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Christmas in Plains: Memories

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In a beautifully rendered portrait, Jimmy Carter remembers the Christmas days of his Plains boyhood -- the simplicity of family and community gift-giving, his father's eggnog, the children's house decorations, the school Nativity pageant, the fireworks, Luke's story of the birth of Christ, and the poignancy of his black neighbors' poverty.Later, away at Annapolis, he always went home to Plains, and during his Navy years, when he and Rosalynn were raising their young family, they spent their Christmases together re-creating for their children the holiday festivities of their youth.

Since the Carters returned home to Plains for good, they have always been there on Christmas Day, with only one exception in forty-eight years: In 1980, with Americans held hostage in Iran, Jimmy, Rosalynn, and Amy went by themselves to Camp David, where they felt lonely. Amy suggested that they invite the White House staff and their families to join them and to celebrate.

Nowadays the Carters' large family is still together at Christmastime, offering each other the gifts and the lifelong rituals that mark this day for them.

With the novelist's eye that enchanted readers of his memoir "An Hour Before Daylight," Jimmy Carter has written another American classic, in the tradition of Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" and Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales."

156 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2001

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About the author

Jimmy Carter

184 books454 followers
Librarian’s note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. was the thirty-ninth President of the United States, serving from 1977 to 1981, and the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. Prior to becoming president, Carter served two terms in the Georgia Senate and as the 76th Governor of Georgia, from 1971 to 1975.

As president, Carter created two new cabinet-level departments: the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price decontrol, and new technology. Foreign oil imports were reduced by 50% from 1977 to 1982. In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties and the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Carter sought to put a stronger emphasis on human rights; he negotiated a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979. His return of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama was seen as a major concession of U.S. influence in Latin America, and Carter came under heavy criticism for it. The final year of his presidential tenure was marked by several major crises, including the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Iran and holding of hostages by Iranian students, a failed rescue attempt of the hostages, serious fuel shortages, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. By 1980, Carter's disapproval ratings were significantly higher than his approval, and he was challenged by Ted Kennedy for the Democratic Party nomination in the 1980 election. Carter defeated Kennedy for the nomination, but lost the election to Republican Ronald Reagan.

After leaving office, Carter and his wife Rosalynn founded The Carter Center, a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization that works to advance human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. He is also a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project. Carter remains an particularly vocal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As of 2008, Carter is the second-oldest living former president, three months and 19 days younger than George H. W. Bush.


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5 stars
139 (19%)
4 stars
255 (35%)
3 stars
264 (36%)
2 stars
57 (7%)
1 star
10 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 123 reviews
381 reviews18 followers
November 27, 2022
This is a great book written by our former president Jimmy Carter. He remanices about his childhood Christmases spent in his home in Plains Georgia. It is a very quaint pleseant read.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
853 reviews101 followers
December 15, 2021
I read this a year or two ago, and even then I may have given this book only 3 stars. I would have to look to see.

I love Jimmy Carter, not that I recall his presidency, because I was not into politics back then. What I know about him now, and what I love is his humanitarian efforts. And he is basically a very good person.

For the first five chapters in my rereading of this book, it was pretty good. He talked about playing with the black kids who worked on his father’s farm, even picking peanuts, etc. with them.

Then at age 5 he wanted to sell his peanuts and his dad let him take them into town to sell, $5 a lb. I think.

Christmas on his farm was much like that on the Foxfire Christmas book that I read, and this year it is much like ours as well, but I wrote about that under Foxfire Christmas. I will just say that all of our ornaments are in the attic, and my husband wanted a Charlie Brown Christmas, and I said Yes.

In later chapters he talks about meeting Rosalynn, going into the military, etc. Christmas in Plains was actually not just one Christmas but Christmases over the years, and that is what bored me. I wanted one Christmas, maybe several wrapped up into one, but an autobiography that takes in many years? No.

