EverydayLOC: Holiday Inspiration from the Library of Congress

‘Tis the season to be jolly, be of good cheer and…be a thorough list-maker. Gift lists, grocery lists, invitation lists … there are so many things, and so little time that lists are essential to helping us make a bit more sense of it all.

The Library offers a lot of great resources that can (to borrow from our end-of-year giving campaign) inspire curiosity and spark conversation around the holidays. I have the great privilege of working here and sifting through the Library’s amazing offerings every day, but for someone new to the Library the volume might be overwhelming.

So, in the spirit of giving, I made a list for you. These are just a handful of ideas – 10, to be exact – for tapping into the Library during the holiday season in ways that can connect you with people, spark dinner-table conversation and just support the everyday life of those of us whose regular state of mind is “curious.”

We invite you to share comments or stories if you use any of these ideas. And even better if you have additional suggestions!


Rosa Parks circa 1995, by Monica Morgan.

1. Make Rosa Parks feather-lite pancakes

Among the personal papers of civil rights icon Rosa Parks was this handwritten recipe for “featherlite pancakes.” I have made them for family and friends (and co-workers) now on many occasions and they are always a hit for two reasons – one, they are delicious; and two, it opens the door to interesting and unexpected conversation on an important individual in history.


2. Nominate a film for the National Film Registry

The 2017 additions will be announced Dec. 13, but you can get a head start on next year by nominating now. This is a great way to turn the “what’s your favorite movie” debate into action. Remember, films must be at least 10 years old. For good measure, watch a classic from the list.

Cover image from Sweet Potatoes and Yams, 1918.


3. Learn the difference between sweet potatoes and yams

Settle this age-old question with this vintage post from one of the Library’s earliest web features, “Everyday Mysteries,” which continues to be one of our most sought out pages this time of year.


4. Record an oral history for the Veterans History Project

Since Congress created the Veterans History Project (VHP) at the Library of Congress in 2000, the Library has gathered oral histories and collections of more than 100,000 veterans of World War I through the present-day conflicts. This holiday season, sit down with a veteran (or veterans!) in your life and help preserve their stories for future generations. Learn how to participate in VHP.

Great Lines of Literature Mug


5. Shop for your favorite bibliophile

The Library’s shop offers a range of items for book lovers, history lovers and others on your list. Some of my personal favorites are this reproduction Jefferson decanter set, a mug covered with great lines from literature and these socks inspired by “Where the Wild Things Are.”

6. Enroll a loved one in NLS

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped offers free braille and talking book library services for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents them from reading or holding the printed page. Give the gift of reading to a friend or loved one who would benefit from this service.

Seeing With a Child’s Eyes by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1916.


7. Visit (virtually or in person!) our newly opened exhibit, “Drawn to Purpose”

The Library recently opened “Drawn to Purpose,” an exhibition of women cartoonists and illustrators spanning the late 1800s to the present. You don’t have to be in easy traveling distance of the Library to enjoy this thoughtful and wide-ranging selection of works from the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division. Most items can be viewed online. Some of my personal favorites include this sweet watercolor by Jessie Willcox Smith for a 1916 edition of Charles Kingsley’s fairy tale “The Water Babies” and this relatable watercolor published in the October 2001 issue of Working Woman.


8. Read “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”

This retelling of “The Night Before Christmas” was published in 1862. The entire book and its charming illustrations can be viewed and shared with the kiddos.


9. Plan next year’s vacation

This collection of historical travel photos will give you a major case of wanderlust. And these charming roadside images by photographer John Margolies will make you want to rent a camper and drive across America. If an annual trip is on your family’s list, print out a few of these in color to kick off a planning session.

Stolzenfels Castle on the Rhine River in Germany, ca. 1890–1900. | Dog Bark Park, Route 95, Cottonwood, Idaho, 2004.


10. Play Auld Lang Syne from the original sheet music

This digitized original sheet music from 1820 can be downloaded and printed. Plus, it includes the lyrics for all the verses, so no more excuses for humming on New Year’s Eve. You can hear a recording of chimes playing the classic from 1904 or Frank C. Stanley singing it with an orchestra circa 1905 or, my favorite, the Peerless Quartet singing it in 1918. For the very ambitious, there is also this 19-page Auld Lang Syne flute solo.

Auld Lang Syne, 1820.

Please let us know if you use any of these ideas. We’ll be posting these and other suggestions on social media with the #EverdayLOC hashtag. Join in the conversation!

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