Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ten Christmas stories

Sean Fitzpatrick recommends "Ten Christmas Stories Every Father Should Read to His Children." Three of the ten (illustrations added):
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1952) is not so much about Christmas in Wales as it is about Christmas in the world. This beloved composition is composed of sudden flashes that surround drawn out recollections that tease laughter and tears with the warm delights of childhood. The poem is an ice-crystal kaleidoscope of family and friends, of food and fun, dancing in and out of a white wintry fog of memory. Everyone shares Christmas, and all Christmases are so much like another: visions, vignettes, and voices that hang on the edge of a stream or dream of consciousness; never clear, but always strong in impression and presence; at once as distinct and indistinct as shifting temperatures or shimmering scents and, though glancing and ghostly, are the very foundations of security. The power of this prose poem is that it is about each and every one of us, awakening memories of who we are and why we are, and speak with unspoken confidence about the future as it gives voice to the past. All men share these memories in common, reflecting the Common Savior that was born to save common men.
"For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. ..."
For years as a family, and now just my brother and myself, we have listened to this every Christmas afternoon on the recording spoken by Dylan Thomas himself.
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle

Though ice-cold logic was ever his bread and butter, Sherlock Holmes was not devoid of warmth. There were times, few though they were, when he exhibited a mercy that was more of a mystery than the one he had just solved. How fitting that the chief of these instances occurred at Christmastime, as recorded in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (1892). Just as Mr. Holmes was himself a mysterious paradox of rationalist and romanticist, so is Christmas composed of paradoxical mysteries. The Incarnation marked an elimination of the boundary between the ordinary and the extraordinary, evidenced in the joyful juxtaposition of angels and shepherds, peasants and kings, man and God. The world of 221B Baker Street is one of similar juxtaposition, where courage and justice clash with helplessness and crime, casting warm gaslight through the frigid fog, and speaking to readers through fantastic, chivalric literature to inculcate the immortal principle of human honor and human hope. Sherlock Holmes is a hero who evokes the optimism of salvation, and especially in that merciful moment when a miserable, mediocre thief was forgiven and given a second chance on Christmas Day.


The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)

A tiny tale of love, courage, tears, and terrible happiness, O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi (1905) breathes with that spirit of sacrificial gift-giving that makes Christmas a joy. Though short, its memory stays long with readers, for people do not soon forget things that leave them brokenhearted. In their material riches, Della and Jim are likened to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. With the loss of their riches, they are no longer compared to Old Testament monarchs, but with New Testament ones—the Magi. These two young lovers are described as foolish (as lovers are); but sometimes it requires foolishness to arrive at wisdom (as lovers prove). No one can know the wisdom of giving the gift of oneself until one gives oneself up like a fool. In giving gifts at Christmas, people of faith must give of themselves first, and then in presents. There is no gift if there is no sacrifice, and gift giving should always involve some tears—the waters that make gifts pure.