games as "Rudolph the Redneck Reindeer."  
  66. Take a walk outside on a brisk winter day (or night). Especially when things start to get crazy busy, it's important to spend quiet time alone with all the good things He created, like brisk winter air, brilliant stars, bare limbs scratching in the breeze, and the whispering hush of falling snow.
  67. Write a letter to Santa. One upshot of this wonderful tradition (besides helping you figure out what your children want for Christmas) is that it creates a wonderful annual snapshot of your child's handwriting, priorities, and temperament.  Now that our kids have grown, they love chuckling over the letters they once wrote.
  68. Hang with Santa. No matter where you live, Santa is sure to be making a guest appearance somewhere, so drop by and pay your respects. 
  69. Track Santa.  Every Christmas Eve, NORAD (the U.S. North American Air Defense facility) uses its high-tech radar and satellite resources to provide real-time tracking of Santa's sled as it criss-crosses the globe.  Kids love this and, frankly, even most adults find the site charming! 
  70. Pop holiday crackers. You can buy them at nicer department stores or make your own.  The little prizes help keep kids from growing too impatient at the sloooow passage of time Christmas Eve.
  71. Lighten up.  Don't stress out!  Give yourself permission to laugh at stupid Christmas carols (The Ten Pains of Christmas is a personal favorite); make fun of over-the-top holiday decorations; invent goofy holiday traditions (ex: dangling a stuffed santa suit from your roof so that it looks like he's falling); or participate in Santarchy, a national event with celebrations in most major cities.
  72. Celeberate with Family.  Don't get so caught up with the superficial stuff like shopping and cooking that you forget one of the main reasons for the season: spending time with family. Be sure to find a way to include distant relatives, whether via a phone call, photos, or a holiday visit via Skype.
  73. Celebrate with friends. Make time to share holiday traditions with friends, attend parties, and entertain: it's the one time of year when it's considered perfectly appropriate to throw your house open and allow friends from all your different activities and venues to meet and mix.
  74. Celebrate with your co-workers. Assemble for an office party, cookie exchange, or Secret Santa gift exchange. A good office party is one that allows folks to feel able to relax and share their warmer, more human sides with co-workers.
  75. Celebrate with your neighbors. Have a decorating contest, host a progressive hors devours party, or go carolling as a group.  Christmas is a great time to reach out to new neighbors and reconnect with old friends.
  76. Pose for a family portrait.  Christmas is a great excuse to coax the family into posing for an annual photo, whether your goal is to create a customized Christmas card or to discretely slide the result into the family photo album for posterity.
  77. Create holiday cards.  Holiday cards are easy to make, and family/friends won't soon forget the care you took to create something customized and special just for them.
  78. Send holiday cards.  I have little patience with people who complain: "I stopped sending cards out because it was too much bother/It's a waste of money/I never got any back."  This is the one time of year when it's appropriate to reach out to the people who have made your life special; the point isn't to solicit thanks or responses, but to make sure they know that they remain in your thoughts and prayers.  So suck it up and start licking envelopes: this is one lovely tradition that should never be allowed to lapse.
  79. Send holiday letters. I confess I'm also a fan of the much-maligned Christmas letter.  True, I've read some pretty awful ones.  The trick, I think, is to (1) only include the news people besides yourselves will care about, (2) avoid sounding pretentious, and (3) be sure to include anecdotes and stories that remind folks why they like you.
  80. Entertain.  There are so many seasonal-themed party ideas to choose from!  So there's no excuse not to get together with family, friends, "the girls", "the guys", "the kids", or your community.  (See Fun Themed Christmas Parties)
  81. Make homemade gifts.  Not only do homemade gifts show that you care enough about someone to spend time on them, but they can also be a frugal option if you have limited resources and/or a big family.  For ideas, see 90+ Homemade Gift Ideas.
  82. Exchange gifts.  The trope may be aged but it's true: there are few joys to match the pleasure of picking out the perfect gift for someone, then watching the smile of delight light up their face when they open it.  Feel sorry for folks who think of exchanging gifts as an obligation rather than as an opportunity.  
  83. Tag it.  Gift tags make a great mini-craft project.  Create them out of fabric, cookies, ornaments, tinsel, pictures trimmed from Christmas cards left over from past years, novelty papers, fabric ... pretty much anything!