I have one other book by him that is about his childhood, and someday I will give it a try.
Profile Image for Jill Myers.
252 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2016
A quick read by one of my favorite presidents. My reading of this was enhanced by the trip my Mom and I took to Plains, Georgia two years ago. Merry Christmas!
Profile Image for La La.
967 reviews127 followers
December 20, 2018
This book has many interesting historical facts about the winter holidays in the South, especially during The Great Depression, as seen through President Carter's memories of traditional Christmas celebrations in Georgia.

I read this book because I needed to check off a book, written by a politician no longer in office, for the Better World Books 2018 Reading Challenge; and seeing I only have ten days to finish the last five books in the challenge with the holidays also in full swing, I needed a short book. Ha ha. I knew I wanted to read a book by Jimmy Carter and this one was a perfect fit because not only is it short, it's about the winter holidays!
Profile Image for PacaLipstick Gramma.
501 reviews29 followers
August 19, 2014
Although this will probably not win any literary awards, I loved the style of writing. Jimmy Carter writes like he talks, as if he was sitting in your living room, and you, are his only audience. He shares his stories with intimacy and poignancy.
Profile Image for Karencita.
37 reviews
January 7, 2012
Book club Christmas selection. In an effort to choose an non-romance Christmas-themed novel, my book club selected this pseudo-memoir by former President, Jimmy Carter. I have always felt a special affinity to Carter as I was born during his administration. Additionally, I think out of all the president's to date, I resonate most with his peace-building, human-centric policies. I call this book a pseudo-memoir, as Carter re-tells his life stories through the lens of the annual celebration of Christmas - whether that is in his home town of Plains, Georgia, in various locations with the Navy or in the White House. I was most struck by his remembrances of childhood depression era Christmas celebrations. The sharp focus on friends, family and appreciating the small things in life are in sharp contrast to the hyped-up, larger-than-life, capitalistic Christmas celebrations of today. For me, a perfect reflection on simplicity, contentment and the "true" meaning of Christmas during this busy holiday season.
Profile Image for Clark Hallman.
371 reviews14 followers
December 13, 2014
Christmas In Plains by Jimmy Carter – This a truly delightful memoir by the 39th President of the United States. It focuses on his family’s Christmas celebrations through the years, beginning when he was quite young through his years in the White House, after he left the White House and after he returned to Plains. However, this memoir also provides fascinating glimpses his life in Plains, in the Navy, as the Governor of Georgia, as the President of the United States of America, and his life after the presidency. It’s a thoroughly charming portrait of this acclaimed, humble, compassionate and spiritual man and his family. In addition, Amy Carter contributed illustrations for this book.
910 reviews14 followers
November 15, 2011
I have read this book every year for the past 10 years. I was elected Commissioner of the Revenue of Clarke County on the 8th so this book has meaning to me. Every year I read it I find something new.

It is very nostalgic of how Jimmy Carter celebrated Christmas with his family from the time he was a child thru his term of President. Christmas is not always about gifts it is also about time spent with family and friends making memories.

I learned this time that Jimmy Carter's father died of Pancreatic Cancer, same as my Dad.
315 reviews
May 16, 2010
memories of Christmas. Sweet, simple book that would not have been published if not written by ex president.
Profile Image for Lisa Bonack.
246 reviews
December 15, 2016
This was a charming little book filled with personal and historical tidbits from the Christmases in Jimmy Carter's past and illustrated by his daughter, Amy.
147 reviews26 followers
December 26, 2018
I enjoyed reading about his childhood Christmases in Plains although I got rather bored with the adult Christmases.
But, I’m glad I stuck with it because reading the book reminded me of some of his achievements, especially post-presidency. He has worked unceasingly with Habitat for Humanity and established the Carter Center which works for human rights worldwide.
Overall, the character a President should have.
Profile Image for Robin.
799 reviews21 followers
June 9, 2017
As presidents go, I’ve always liked Jimmy Carter. From his humble country roots to his humanitarian efforts, he seems like a sincere man with solid values and great regard and respect for others. His belief that all Americans should be able to afford a home and his desire to help them do so inspired his post-presidential Habitat for Humanity project. Unlike many politicians, he could not be bought out by special interest groups. His farmer’s forward-thinking desire to save the western states from the destructive cattle ranching industry cost him reelection. If only he had succeeded in regulating the cattle industry, rather than losing every state west of Minnesota in the 1980 election, scarcity of water and ruined public lands would not be the severe problems that they are in the West today. But I digress.

