Here are my choices for great post-Christmas reading, when there's finally time to pick up a book again!
We all have Christmas traditions, and some of them are so important it wouldn’t be Christmas without them. When I was a girl the youngest in our family always read Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. Since I was always the youngest, it didn’t take me long to begin saying it from memory every year. When Bill and I married, we began our own annual reading, taking turns reading aloud from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Later we added The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson. These are my first two recommendations for your holiday reading. It would be especially cozy to enjoy them by the fire with a mug of apple cider or hot cocoa. However, I’ve never had a fireplace, so I can vouch for their value wherever you are.
“The Herdman’s were absolutely the worst kids in the world.” Meet the six Herdman kids of Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever-- so wild and mean that their own mother would rather work at a shoe factory that stay home with them, and every teacher passes them from one grade to the next just because there’s another one coming. First they steal a chemistry set, mix all the chemicals together to see what happens, burn down a shed, and then scarf all the donuts sent to the men putting out the fire. Personally, I love the description of them walking their cat on a length of chain. The local mailman insists it’s not a regular cat at all, but a bobcat. “’Oh, I don’t think you can tame a wild bobcat,’ my father said. ‘I’m sure you can’t,’ said the mailman. ‘They’d never try to tame it; they’d just try to make it wilder than it was to begin with.’” Take one church Christmas program, throw in six wild kids, and you get smiles, chuckles, and a fresh look at the Christmas story. The ending has stuck with me since the first time I read it. “And I thought of the angel of the Lord -- Gladys, with her skinny legs and her duty sneakers sticking out from under her robe, yelling to all of us, everywhere: ‘Hey! Unto you a child is born!’”
“Marley was dead to begin with.” He wasn’t the only one, though. That Ebenezer Scrooge was spiritually and emotionally dead is established from the very beginning of Charles Dickens famous novel. “The cold within him froze his features, nipped his nose, shriveled his cheek, made his thin nose blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. He carried his own low temperature always about him, and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.” How many versions of A Christmas Carol do you think you’ve seen? From classic black and white movies, through the Muppets, dogs, George C. Scott, the Jetson’s and Mr Magoo, to Disney’s new version with Jim Carey, it’s been interpreted so many times we know it by heart. But have you read the book? If you do, you’ll see that it’s more than a fun story of ghosts, Tiny Tim, and the softening of a hard heart. From the beginning Scrooge’s attitude is contrasted with his nephew’s, “What reason do you have to be merry? Your poor enough,” he tells his nephew. “What reason do you have to be dismal? You’re rich enough,” is the reply. So is established one of Dicken’s themes, the emptiness of a life lived only for material gain. Ebenezer despises carolers, men collecting contributions for the poor, even innocents who merely wish him a merry Christmas. For me, one of the most chilling statements in literature comes when Scrooge castigates men asking for money to help the poor. “Are there no poorhouses?“ he asks. Told that many would rather die than go there, he declares they should be allowed to die, and “decrease the surplus population.”
As much as I love some of the dramatic versions of A Christmas Carol, I think the impact is more profound in the written story -- especially when it’s read aloud. Even when the same passages are used in plays, they tend to fly by, lost in the visual effects and dialogue. When you read you can contemplate. And there’s much worthy of contemplation here. “’There are some upon this earth of yours,’ returned the Spirit, ‘who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.’” "It is always the person not in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done.” "‘It is required of every man,’ the ghost returned, ‘that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.’ So many passages like this, as well as Dicken’s own words telling the story, make A Christmas Carol worthy of rereading every year.
"And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
Read Well, Friend
Tune in tomorrow for two more books to enjoy this holiday season.
I hope all of you have a blessed Christmas/Holiday season, wherever you are and whatever your beliefs. And peace on earth, good will to men. Teri K.