  84. Dressed for success.  Wrapping can be a lot of fun if you let it.  Experiment with different papers, tags and bows.  My mom is a brilliant wrapper who likes to take her inspiration from the pattern of the paper: snowy paper sporting a festive paper ski jump; evergreen paper lapped by popcorn-cranberry "ribbon"; teddy bear paper topped by a brown felt bow.  Or consider wrapping a small gift card in an enormous box, just for the reaction you get!
  85. Work It Out.  Many stores take on extra help at Christmas, which makes the holidays a great time to earn a little extra money.  If you don't like the idea of standing behind a cash register all day, consider a job stocking shelves, pushing carts, wrapping gifts, or working as a Santa's helper.
  86. Give.  Donate money, toys, food or gifts.  There are a wealth of organizations that rely on holiday donations to see them though the year ... and, unfortunately, a wealth of families who rely on holiday food baskets to last them through the month. 
  87. Volunteer.  If you can't afford to donate money, toys, food or gifts, donate time.  There are plenty of organizations looking for help collecting donations, wrapping/packaging donated gifts, and preparing/serving food to those in need.  (See blog entry, Community Service Project Ideas)
  88. Visit shut-ins. They don't have to be your shut-ins ... most communities have a retirement center or other facility for senior citizens.  Nor do you have to make a big production out of it: just stop by to share a meal with someone, or watch television with them, or listen to their stories.  (Senior citizens always have the best stories.)  
  89. Say Thank You.  Distribute cards, small gifts, or tips to people the people who you are grateful for - teachers, the paperboy, the postman, the garbageman, that checker at the grocery store who always gives candy to your kids and brightens your day.
  90. Make Amends.  Take advantage of the general goodwill of the season to make amends for any wrongs you've done during the past year.  It's the perfect season to ask for forgiveness, and your last chance to wipe the slate clean before starting the new year.
  91. Engage in Random Acts of Kindness.  Clip coupons and leave them next to the items they discount. Offer free babysitting services to a stressed-out friend or colleague. Randomly pick a kettle and stuff a $20 through the slot.  Turn someone's car headlights off.  Let someone squeeze into traffic ahead of you.  Who knows - maybe they'll pass it forward and your small act of kindness will end up benefiting dozens of others.
  92. Count your blessings.  I've seen this done various ways: create a blessing jar, write them on pretty paper and hang them from a tree.  Or you can do this the old fashioned way by getting down on your knees and giving thanks.
  93. Be Kind to Critters.  Winter is a hard time for nature's untamed creatures.  Give them a hand by setting out seed for the birds, sharing a loaf of bread with your local ducks, or spreading pinecones with peanut butter and hurling them into the woods for smaller creatures to enjoy.
  94. Share Traditions.  Christmas is a wonderful time to share your family's cultural, racial and/or religious traditions with new generations.  For instance, though my husband's family is 3rd generation Czech, we remember the past through traditions such as baking Czech dishes and hanging traditional Czech ornaments on the tree.  If you haven't preserved any traditions, it's never too late to start establishing new ones.
  95. Remember Christmases past.  Remembering Christmases past - the bad ones along with the good ones - is an important way to refresh family memories and solidify family traditions.  This works best if you can find a way to involve multiple generations in the reminiscing.
  96. Kiss Under the Mistletoe.  'Nuff said.
  97. Celebrate All 12 Days. I don't recommend regalling your true love with 11 pipers piping (noisy) or 10 lord's a-leaping (destructive).  But do recommend allowing the holiday to extend the 12 days after December 25.  Often the run-up to the holiday becomes so frantic, there's little time left to fit equally important but less time-sensitive things like volunteering, spending time with family, and giving thanks.  Give yourself the gift of time: 12 extra days to enjoy the best things the season has to offer. 
  98. Shop 'Til You Drop. Take advantage of the post-holiday sales to stock up on steeply discounted wrapping paper, cards, ornaments, and gifts for next year!
  99. Create a Christmas scrapbook.  Gather together all your photos, momentoes (programs from concerts/shows, sheet music, party invites, shopping lists, letters to Santa, christmas cards, family newsletter, etc.) and Christmas memories and preserve them in a scrapbook.  If you use the same scrapbook every year, it will eventually become a treasured family heirloom, a record not only of Christmases past but of your family's history.
  100. Start planning your New Years Resolutions. Because it's never too soon to figure out what resolutions you'll be breaking by the second week of January.