Former US president Jimmy Carter’s audiobook of Christmas memories gives us insight into his personality and values as well as his experiences. Throughout, he shows great compassion for others and the ability to laugh at himself. His sentimental attachment to Plains, Georgia, where he grew up is evident. In his own sweetly accented voice, Carter offers us a slice of Americana both in his rural Southern childhood recollections and his descriptions of US government history as he experienced it during his years in elected office.

Carter loves and values his hometown, his church, his farm, and his family. From watching his mom make sure that farmworkers' children received a gift, to sending out thousands of Christmas cards from the White House (without charging it to taxpayers), to finessing the financing to get a poor man into a home where everything worked and nothing leaked, his Christmas memories reveal his background and character.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Jimmy Carter. The audiobook format works best, allowing the reader to enjoy the recollections in Carter’s own voice. It’s a charmingly nostalgic look at a lifetime of Christmases, changing throughout the years as they do for all of us.
Profile Image for Heidi Burkhart.
1,967 reviews28 followers
November 7, 2016
A sweet, honest story about the meaning of home, family, and Christmas to one of our former presidents.
Profile Image for Steve Haywood.
Author 16 books40 followers
December 19, 2020
Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States, in office from 1977 to 1981. At the time I'm writing this (December 2020), he's the oldest living President, the longest lived US President ever and he has the longest post-Presidency of any of them - 40 years in January. I'm not American, so don't have much knowledge of his presidency, but I know he's a man of fairly humble beginnings, and someone who has arguably done a lot more for America and the world since leaving the presidency, through his charity and humanitarian work. He's also written a lot of books. I've never read any of them, but have long admired the man and wanted to read something of his. Every Christmas I think about reading this book of Christmas reminiscences, and this is the year I finally got around to it.

This is a fairly quick read, and I found it a fascinating book. It starts off with his reminiscences of early childhood Christmases, growing up in the Great Depression of the early 1930s (he was born in 1924) in a Georgia that was still racially segregated. Carter spent his childhood playing mainly with the black children in the neighbourhood, and it seems his family was very progressive compared to most, but the book does show the differences between the Carters and their black neighbours, in terms of Christmas and more generally. More than anything, the book shows a much more humble Christmas, free of commercial influence, but full of joy, family time and happy memories.

The second half of the book, which I enjoyed less but was still good, skipped lightly across the years and mentions Christmases when he was serving in the navy, when he was governor of Georgia, his years in the White House, and in the post-presidency years. There's a particularly poignant description of a Christmas in the early 1990s when they spend the time up to Christmas helping build a house for a black neighbour including a last minute rush to get it ready on Christmas Eve night. He described it as probably his best Christmas memory.

