Hark! Old Harold’s angel sings
glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth so mercy smiles
‘cause God and reptiles reconciled…
– Linda Raybern, singing her heart out at the age of seven
The Yuletide season is upon us. And with it comes tales of joy and humour, and sadness, also. But, as noted in the Chicken Soup For The Soul Christmas Treasury (2001), Christmas is “the time each year when the heart reaches out to everyone.”
In this varied collection of dozens and dozens of very short stories, you’ll read about the school teacher who, by tradition, is given expensive holiday gifts by her students. One boy is the penniless son of a migrant fruit picker, who is only in town until the harvest is over. He gives the school teacher a rock. It has been polished, with love, to a beautiful sheen.
There are stories of lucky folk who have everything they need, who spread some of that wealth about during the holiday season. (There is little writing in this collection by the poor.)
There are tales of grieving survivors, who find solace in the ritual and celebration of Chistmas. One misdiagnosed child miraculously lives. Another, with leukemia, celebrates one last Christmas. You may tear up when you read these.
Other stories will make you laugh. Briefly visit with the child who dresses as Rudolph, and clothes her sibling as Olive, the other reindeer. Follow Linda Raybern’s slightly mangled Christmas carol lyrics. Grin at the travails of the husband whose job it is to quietly dispose of the dying poinsettia.
How about Christmas in jail? One prisoner sacrifices his hard-saved toilet paper, and a bit of glue, to make paper maché candy canes. Sliced up chip bags make for tinsel.
Some celebrate Christmas alone, some in a house filled with people and goats.
Chicken Soup For The Soul Christmas Treasury, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, is filed at 242.335 in the Lennoxville Library. It’s just packed full of lovely stories (some of which might even be true). You can read one or three before bed, whenever you have a brief break from the drama of the holidays, or when you need a few moments of silence. Or to break up too much silence.
The last tale in the book is the 1912 children’s classic, The Night Before Christmas (“and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”), which is actually titled A Visit From St. Nicholas.
No Christmas is complete without it. You can also find this Clement Moore poem on the children’s shelves (filed at PB under M, and another under B). (Or find it online at gutenberg.org!)
Perhaps you would prefer A Child’s Christmas In Wales, written by the poet Dylan Thomas:
“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snow for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.
“All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea….”
It’s filed under PB and the author’s last name. (Thomas recorded it in 1952, and you can find the 20-minute poem on YouTube.com, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv4-sgFw3Go .)
Here’s one spooky classic: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (in the children’s section at C-222, online in print at gutenberg.org, or listen to the Jonathan Winters-made recording at npr.org).
Dickens published it in 1848 and it’s never been out of print. Nasty old Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts, who warn him of a bleak future if the miser refuses to change his ways. And he does change!
“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
“He had no further intercourse with Spirits…. and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
– Eleanor Brown, December 19, 2014