25 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Washington, D.C.

I'm not sure any city in the nation "does" the Christmas holiday like D.C.  The area combines national celebrations, historical celebrations, and local celebrations to create a calendar stuffed with enough events to fluster even Martha Stewart!
  1. National Christmas Tree and Pageant of Peace.  The National Christmas tree is an 80+ft monster sparkling with lights, flanked by 50 smaller trees representing each of the states.  Don't expect spectacular decoratinos - since the trees are outdoors, most of the ornaments are encased in clear glass balls - but the lights are pretty and there are other displays sure to delight the kids, including a pen of reindeer and a model train display.  If you're very lucky, you may be able to land tickets for the night of the actual lighting, a big shindig that features celebrities, political notables and performance and is nationally televised.
  2. See the White House decorated for the holidays.  Remains to be seen whether, given security concerns, they decide to open the White House to visitors this year, but if you have an opportunity to take the tour, don't turn it down!  The interior of 1600 Penn Avenue always looks as though it were professionally decorated by the Ghost of Christmas Past, featuring garlands of evergreen, extravagent bouquets, lights, wreaths, and ribbon ... and as if that wasn't enough, there are almost always performers in the main areas regaling visitors with live performances of holiday classics.  Really pretty spectacular.  
  3. Ice skating at the sculpture garden.  Ice skating beneath the stars in the heart of historic D.C. - what could be more Christmasy? The rink draws semi-professional skaters showing off their moves as well as amateurs showing off their lack of expertise, and sales of hot chocolate are always brisk. 
  4. A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theater.  Must be at least the 30th year for this holiday tradition. They tweek the production every year, but it's always top-notch.
  5. The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center.  Traditionally the Kirov Ballet has done - or is that performed? - the honors, but regardless of the company, the production is always top-notch.  Tickets sell fast, though ... you'll want to call the first day they go on sale to land yours.  If you don't land these coveted tickets, however, never fear: every dance company in the DC area does some version of this!  Just check the listings for community stages and theaters.
  6. Handel's Messiah sing-along at Wolf Trap Park for the Performing Arts.  They also perform the Messiah at the National Cathedral, but I prefer the more plebian sing-along version at Wolftrap.  Every year this event reminds me how much talent we have in DC - the crowd may be plebian, but they sound amazing.  Warning: the performance is outdoors, so dress in lots of layers!
  7. Celebration of Lights (or is that Celebrations of Light?).  You'll find events of this sort scattered all over the DC/MD/VA area, usually at large regional parks because it takes a lot of room to display the 100s of huge lighted shapes that families will pay $$ to gawk at from the comfort of their heated cars.  The ones I'm familiar with include the displays at Bull Run Battlefield Park (Centreville, VA), Watkins Regional Park (Prince Georges Co.), Seneca Creek State Park (Gaithersburg, MD), Brookside Garden (Wheaton, MD), Sandy Point State Park (Annapolis, MD), and at Merriweather Post Pavillion (Columbia, MD)
  8. Zoolights at the National Zoo.  The folks at the National Zoo do a lovely job of turning the park into a Christmas destination.  Kids will love the 100s of animated displays, ice sculptures, choruses, and other seasonal performers.  
  9. Christmas at the U.S. Botanical Gardens.  Lots of buildings in DC feature special holiday displays, but I'm partial to the US Botanical Gardens spread, featuring models of DC landmarks flanked by gorgeous poinsettia displays, decorated trees, and a cool model train made of natural materials.  Makes a nice change of pace from the usual holiday decorations.
