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Your favourite description of Christmas in literature?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Johnny_Bluenote, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. Johnny_Bluenote

    Johnny_Bluenote Occasional commenter

    I just love this ... Jack Kerouac's description of a Christmas homecoming from THE DHARMA BUMS:

    Behind the house was a great pine forest where I would spend all that winter and spring meditating under the trees and finding out by myself the truth of all things. I was very happy. I walked around the house and looked at the Christmas tree in the window. A hundred yards down the road the two country stores made a bright warm scene in the otherwise bleak wooded void. I went to the dog house and found old Bob trembling and snorting in the cold. He whimpered glad to see me. I unleashed him and he yipped and leaped around and came into the house with me where I embraced my mother in the warm kitchen and my sister and brother-in-law came out of the parlor and greeted me, and little nephew Lou too, and I was home again.

    They all wanted me to sleep on the couch in the parlor by the comfortable oil-burning stove but I insisted on making my room (as before) on the back porch with its six windows looking out on the winter barren cottonfield and the pine woods beyond, leaving all the windows open and stretching my good old sleeping bag on the couch there to sleep the pure sleep of winter nights with my head buried inside the smooth nylon duck-down warmth. After they'd gone to bed I put on my jacket and my earmuff cap and railroad gloves and over all that my nylon poncho and strode out in the cotton-field moonlight like a shroudy monk. The ground was covered with moonlit frost/The old cemetery down the road gleamed in the frost. The roofs of nearby farmhouses were like white panels of snow.

    The following night was Christmas Eve which I spent with a bottle of wine before the TV enjoying the shows and the midnight mass from Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York with bishops ministering, and doctrines glistering, and congregations, the priests in their lacy snow vestments before great official altars not half as great as my straw mat beneath a little pine tree I figured. Then at midnight the breathless little parents…
  2. Johnny_Bluenote

    Johnny_Bluenote Occasional commenter

    I also love this from Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL:

    "There’s another fellow," muttered Scrooge; who overheard him: "my clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas. I’ll retire to Bedlam."

    This lunatic, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

    "Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe," said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"

    "Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years," Scrooge replied. "He died seven years ago, this very night."

    "We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner," said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

    It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word "liberality," Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  3. coffeekid

    coffeekid Star commenter

    I remember loving the descriptions of Christmas in "Little Women", and "What Katy Did Next".
    sabrinakat likes this.
  4. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    The Dark is Rising.
    Pretty much the whole book.
  5. knitone

    knitone Lead commenter

    She reached out and took a damp square of cardboard. Water dripped off the bottom. Somewhere in the middle, a few brown feathers seemed to have been glued on.
    'Thank you. Er ... what is it?'
    'Oh ...'
    'Really ...?'
    Terry Pratchett, Hogfather
    coffeekid likes this.
  6. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    Surely it's the Bible and really only the Bible for the true, pure, untarnished Christmas tale?
  7. cissy3

    cissy3 Star commenter

    Going back to my chidhood, I loved the description of mole realising that he was near to home, and, on eventually finding it, ratty rustled up a fine Christmas.

    racroesus and knitone like this.
  8. Jude Fawley

    Jude Fawley Star commenter

    Christmas at their watermill in France in William Wharton's 'Tidings'.
  9. annie2010

    annie2010 Occasional commenter

    Me too- I loved those books as a child.
    coffeekid likes this.
  10. Johnny_Bluenote

    Johnny_Bluenote Occasional commenter

    Yes that's true. The Bible is literature after all. The Nativity narratives in St Luke and St Matthew are beautiful:

    Luke 2New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition (NRSVACE)
    The Birth of Jesus

    2 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

    The Shepherds and the Angels
    8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

    14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favours

    15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

    Matthew 1New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition (NRSVACE)

    The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

    18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

    23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel’,

    which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son j and he named him Jesus.