Overall, a really interesting and enjoyable book.
Profile Image for Robin.
429 reviews4 followers
November 25, 2017
This was a very pleasant book to read on this foggy Saturday morning. While I enjoyed President Carter’s memories of Christmases over the years, I was most appreciative of the reminder of what a real president is like — a person who is kind and caring to all, someone who is dedicated to peace and unity throughout the world, a leader who believes in solving problems through diplomacy and negotiation and who has respect for all cultures and differences.
Profile Image for Joanne.
927 reviews
January 2, 2023
An enjoyable and nostalgic Christmas read by 39th President Jimmy Carter. I really enjoyed the White House years as it reminded me of some US history that I forgot. Details changes in life from the 1930 - 1980's.
Profile Image for Liz.
85 reviews
December 28, 2016
I'll give any book of Jimmy Carter's five stars on principle, because I have such incredible respect for him, but this is charming and nostalgic.
Profile Image for Laura.
260 reviews
December 29, 2016
It is a feel good book, wonderful to read around the holiday. Have always been interested in President Carter, and this was a small and wonderful way to get a glimpse into his life.
Profile Image for Jeannie.
528 reviews24 followers
February 6, 2017
An enjoyable read. I love Jimmy Carter as a person and past president.
Profile Image for Mark Bunch.
343 reviews4 followers
December 16, 2018
US President Jimmy Carter is a great man. Enjoy reading what Christmas has meant for him. It traces his story from childhood through the Oval Office. A nice, quick X-mas read.
Profile Image for Judith Leipold.
481 reviews5 followers
January 21, 2018
For fans of a quick read, or "Hallmark" family sagas this one might be for you. I am not a fan of either. I was looking for a fill in for a long dark winter afternoon. Surprisingly, this was as satisfying as cup of hot tea. It wasn't great literature (hence the 3 stars), but highly readable and enjoyable. I was younger during JC's Presidency and was busy with life. The book allowed me a second chance to meet the man, and learn of his values. Thank you, Mr. President!
Profile Image for Daryl.
60 reviews1 follower
December 20, 2017
Former President Jimmy Carter looks at Christmas, starting with his childhood and time travels through the early days of marriage to his time in the White House. Many of us can relate to the childhood Christmases he remembers, if not having experienced themselves at least as stories told by grandparents of the excitement of receiving an apple, orange, nuts and maybe peppermint or chocolate candy and if they were lucky, something like new shoes. My grandmother told these stories time and again, of how they would sit up in their beds on Christmas Eve, listening to the rustle of the brown paper bags being filled with those goodies. As a kid I never truly appreciated those stories as I do now.

Former President Carter's time in politics figures into Christmases past but only as supplemental facts as to their impact on those particular holidays. He ends the book with what he lists as his possible favorite Christmas that reveals what we already know about this man----that he is a good, Christian man with a love and sincere hope for the betterment of others. This is a quick and easy read, perfect for the holiday season!
420 reviews3 followers
December 8, 2017
Jimmy Carter's An Hour Before Daylight as a well honored memoir. In these pages Carter adds to those memories as he returns to boyhood Christmases in Plains, GA. Here are the unique small town personalities and the then careful intersection of blacks and whites in the days of segregation. The foods-mouth watering and repulsive (check the sousemeat; my mother recalls her father crafting that awful concoction in a time when no part of a hog was wasted). And we see a small town boy grow and fall in love and set out to see the world in a journey no one could predict would lead to the White House. Carter follows up his boyhood years with the stories of four Christmases in the White House. The decorations chosen, the children's parties, and the hemorrhoids-yeah that's right. Although Carter never actually names his 1978 holiday affliction. Anwar Sadat makes that announcement! Carter's 1978 pain became a nation's affliction in 1979 with American hostages held in Iran, and that crisis leads to the final Carter White House Christmas after defeat by Ronald Reagan. Here are the Christmas memories of an honest leader in reflection on his boyhood, his family and his Presidency.
Profile Image for James Klagge.
Author 15 books79 followers
December 7, 2011
Not so much about Christmas as it is a memoir that focusses on things that happened in his life near Christmases. One passage was poignant for me. He recalled a Christmas when he was young, in which he didn't get anything that excited him--to the point where he was almost feeling forgotten. Then his father pointed out that Santa sometimes left things outdoors, at which point he discovered that there was a pony waiting for him. This was a great gift which he loved. But it was almost as though the disappointment leading up to it couldn't be erased. That was my experience, probably at a similar age, when my parents had to steer me to look in another room, where a race car track was already set up for me. It was a great present that I loved, but the disappointment preceding it has always stuck in my memory.
Profile Image for Sue.
Author 1 book37 followers
July 5, 2009
A small book describing the former American President's memories of family Christmas, mostly at his parents' home in the oddly-named town (I assume it's a town) of 'Plains'.

It covers many decades, starting from Jimmy Carter's earliest memories of Christmas at home in Plains. It leaps through the years, including the time when he was President, and then looks at some more recent Christmases.

Interesting reading, though not compelling. What struck me most was the racism that was still rampant in the USA seventy odd years ago; the Carter family were clearly very tolerant and accepting, but even so, many of the comments show how different black and white people were considered to be.

Three and a half stars, really.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 123 reviews

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