  10. Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade/ Annapolis Parade of Lights.  Both of these events feature festively (and creatively) lighted boats sailing down the Potomac River.  You can watch them from shoreline restaurants or any number of outdoor docks.
  11. Christmas Eve service at the National Cathedral.  Masses simply don't get any more grand than this!
  12. Festival of Lights at Mormon Temple.  Over 450,000 lights and (not surprisingly) an outdoor nativity.
  13. Traditional Christmases.  Almost all the local historical houses - to include Mount Vernon, Sully Plantation, and Montpelier - feature candlelight tours of the estates decorated in period fashion for the holidays. 
  14. Scottish Christmas Walk.  This rather odd but endearing event features almost 100 Scottish clans marching to seasonal bagpipe music.  What's the connection between Scotland and Christmas?  I'm not sure - but I can tell you that tends of thousands of tourists from all over the world gather in Alexandria VA every year for this celebration.  (The Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade is that night - see above for more details.)
  15. Holiday parades.  A bunch of local communities sponsor holiday parades: Manassas, Middleburg, Leesburg, Reston, etc.
  16. Winery events.  Virginia's wineries host a month of wonderfully diverse holiday events, from traditional Christmas dinners to concerts, performances, and mead tastings.
  17. Craft Festivals.  Stock up on gifts and decorations at such traditional holiday craft shows as the Sugarloaf Craft Festival or the Washington Craft Show.
  18. Holiday shows.  Venues like the GMU Patriot Center specialize in booking holidays shows such as Circ de Sole, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and the Disney on Ice Holiday Extravaganza.
  19. Holiday concerts.  Just about every performing group in the area hosts a concert show!  So get your music on with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, the Washington Chorale, Choral Arts Society of Reston, the military service bands, or take in the period festivities at the Folger Renaissance concert.
  20. Live Nativities.  Many local churches host "live nativities" - traditional nativity displays that feature live camels, cows, donkeys, etc. 
  21. Santarchy.  Like many other major cities, DC plays host to an annual "Santarchy" event, in which hundreds of local rowdies dress like Santa and take over a section of the city for an afternoon (traditionally the section that features the most bars).  It's definitely not politically correct: this one is not for the kiddies!
  22. ICE at the Gaylord Hotel.  Every year this mega-hotel located at National Harbor hires 40+ ice-carvers to sculpt a huge village of ice in one of the main areas of the hotel.  The houses are big enough to walk through!  Last year's theme was "Whoville".  Very cool.  (Sorry - pun was irresistable.  Really.)
  23. Christmas Revels.  Approximately 10 cities in the U.S. have "Revels" groups, whose mission is to preserve holiday traditions from bygone ages.  Every year the Christmas Revel celebrations the traditions of a different country/era, but you can count on the revelry including music, singing, dancing, storytelling and skits.  By the way, it's an interactive activity, so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to sing along.
  24. Christmastown at Busch Gardens.  This isn't strictly a D.C. activity, but Busch Gardens amusement park in Williamsburg draws a DC/MD/NOVA crowd so I'm grudgingly including it.  Every year, just after Thanksgiving, the park reopens as "Christmas Town," complete with decorations, entertainment, attractions, rides, shopping and more. 
  25. Model train exhibits. Don't know how or why models trains have become such a Christmas tradition, but they are one of my favorite things any time of the year!  And isn't it lucky that the D.C. area hosts half a dozen really terrific holiday train displays.  Check out the huge setup at Union Station, the outdoor setup at the National Christmas tree/Pageant of Peace, the all-natural train set at the U.S. Botanical Gardens, or one of the smaller but still spectacular train setups at Colvin Run Mill or the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum.
So - what are your favorite D.C. holiday traditions?  What have I missed?


