Reading Christmas stories is an ideal way to spend an evening or two during this special time of year. Granted, there are quite a few wonderful Christmas movies available, and I admit to watching my fair share; however, I also enjoy curling up under an afghan on the sofa in front of the fireplace, with a cup of hot chocolate close by, and reading a good Christmas story. There’s just something about reading that surpasses watching a movie. Perhaps it’s the way literature brings one’s imagination into play, which simply isn’t the case with movies because, with movies, nothing is left to one’s imagination.
Below are some of my favorite Christmas stories, although, admittedly, there are others I also enjoy. However, I read these particular stories to my children when they were growing up, and I continue to read them today, these many years later, because they never cease to fill me with the true spirit of the holiday season.
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The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore
Of note, Moore was actually a professor of classics at the General Theological Seminary in New York and wrote a renowned scholarly work on the lexicon of the Hebrew language” (New York Institute, 2010). However, he is best known for the immortal The Night Before Christmas, which was originally a poem he wrote for his children in 1822 and titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.” First published in December of 1823, fittingly only two days before Christmas, the story was an instant hit and quickly became a Christmas staple around the world. (New York Institute, 2010).
Perhaps because I have read this charming story so many times through the years, I can quote it almost entirely by heart, as probably many of you can. Yet, if you haven’t managed to memorize it, or simply need a refresher, here is how this classic begins:
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house/Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;/The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,/In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;/The children were nestled all snug in their beds,/While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;/And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,/Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap— (Moore, 1823)
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A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens wrote his classic tale of Christmas in 1843, and, interestingly, according to the Unitarian Universal Historical Society (2009), “Around this time Christmas Day was again beginning to be celebrated and the holiday transformed. The story and its characters—Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Crachit and Tiny Tim—defined the holiday's meaning for the English-speaking world as the regenerative spirit of generosity, or what Dickens called his ‘Carol philosophy.’”
This wonderful story relates how three ghosts visit the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Even and, with their help, he undertakes a journey toward repentance, forgiveness, and, ultimately, love. It ends on this inspiring note:
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle ever afterward; 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! (Dickens, 1984)
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A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote
According to PBS American Masters (2006), Truman Capote, born in New Orleans in 1924, is considered one of America’s most controversial and colorful authors, and “though he wrote only a handful of books, his prose styling was impeccable, and his insight into the psychology of human desire was extraordinary.”
A Christmas Memory, which tells the story of “Buddy” and his elderly cousin—as well as beloved friend—Miss Sook Faulk, is a frankly autobiographical story of the years after Capote’s mother abandoned him, leaving him in the care of his elderly aunts and cousins in Monroeville, Alabama, where he lived a solitary and lonely existence and turned to writing for solace. (PBS, 2006)
This beautifully written novelette opens with a plea to the reader to use his or her imagination:
Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar. (Capote, 1956)
In summary, of course there are other Christmas stories, many of them moving and extremely well written, but these three have all become classics, and for good reason. So, why not fix a cup of hot chocolate, curl up under an afghan in front of a cozy fire, and allow Clement Moore, Charles Dickens, and Truman Capote to share the real meaning of Christmas with you and your family this holiday season.
Capote, T. (1956) A Christmas Memory; New York: Random House
Dickens, C. (1984) A Christmas Carol (1984) New York: Signet Classics, a Division of Penguin Books
Moore, C. (1823) The Night Before Christmas. (1995) Philadelphia, PA.: Running Press Book Publishers
New York Institute for Special Education (2010) “Clement Clarke Moore,” retrieved from nyise.org
PBS American Masters (2006) “Truman Capote,” retrieved from pbs.org
Unitarian Universal Historical Society (2009) “Charles Dickens,” retrieved from uua.org