Two special books stand out as rare family classics for the Christmas season.
- The Christmas Story Book: selected by Ineke Verschuren (see end of articles for details)
- The Christmas Book: Stories, Poems and Carols for the Twelve days of Christmas: selected by Caroline Royds (see end of article for details)
These truly are books to have on hand as the Christmas season commences and to bring out just before bedtime or on any wintry afternoon. Each collection builds thematically beginning with Advent, then Christmas eve, and finishing with the King’s arrival on Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas. The stories bring to life the significance of these distinct stages in the Christmas story. What a wonderful gift to share with young children as the family moves through the advent calendar.
First, The Christmas Story Book.
The Christmas Book is a classic worth doing a bit of hunting for. First published in 1988 with the latest copy found is 1990, this selection of stories from around the world and selected by Ineke Vershcusern (whose many books are listed on the Steiner reading list), is a singularly brilliant collection of stories evoking the magic of those who claim to have witnessed, or been near, the actual birth of baby Jesus.
Arranged in Five Sections
- At the Birth of the Child
- The Christmas Night
- Christmas in all the World
- From Christmas to Epiphany
Witnesses to the Birth
What is unique in this collection is that each story tells the experience of people who claim to have lived at the time of the birth of the Christ child. Told in many diverse voices, both contemporary and ancient, each story captures the magic and life altering significance of this holy birth.
One story, for example, tells of a lonely man needing shelter on a cold night and knocks on the door of a poor crofter whose wife just happens to be giving birth to their own child. There is the story of a poor child born into destitution and poverty in a village in Spain who is convinced that the three kings will be passing through town in order to bring help all poor children. In a more traditional vein, there is a lovely prose rendering of The Annunciation of Mary from from the Gospel of Luke, several stories by Hans Christian Anderson including The Little Match Seller, and a number of Russian and Scandinavian tales.
What indeed makes the book special is that the stories convey the spirit of Christmas through the many different lenses of people and history. What each story shares is the utter conviction that there has been an actual encounter with the Christ child at his birth.
Second: The Christmas Book
The Christmas Book, another handsome collection of stories (along with poems and carols) selected by Caroline Royds and lavishly illustrated by Annabel Spenceley. The format follows the twelve days of Christmas, each section honoring one of the days. Lavishly painted illustrations accompany most stories and those pages without color contain exquisite pencil sketches of such appropriately Christmasy things like mice wandering through the forests, trolls falling down and making nuisances of themselves around a sleeping white bear, and all sort of splendid woodland creatures on their way hither and yon. In short, Christmas is happening on every single page. For the classic tale A Visit from St. Nicholas, Spenceley has painted a splended Santa driving his fleetfooted reindeer across the roof tops of a snowy village. This is a book to sit with while holding a small child on the lap turning the pages and letting the magic of Christmas fill the heart.
The stories Include Such Classics As:
- The Nut Cracker
- The Night Before Christmas
- The Little Fir Tree
- A Visit from St. Nicholas
- Brer Rabbit’s Christmas
- The Carol of the Filed Mice, by Kenneth Grahame
- The Elves and the Shoemaker, by the Brothers Grimm
- The Christmas Story, retold from the Bible
and many, many more.
Both of these collections would be suitable for adults who are young at heart as well as children. Make a family ritual of sharing aloud one of these stories each night of the entire Christmas season.
The Christmas Story Book, collected by Ineke Verschuren (1990). Edinburgh: Floris Books.
The Christmas Book: Stories, Poems and Carols for the Twelve Days of Christmas, selected by Caroline Royds (1985). New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.