Theme Christmas Tree Ideas

While I'm a big fan of tradition, seems a shame that the holiday tree tends to look exactly the same from year to year.  Wouldn't it be fun to challenge yourself and your family to create a new tree every year?  Or - keep the traditional tree but set up another tree somewhere else in the house to play with.  Or - set up a whole line of small Christmas trees in a hall and decorate each of them differently.

Here are some of the themes I've been thinking about trying.  Note that I've tried to stick to broad themes rather than anything too specific.  If you want an angel tree, or a pit bull tree, or a Santa Claus tree, go for it ... but my ideas are meant to be more general, able to incorporate ornaments representing any number of specific interests.
  1. Nature Tree.  All decorations have to be derived from nature - perhaps with the addition of some glitter and ribbon in moderation.  Pine cone balls, dried flower posies, baked orange or pomegranate slices, lemons, acorn clusters, straw wreaths, seashells ... so many ideas!
  2. Paper Tree.  All decorations have to be made from paper.  Think origami animals, pretty paper cones decorated with bits of lace, paper boxes tied with bits of ribbon, paper fans, pictures in paper frames, maybe even a paper airplane or two!
  3. Food Tree.  All decorations have to made from food.  Imagine gingerbread men, candy canes, and festively-wrapped candies dangling from festive red ribbon.  And don't forget the popcorn and cranberry garland ...! 
  4. Gingerbread Tree.  There are few foods more closely associated with Christmas than gingerbread: why not celebrate all that gingery, clovey goodness with a tree dripping with gingerbread houses, gingerbread men, and a garland fashioned from gingerbread stars and cranberries?
  5. Glass Tree.  There are so many beautiful ornaments made of glass!  Besides balls, look for glass candy canes, glass candies, glass ornaments, and decorative glass tiles.
  6. Craft Tree.  If you are the crafty sort, challenge yourself to decorate a tree with handcrafted ornaments.  Decorations can represent one specialty (ex: carved/turned wood decorations; sewn decorations; crocheted or cross-stiched decorations), or a variety of different artistic media.
  7. Burlap & Tartan Tree.  After you've finished hanging all the burlap & tartan ornaments, wrap the tree in burlap ribbon and top with a tartan star.
  8. Animal Tree.   Turn your tree over to animals - either a single species, or a mix of your favorites.  For instance, a bird tree might include bird ornaments, bird silhouettes pasted on paper circles, pinecones coated in birdseed, and mini-birdhouses.
  9. Star Tree. A lovely nod to the reason for the season, a star tree - composed of stars in all shapes, colors and textures - can be customized to match any style and d├ęcor.
  10. Alphabet Tree.  Collect different textures and styles of letters - wood, tin, fabric, paper, alphabet blocks, etc. - and then dangle them the branches of your tree using twine or wire
  11. Retro Tree.  Pick an era and recreate it in your living room.  Create a colonial tree, a Victorian tree, a 1950 tree, or a 1970s tree.  You don't necessarily have to limit yourself to decorations from that era as long as you faithfully reproduce the patterns and shapes of the era in the decorations you choose.
  12. Patriotic Tree.  Add a little patriotism to your tree by choosing ornaments that represent the U.S.A. Imagine red/white/blue ribbon rosettes sharing a tree with buffalo ornaments, retro tin Uncle Sams, miniature drums, and miniature scrolled Constitutions peaking out between strands of garland from which dangle retro state postcards - very unique!  (You can, of course, choose to celebrate another country entirely if your loyalties lie elsewhere - God Save the Queen!) 
  13. Wooden Toy Tree.  Celebrate your inner child by adorning your tree with wooden trains, cars, tops, yoyos, wheeled animal cutouts, trucks, and puzzle pieces.   
  14. Children's Tree.  Challenge your children to create all the decorations for your tree.  They can include paper doll chains, sequin-adorned styrofoam balls, pom-pom animals with googly eyes, pipecleaner candy canes, glitter-painted wood cutouts ... and then wrap it all up in a construction paper chain of green and red links.
  15. Color Tree.  Pick a favorite color and decorate the tree with ornaments of that color.  By all means pick red, green, gold, silver or another seasonal color - but why not take a chance and do an orange tree, a pink tree, or even a turquoise tree?  For variety, make sure you vary the size, texture, material, and shade of the ornaments you choose. 
  16. "My Favorite Thing" Tree.  What's your passion? Books? Camping? Cooking? Music? Gardening? Your faith? Decorate your whole tree with ornaments that celebrate the things you are passionate about.
  17. Collection Tree.  What is it that you collect?  Rocks? Spoons? Political memorabilia?  Pez dispensers? Antique playing cards?  Wooden thread spindles? Some collectibles are, admittedly, more suitable for a Christmas tree than others, but if your collectables are of an appropriate scale, consider turning your tree into a unique, festive display.
  18. Regional Tree.  Pick a part of the world that's close to your heart and create a tree that celebrates the region's culture. Perhaps a southwestern tree draped with Indian dreamcatchers and ornaments made out of dried cacti? A beach tree decorated with shells and starfish? A Hawaiian-themed three adorned with bright paper flowers and puka-shell garland? A British themed tree sporting teapots, red phonebooths and Union Jacks?
  19. Vacation Tree.  Either "repurpose" souvenirs purchased on family trips or create new ones to capture your family's travel memories. Seashell & starfish ornaments to represent those beach trips; a fish ornament for all the fishing outings with granddad; a dolphin to represent that trip you took to Sea World ....  Everyone in the family will enjoy reminiscing about great family memories as you decorate the tree together.
  20. Family Tree.  Challenge everyone in the family to create (or select) ornaments that represent themselves and/or members of the family - close or extended.  Photos work well ... or be a little less literal and select ornaments that symbolize each person's passions or personality. 


Most Popular Christmas Carols

Just in time for the holidays, I offer the following list of popular holiday carols.  I pulled this together because I was trying to identify songs suitable for caroling, then decided to post it in case it may help others do the same. Note that there are actually two lists: one of what you might call "traditional" carols, the other of novelty holiday songs.

