A Literary Christmas
”It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero’s garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas.December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. ” Dylan Thomas.
When all the decorations are up and all the presents bought and wrapped, it’s time to settle down by the Christmas tree with favourite stories, brought out year after year as the best kind of Christmas tradition. What are your favourite Christmas books?
There must be Dylan Thomas ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ of course, full of poetry, humour and nostalgia.
‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” The opening chapters of ‘Little Women’ as the March girls celebrate an austerity Christmas 1860s style,buy presents for Marmee and give away their breakfast.
Another childhood favourite where the children have a hard Christmas is ‘The Long Winter’ by Laura Ingalls Wilder.The pioneer family try to survive a terrible winter when trains can’t get through and all the food is running out. Christmas is thin soup and home made presents and the turkey arrives frozen solid in May.
A lot of people share my love of Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising' where Will Stanton wakes on Christmas Day and walks out into a snow-bound landscape of long ago to start his new life as an Old One, fighting the Dark. Turn off the terrible film and enjoy the magic of the real thing.
A short story next. Shall it be Hercule Poirot enjoying a Country House Christmas with a mysterious message on his pillow "DON'T EAT NONE OF THE PLUM PUDDING. ONE WHO WISHES YOU WELL". (The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding) or perhaps 'The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle' in which Sherlock Holmes chases geese around London and solves the mystery of a rather unusual stuffing.
From ‘King John’s Christmas’ by A.A. Milne:
King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They’d given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.
For a real Victorian Christmas experience, there is ‘A Country Child’ by Alison Uttley, describing the decorations, the food and the traditional customs of a Derbyshire farm in the 1890s with the kitchen hung with bacon and ham, holly stuffed in every gleaming tankard, mummers at the door and that new fashion of bringing a tree indoors.
Last of all, the chapter ‘Dulce Domum’ from Wind in the Willows where Ratty and Mole visit Mole’s long neglected home and welcome in the local field mice carol singers for mulled ale (a little mulled ale goes a long way)
”Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!”