I don’t mean to alarm you, but December is almost here. Seasonal coffee beverages have been released. Evergreen wreaths have been hung in shopping centers. Christmas trees are for sale. I even heard Christmas carols in a store this week.
In perhaps one of the greatest examples of parental avoidance, when, in 1897, eight-year old Virginia O’Hanlon asked her father if there really was a Santa Claus, he suggested she write to The New York Sun for clarification.
“If you see it in The Sun, it’s so,” he told her.
Fortunately for posterity, Virginia’s letter landed in the hands of Francis Pharcellus Church, a war correspondent during the Civil War. In his response, Church treats Santa more as concept than figure. What is most valuable, he suggests, lies not in the contents of boxes and bags but in intangibles and mysteries, enduring questions for which easy answers prove elusive. What remain and sustain are the capacities for curiosity and faith, hope and love.
In elevating the question to the realm of the philosophical, Church provided an answer for the ages. His piece subsequently became the most reprinted editorial in the English language.
I’m not saying I make a habit of reading on my phone. But it can be convenient. With my Nook app, I cue up my current read wherever I am. No spare moment is wasted. Standing on an eternally long line at CVS/the DMV/the coffee shop? I may just find it within myself my phone to summon the patience of Job.
Many of us may, this weekend, find ourselves en route or on line or just…waiting, in general. So I though to share some Christmas stories you can access right from this post. And what is a holiday reading session – even one from one’s phone – without (the facsimile of) a roaring fire?
Sedaris has a whole collection of outlandish Christmas-themed stories (Holidays on Ice). This link will take you to a special treat: Sedaris’ NPR reading of “SantaLand Diaries,” culled from his experience as a mall elf. Ho ho ho, indeed!
First published in 1956, Capote’s story, said to be largely autobiographical, takes place in the ’30s and narrates the last Christmas shared between best friends seven-year old Buddy and his elderly cousin. A beautiful, poignant Christmas story of love, loss, and what lasts.
Tolstoy’s story is set at Christmas, but it reads like a New Testament parable: After a Christmas Eve dream that Jesus will visit him, a shoemaker decides to make a gift of a special pair of shoes he made. When a cold, itinerant young mother enters his shop with her shoeless baby, the shoemaker must decide whether to save the shoes for Jesus or bestow them on the baby.
This is Dostoyevsky, so you may not need the warning…but I’ll give it to you anyway: This is a dark story, set largely at a New Year’s Eve gathering for children, about a rapacious, voracious man who gets exactly what he wants. Or does he? Let’s call it a cautionary tale, which isn’t a bad way to head towards a new year.
What Christmas stories – or other reading material – are you enjoying this holiday season?
Last year, I began devouring Christmas reads in November – November 16, to be exact. I know this because I’m diligent about keeping reading records. For this reason, I also know that I read twelve holiday-themed books between November 2014 and January 2015. That’s a lot of holiday books!
Apparently, I was on some sort of mission. I blame Starbucks. They released their gingerbread latte (my favorite!) so early that my internal clock became confused, and I thought it was time for Christmas. Continue reading “Reading Winter Holidays”