  1. 12 Days of Christmas
  2. Adeste Fidelis
  3. Angels from the Realms of Glory
  4. Angels We Have Heard On High
  5. Auld Lang Syne
  6. Away in the Manger
  7. Carol of the Bells
  8. Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
  9. Coventry Carol
  10. Deck the Halls
  11. Ding, Dong, Merrily On High
  12. Do You Hear What I Hear?
  13. First Noel
  14. Go Tell It On the Mountain
  15. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  16. Good King Wencelas
  17. Hallelujah Chorus
  18. Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
  19. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  20. Here Comes Santa Claus
  21. Here We Come a'Wassailing
  22. Holly and the Ivy
  23. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  24. I Saw Three Ships
  25. I Wonder as I Wander
  26. I'll Be Home For Christmas
  27. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  28. It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
  29. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  30. Jingle Bells
  31. Jolly Old Saint Nicolas
  32. Joy to the World
  33. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  34. Let There Be Peace on Earth
  35. Little Drummer Boy
  36. Mary Did You Know?
  37. O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum)
  38. O Come, All Ye Faithful
  39. O Come, O Come, Emmmanuel
  40. O Holy Night
  41. O Little Town in Bethlahem
  42. Silent Night
  43. Silver Bells
  44. Sleigh Ride
  45. Star of Wonder
  46. We Three Kings
  47. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  48. What Child Is This?
  49. White Christmas
  50. Winter Wonderland

  1. All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
  2. Baby It's Cold Outside
  3. Believe (from "Polar Express")
  4. Bells Will be Ringing
  5. Blue Christmas
  6. Boogie Woogie Santa Claus
  7. Chipmunk Song
  8. Christmas Bells (aka "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron")
  9. Christmas in Killarney
  10. Christmas in New Orleans
  11. Christmas Island
  12. Christmas Waltz
  13. Christmastime is Here (from "A Charlie Brown Christmas")
  14. Feliz Navidad
  15. Frosty the Snowman
  16. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
  17. Holly Jolly Christmas
  18. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  19. I Want a Hippopotomas for Christmas
  20. I'm Getting Nothing For Christmas
  21. It Must Have Been the Mistletoe
  22. Jingle Bell Rock
  23. Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
  24. Mele Kalikimaka
  25. Mr. Grinch (from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas")
  26. Rockin' 'Round the Christmas Tree
  27. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
  28. Santa Baby
  29. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
  30. Silver adn Gold
  31. Suzy Snowflake
  32. 'Twas Night Before Christmas
  33. Up on the Housetop
  34. We Need a Little Christmas
  35. 'Zat You, Santa Claus?


Most Common Themes in Literature

Have you ever tried teaching theme to a class of middle schoolers? Trust me, it requires patience and a LOT of examples.  One problem is that there's no widespread agreement on a basic list of "most common literary themes."  (Believe me: I've done a lot of research on this.)  I think one reason is that all but the most primitive tales have numerous themes that can be interpreted in numerous ways, so categorizing texts by theme isn't really possible.  For example, is Don Quixote "mostly" about Man vs. Himself (Quixote's inability to see his own failings), or Man vs. Society (society's inability to recognize his innate nobility), or Good vs. Evil (rescuring people in distress), or the Nature of Love (his chivalric love for Dulcinae)?  See what I mean? 

