17 November 2008

Getting our Yuletide on (or rule-breaking 101)

This Onion FIRMLY believes that Christmas should not be mentioned until December. No carols. No decorations. No merriness. No nothing until December 1st. Only then may you start to open your advent calender (which should NOT have chocolate! Is opening little cardboard doors not enough for you people??!!) and get fully festive.

This hard (but fair) rule is partly because my birthday is at the very end of November and CLEARLY birthdays should not be polluted with Christmas, and vice versa. They are Separate. It's also partly to do with the potential for overload. I love The Christmas Feeling - and if it's spread too thin it tends to disappear.
And (speaking of rules) there are some books that I ONLY read on Christmas Eve. Never at any other time during the year.

But I am going to break my cardinal rule and talk about them in NOVEMBER. Why? Because rules are made to be broken and if anyone suggests any awesome Christmas books of which I am unaware, I need plenty of time to acquire them by Christmas Eve.

So here is my Christmas Eve reading list:
  • Two chapters from The Good Master by Kate Seredy 'Mikulas, Bearer of Gifts' and 'Christmas'. The shepherds are in from the fields, the farmhouse is snug and warm and full of food. Jancsi and Kate, snuggled down in robes in the back of the sleigh, pick up Mikulas from the train station! But the eyes twinkling above the beard look strangely familiar to Kate... (Oh wholesome joy.)
  • Tasha Tudor's A Doll's Christmas. Dolls in a dollhouse having their friends over for Christmas. Tasha Tudor illustrations. (Enough said.)
  • The Gift of the Magi by O Henry Sob. Hair combs. Sob. Watch chain. Sob. Selfless love. Sob.
  • The chapter in Little House on the Praire where Mr Edwards walks 40 miles to (and from) Independence, Kansas, and then swims the flooded Verdigris river to bring Mary and Laura their presents. (A brief aside. Reading the 'Little House' books again as a grown up I've been struck by just how appealing Pa is: twinkling blue eyes; strong and tall; able to build anything; far less worried about making Laura stick to the traditional "girl" roles than Ma is; plays the fiddle and sings; respects the Indians; brave and adventurous but kind and gentle too. *swoons* Who's with me?)

Christmas stories that are NOT on my Christmas Eve list:
  • The Little Fir Tree by Hans Christan Andersen. (Moral. Moral. Boo. Sad. Moral.)
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (UNLESS there are Muppets involved)
We would love to know if you have any Christmas reading traditions. (Because we want to steal them and make them our own.) Any fabulous Christmas books or stories that we must get hold of? Any Christmas stories you WILL NOT ALLOW into your house?

If anyone is on the lookout for some cheesy Christmas music I can HIGHLY recommend the Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails CDs. Best. Purchase. Ever. Even though they are culturally inappropriate because, baby, it's really not cold outside.


Anonymous said...

I could almost go there with Pa, if it wasn't for the beard. Way too much beard. But otherwise - you can understand why Ma followed him across the wilderness...

I have a weakness for Elizabeth Goudge's Christmas stories. Also E. Nesbit's The Railway Children always seems particularly Christmass-y to me (even though it actually isn't)

Tom said...

Although I'm sure this is not quite what you were after, I loves me the nine lessons on a Christmas Eve. Not that I'm remotely religious - but they're the closest thing I have to a regular Christmas text.

And good Christmasy words MUST be accompanied with good Christmasy music. A Spotless Rose by Philip Ledger can reduce me to tears, Benedicamus Domino, In the Bleak Midwinter, Lully, Lulla the list goes on.

Jonathan Shaw said...

Psst! Andersen!

Penni Russon said...

Shouldn't you be working Kate? Shouldn't I? Shouldn't we all?

Rumer Godden's The story of Holly and Ivy. *Love*
The chapter in Teddy Robinson where he meets Father Christmas. *Love*
The Jolly Christmas Postman, Ahlbergs *Love*

I've never read The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, but it's on my list. I remember watching a good teev Christmas special of it as a kid (no ballet).

John Denver and the Muppets, A Christmas Together.
Pasy Biscoe's Christmas Album.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jonathan Shaw. Oh the shame! Now changed, but still rankling.

Kate - I agree! The Railway Children has a Christmassy vibe for me, too. Does the Dad come home at Christmas? Or maybe the train man sends them Christmas parcels? Or maybe it's the selfless love again. I must read it again.

Penni - Ooo. I must get hold of the Rumer Godden. I loved (and was kind of afraid of) Tottie - the Story of a Dolls' House.

Tom - I particularly enjoy the Nine Lessons when read by bespectacled post-grads at Kings College, Cambridge.

lili said...

I always read Tolkien's The Father Christmas Letters, because they are beautiful and funny and such a wonderful expression of love from JRR to his children. And I agree with Penni about the Father Christmas story in Teddy Robinson.

Music: I rather guiltily bought a Starbucks Christmas album last year in New York, because I kept hearing it and loving it. It's hipsters like Aimee Mann singing Christmas awesomeness. And for cheese, I have an ancient Disney Christmas album that I adore (and is notable for having a tiny Mouseketeer Molly Ringwald belting out The First Noel).

Movies: The Muppet Christmas Carol. Kermit's One More Sleep Til Christmas is my absolute favourite Christmas song. Oh, and there's an old Muppet special called A Muppet Family Christmas that has Muppet Show AND Sesame Street Muppets AND Fraggles and a cameo by Jim Henson at the end that never fails to make me burst into yuletide tears.

Unknown said...

I usually read the Narnia series in December, particularly The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe. When it comes to music, Sufjan Stevens' Songs for Christmas is very lovely.

Anonymous said...

*From the December 1973 issue of Family Circle, Richard Scarry's 'Lowly Worm and His Best Christmas Ever'
*Rosemary Wells' Morris's Disappearing Bag (so poignant - really!)
*Michael Malone's The Last Noel (schmaltzy, but that's a good thing at Christmas, right?)
*Fannie Flagg's A Redbird Christmas (even more schmaltzy - so even better)

I'm having serious Muppet envy now. I hope I get A Muppet Family Christmas in my stocking.

Anonymous said...

Oh! Oh! In our house we have Richard Scarry's Big Book of Christmas and my girls absolutely love it.

Anonymous said...

Best Christmas present my parents ever bought me was a box set of ALL the Little House books. Pa is the archetypal ideal dad. My father looked nothing like him but was similarly able to turn his hand to anything, was strict but fair, and more likely than Mum to encourage us girls (one dark, one fair - are we seeing similarities here?) into unladylike behaviour. Francis Spufford's 'The Child That Books Built' includes a long discussion of the moral/social framework in the Little House books, and I reckon Pa epitomises that.

Favourite Christmas reading - Dick Bruna's 'The Christmas Book', so simple and perfect.

Melinda Szymanik said...

I'm so glad you said rules can be broken, after saying birthdays should be seperate from and unpolluted by Christmas, because my birthday is december 26th and until I read the breaking rules thing I was very worried.


rooruu said...

Here's a very late one, early as anything for Christmas 2009 (or have I come under the not-before-December rule?)

Russell Hoban: The Mole Family's Christmas. Wonderful stuff about the fat man in the red suit, and plain digging, and what it might mean if a wish becomes a reality.

Also Little Dracula's Christmas. "Santa's been". "Did we catch him?"

With the Little House books, I'm always struck by how they become more complex in writing and ideas as Laura grows; from the pleasure of corn dolls and maple syrup to the difficulties of various characters (eg. the Boasts) in the later ones. The narrative reflecting Laura's journey from child to adult.

PS I do enjoy your blog!