Every year around Christmas I read at least three things, each year revisiting works that are among my favorites.
A Christmas Carol – This isn’t a novel but just a longish story. I only say this to encourage everyone to pick it up. The book is not only a quick and easy thing to read, but few works read year after year so consistently edify and entertain each time. Besides the familiar story of redemption, the book is filled with Dickens’ humor, puns, clever word plays, and the use of imagery that make him a great author. Here’s an example from the first page: External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, nor wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. The often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.
A Child’s Christmas In Wales – I shouldn’t be jealous of this but I am. Dylan Thomas’ spare and creative use of words capture my imagination and my love of the lilt language can have. I would like to be able to write like him. Though the story is prose, at times it feels like poetry. Here’s the second line: All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon, bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. Anything of mine you read that seems a bit overly intense, too imagey, too artsy, is me trying to emulate Thomas. I should hardly try.
The Gift of The Magi – I would read this to you but probably wouldn’t make it through without breaking into tears, the story moves me so. In contrast to Dylan Thomas, O. Henry is a plain-spoken storyteller. He offers in this one a credible, homespun picture of what love and gift giving is all about. This short story is readable after supper or maybe Christmas dinner when the household is full and contented and not wanting to do much more than listen to a great tale.
A Visit from St. Nicholas – ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse, must be one of the most familiar first lines in Western literature. I read this to our children each Christmas Eve when they were young. In these latter days I memorized it so I can relish anew and easily, each year around this time, the sweet rhythm and rhyme of this fun poem.
Living a literary life all year fascinates, entertains and deepens. At holidays like Christmas, things literary can add a unique and precious dimension to the celebration.