Over time I've managed to winnow down my nominees for "most common literary themes" to the following. I realize that this isn't an inclusive list, but it incorporates (I believe) the most prevalent themes in classic and popular literature.
    1. AKA: Courage, Duty, Loyalty, Patriotism, Heroism, Nobility/Honor, Crime Does Not Pay  
    2. EXPLANATION: Most stories exploring this theme feature good triumphing over evil, and all the better if "good" is is vastly outmatched by "evil" but triumphs anyway, a la David and Goliath, The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter; though, sometimes, evil ends up triumphing over good (Night). 
    3. OVERLAP:  This category often overlaps with Love and Friendship (since the heroes risk their lives to preserve those they love), Man vs. Himself (since the heroes often struggle with themselves to find the courage to go on), Fate vs. Free Will (since often there is a prophecy or some other supernatural agency that has thrust heroism upon them), and Suffering and Redemption (since they often have to overcome their own demons in order to prevail).
    4. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein; Le Morte d'Arthur, Malory; Ivanhoe, Scott; all stories with detectives or superheroes
    1. AKA: Survival, Quest for Immortality 
    2. EXPLANATION:  Includes all stories in which the main character finds himself pitted against weather/environment (To Build a Fire), animals (Moby Dick), or life/death (Frankenstein). Sometimes humans triumph over nature (Swiss Family Robinson); more commonly, nature triumphs over humans (Jurassic Park).  Rarely, man and nature learn to exist together in harmony (Jungle Book); more often, mankind risks destroying nature and themselves with untamed technology (most science fiction).
    3. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway; Call of the Wild, London; Robinson Crusoe, Defoe; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson; The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wilde; Flowers for Algernon, Keyes
    1. AKA: Sacrifice, Love, Duty
    2. EXPLANATION: Includes pretty much all stories about love, in all its forms: romantic, platonic, godly, unrequited, familial, altruistic.  Usually, love triumphs over the barriers (natural, societal) placed in its way (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Taming of the Shrew) though, sometimes, love is unable to overmaster the odds set against it (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Romeo and Juliet, Ethan Frome). The one thing they almost all have in common is the overarching message that a life lived without love is a life half-lived.
    3. OVERLAP: Stories about obsessive love/jealousy (ex: Wuthering Heights) or improper love/jealousy (Sons and Lovers, Lolita) more properly belong under Man vs. Himself 
    4. OTHER EXAMPLES: All's Well That Ends Well, Shakespeare; Harry Potter, Rowlings; Fried Green Tomatoes, Flagg
    1. AKA:  Freedom vs. Authority, Individuality, Justice, Social Justice
    2. EXPLANATION:  My entirely unscientific survey of literature suggests that there are, alas, more examples of society conquering man (Catch 22, Farenheit 411, 1984) than examples of man conquering society (Moll Flanders, Tom Sawyer); though sometimes these two forces end in an uneasy draw (To Kill a Mockingbird).  A common subtext is that even society seems to triumph, the human spirit remains unconquered (Scarlett Letter, Uncle Tom's Cabin; Les Miserables).
    3. OTHER EXAMPLES: Cry, the Beloved Country, Paton; Heart of Darkness, Conrad; Invisible Man, Ellison; Native Son, Wright; Diary of Anne Frank, Frank; Animal Farm, Orwell; Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck
    1. AKA: Obsession, Greed, Pride, Hubris, Corruption
    2. EXPLANATION:  The usual subtext of these stories is that man carries within him the seeds of his own destruction, and the causes of self-destruction are indeed myriad: pride/vanity/selfishness (Hector in The Iliad, Rebecca Sharp in Vanity Fair), greed/ambition (Dr. Faustus, Richard III), obsession (Moby Dick), insanity (The Telltale Heart), desire for revenge (Othello, Count of Monte Cristo), jealousy (Wuthering Heights), cruelty (The Lord of the Flies), etc.  Sometimes, however, "Man vs. Himself" shows up as "You should never give up on your dream, no matter how hard the struggle," a particularly popular theme in teen fiction and movies about sports.
    3. OVERLAP: Stories about the ability of power/money to corrupt the human spirit overlap with Man vs. Society; though allowing themselves to be corrupted is a human failing, the instigating event is often a social inequality (political corruption, as in All the King's Men)
    4. OTHER EXAMPLES: Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald.
    1. AKA: Truth, Faith, Fate. 
    2. EXPLANATION: These books explore whether man has the power to create his destiny, or whether his destiny is predetermined, whether by willful gods or fickle fate.  This theme is more common in pre-20th century literature, when believe was more widespread that the gods meddled in the everyday lives of men. However, the theme lives in on literature by worth authors (think magical realism) and in novels that feature reluctant heroes who are somehow "chosen" or "predestined" to save the world. 
    3. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Bible; Oedipus Rex, Sophocles; Macbeth/Hamlet, Shakespeare; Harry Potter, Rowlings; The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein.
    1. AKA: Triumph over Adversity, Self-Reliance, Perseverance
    2. EXPLANATION:  These stories typically feature characters who seek to overcome obstacles or redeem past mistakes through courage, sacrifice, remorse, or divine intervention.  Sometimes they succeed (A Christmas Carol, Dickens); sometimes, however, one lapse in judgment haunts them forever (Lord Jim, Conrad; Atonement, McEwan)
    3. OTHER EXAMPLES: The Bible; Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky;  Scarlett Letter, Hawthorne; Oliver Twist/David Copperfield, Dickens; Les Miserables, Hugo
HONORABLE MENTIONS (themes that pop up in literature frequently, but not as often as those noted above):
  1. Appearances can be deceiving.  EXAMPLES: Frankenstein, Shelly; The Phantom of the Opera, Leroux; The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo
  2. Innocence, once lost, can never be regained. EXAMPLES: Peter Pan, Barrie; The Outsiders, EF Hinton; Catcher in the Rye, Salinger
  3. Mankind's imperative to discover/explore (aka Man's ingenuity). EXAMPLES: Around the World in 80 Days, Verne; Journey to the Center of the Earth, Verne; Atlas Shrugged, Ann Rynd.
  4. The glory of battle/the horror of war.   EXAMPLES: Iliad, Homer; All's Quiet on the Western Front, Lemarq; A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway
  5. Never make a deal with the devil.  EXAMPLES: Dr. Faustus, Marlowe; The Monk, Lewis; The Devil and Daniel Webster, Longfellow 
  6. The American Dream represents both great promise and great temptations. EXAMPLES: Sister Carrie, Dreiser; The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald; The Magnificent Ambersons, Tarkington


55 Unfinished Works by Great Authors

It shouldn't be startling to learn that most great writers left behind unfinished works upon their deaths; what would be startling is if they didn't.  I've always supposed storytelling to be more of a vocation than a career: those called to it don't stop creating stories just because death is pending. 

