In the northern hemisphere at least, Christmas comes at a time of year when the days are short, the nights are long. Tradition winds the year to a close through Hallowe’en, when the door to the spirit world is rumoured to be at least ajar followed by Guy Fawkes Night (as if we ever needed an excuse for fireworks).
Then comes Christmas shopping, afternoon tea with buttered toast and fruit cake, roaring fires and staying safe and snug at home whilst the rain lashes at the windows and the wind howls around the chimneys. If we’re lucky, we might even have snow.
Favourite Christmas Stories
Everyone’s favourite Christmas memories are different, quite rightly so. Some people may experience a warm glow when The Night Before Christmas is quoted, whilst others may be more of the ‘Bah Humbug’ school of thought, feeling that Ebenezer Scrooge wasn’t such a bad chap after all.
The Christmas story itself is a sure fire winner. The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, King Herod, the mysterious star in the east, the young wife about to give birth, the new baby in the manger – all the elements of the story are well known and well loved, evoking memories of school carol services, our children as infant Marys, Josephs, wise men or shepherds and Christmasses long gone. It’s a story which is always fresh, despite its familiarity and which gains different dimensions as we ourselves grow older.
Five Great Christmas Reads
Christmas brings out the child in all of us, whether it’s the well nurtured child who approaches every Christmas secure in the knowledge that this one, just like last one, will be a magical family day, or the sad child who views Christmas with suspicious caution, wondering all the time when the nice present will arrive.
For children of all ages, shapes, sizes and persuasions, here is a list of five great Christmas reads, guaranteed to light a little spark of festive goodwill in the most stony of Scroogelike hearts.
- King John’s Christmas by A. A. Milne
This is a charming poem with a feelgood punchline, well worth ten minutes of anybody’s time.
- The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
If you’ve never read Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester, run out and beg, borrow or steal a copy straight away. It’s a new perspective on the old Elves and Shoemaker story, with mouthwateringly well drawn, detailed illustrations of a Britsh Victorian Christmas and mice in dresses.
- A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
The Welsh poet’s little story about a child’s view of Christmas in industrial south Wales between the two world wars manages to be lyrical, evocative, nostalgic and funny all at once.
- The Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot
I defy anyone to read the opening words of this poem without getting goosebumps. “A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year For a journey, and such a journey …….”
The three wise men become real people with real lives which have been rudely disrupted by a supernatural experience. The poet takes the reader on a journey with the Magi through the cold winter towards the stable in Bethlehem and a life changing birth and re-birth.
- The Spanish Lover by Joanna Trollope
This last one is a wild card choice, but the first few chapters of The Spanish Lover describe a certain sort of modern British Christmas in witty detail which makes it an ideal read (and quite a tonic) for any busy mother at Christmas time. The rest of the book isn’t bad either, so put it on your Christmas list and keep it as a treat for the New Year!