All the recent articles about the impending publication of Nabakov's The Original of Laura started me wondering what other great authors' works have been left unfinished - whether due to death, writer's block, or disinterest.  Following is the list I have culled from about 40 different sources, all of which appeared reputable (but who really knows)?  Some, presumably, were abandoned for good reason: in some way, they did not live up to the author's standards or vision.  Others, however, tantalize, leaving us to forever wonder what the author might have made of them.

Perhaps when I have more time I'll post a companion list of authors who did not leave unfinished works, which is some ways even more intriguing.  (Did so prolific a writer as Emily Bronte really write nothing between 1846 and her death in 1848?)
  1. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica
  2. Austin, Jane. Sanditon; The Watsons
  3. Bronte, Charlotte. Ashworth; The Moores; The Story of Willie Ellin; Emma
  4. Byron, Lord George Gordon. Don Juan
  5. Camus, Albert. The First Man
  6. Capote, Truman. Answered Prayers
  7. Chandler, Raymond. Poodle Springs
  8. Chaucer, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales. (Only 24 of the 124 Tales were finished)
  9. Coleridge, Samuel. Cristabel; Kubla Kahn
  10. Collins, Wilkie. Blind Love
  11. Dickens, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  12. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Netochka Nezvanova
  13. Dumas, Alexander. The Last Napoleon
  14. Ellison, Ralph. Juneteenth (aka Three Days Before the Shooting)
  15. Faulkner, William. Elmer
  16. Flaubert, Gustave. Bouvard and Pecuchet
  17. Fitzgerald, F. Scott.  The Last Tycoon
  18. Forster, E.M. Arctic Summer
  19. Frank, Anne. Diary of a Young Girl
  20. Greene, Graham. The Empty Chair
  21. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Dolliver Romance; Septimium Felton; The Ancestral Footstep; Dr. Grimshawe's Secret
  22. Hemingway, Ernest. The Garden of Eden
  23. Hugo, Victor. Les Jumeaux (prose); Dieu (poetry); La Fin de Satan (poetry)
  24. James, Henry. The Ivory Tower; The Sense of Place
  25. Joyce, James. Stephen Hero; Giocama Joyce
  26. Kafka, Franz. The Trial; The Castle; Amerika
  27. Kerouac, Jack. The Sea is My Brother
  28. Lewis, CS. The Dark Tower; The Man Born Blind
  29. Marlowe, Christopher.  Hero and Leander
  30. Melville, Herman. Billy Budd
  31. Nabakov, Vladimir.  The Original of Laura
  32. O'Brian, Patrick. (published as) The Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey
  33. Orwell, George. The Quick and the Dead; A Smoking-Room Story
  34. Plath, Sylvia. Double Exposure
  35. Poe, Edgar Allen. The Journal of Julius Rodman (serial prose)
  36. Salinger, J.D. (Too soon to know; executors of his estate have hinted that he may have left up to 15 unfinished works)
  37. Sayers, Dorothy.  Thrones, Dominations
  38. Shakespeare, William. Love's Labours Won (Controversial: may just have been an alternative title for The Taming of the Shrew)
  39. Spenser. The Fairie Queene
  40. Steinbeck, John. The Acts of King Arthur and His Nobel Knights (a retranslation of Le Morte d'Arthur)
  41. Stevenson, Robert Lewis.  Weir of Hermiston
  42. Styron, William. The Way of the Warrior
  43. Swift, Jonathan. The Legion Club
  44. Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian Wars
  45. Tolkien, J.R.R. The Silmarillion
  46. Tolstoy, Leo. The Light That Shines in Darkness
  47. Twain, Mark.  The Mysterious Stranger
  48. Thucydides.  The History of the Pelopennesian Wars
  49. Verne, Jules. Voyages D'Etudes
  50. Vonnegut, Kurt. Look at the Birdie (short stories)
  51. Wallace, David Foster. The Pale King
  52. Wharton, Edith.  The Buccaneers
  53. Wilde, Oscar. A Wife's Tragedy (drama)
  54. Wodehouse, P.G. Sunset at Blandings
  55. Wordsworth, William. The Recluse