    The Visit of the Wise Men

    2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

    6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
    for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’

    7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
    JosieWhitehead likes this.
  11. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    As posted in one of the Advent threads, Jesus - My Boy the stage monologue by John Dowie gets my vote.
  12. Johnny_Bluenote

    Johnny_Bluenote Occasional commenter

  13. Johnny_Bluenote

    Johnny_Bluenote Occasional commenter


    The week before Christmas, when the snow seemed to lie thickest, was the moment for carol-singing; and when I think back to those nights it is to the crunch of snow and to the lights of the lanterns on it. Carol-singing in my village was a special tithe for the boys, the girls had little to do with it. Like hay-making, blackberrying, stone-clearing and wishing-people-a- happy-Easter, it was one of our seasonal perks.

    By instinct we knew just when to begin it; a day too soon and we should have been unwelcome, a day too late and we should have received lean looks from people whose bounty was already exhausted. When the true moment came, exactly balanced, we recognised it and were ready.

    So as soon as the wood had been stacked in the oven to dry for the morning fire, we put on our scarves and went out through the streets calling loudly between our hands, till the various boys who knew the signal ran out from their houses to join us.

    One by one they came stumbling over the snow, swinging their lanterns around their heads, shouting and coughing horribly.

    'Coming carol-barking then?'

    We were the Church Choir, so no answer was necessary. For a year we had praised the Lord, out of key, and as a reward for this service - on top of the Outing - we now had the right to visit all the big houses, to sing our carols and collect our tribute.

    Eight of us set out that night. There was Sixpence the Tanner, who had never sung in his life (he just worked his mouth in church); The brothers Horace and Boney, who were always fighting everybody and always getting the worst of it; Clergy Green, the preaching maniac; Walt the bully, and my two brothers. As we went down the lane, other boys, from other villages, were already about the hills, bawling 'Kingwensluch', and shouting through keyholes 'Knock on the knocker! Ring at the Bell! Give us a penny for singing so well!' They weren't an approved charity as we were, the Choir; but competition was in the air.

    Our first call as usual was the house of the Squire, and we trouped nervously down his drive.

    A maid bore the tidings of our arrival away into the echoing distances of the house. The door was left ajar and we were bidden to begin. We brought no music, the carols were in our heads. 'Let's give 'em 'Wild Shepherds', said Jack. We began in confusion, plunging into a wreckage of keys, of different words and tempos; but we gathered our strength; he who sand loudest took the rest of us with him, and the carol took shape if not sweetness.

    Suddenly, on the stairs, we saw the old Squire himself standing and listening with his head on one side.

    He didn't move until we'd finished; then slowly he tottered towards us, dropped two coins in our box with a trembling hand, scratched his name in the book we carried, give us each a long look with his moist blind eyes, then turned away in silence.

    As though released from a spell, we took a few sedate steps, then broke into a run for the gate. We didn't stop till we were out of the grounds. Impatient, at least, to discover the extent of his bounty, we squatted by the cowsheds, held our lanterns over the book, and saw that he'd written 'Two Shillings'. This was quite a good start. No one of any worth in the district would dare to give us less than the Squire.
    Mile after mile we went, fighting against the wind, falling into snowdrifts, and navigating by the lights of the houses. And yet we never saw our audience. We called at house after house; we sang in courtyards and porches, outside windows, or in the damp gloom of hallways; we heard voices from hidden rooms; we smelt rich clothes and strange hot food; we saw maids bearing in dishes or carrying away coffee cups; we received nuts, cakes, figs, preserved ginger, dates, cough-drops and money; but we never once saw our patrons.

    Eventually we approached our last house high up on the hill, the place of Joseph the farmer. For him we had chosen a special carol, which was about the other Joseph, so that we always felt that singing it added a spicy cheek to the night.

    We grouped ourselves round the farmhouse porch. The sky cleared and broad streams of stars ran down over the valley and away to Wales. On Slad's white slopes, seen through the black sticks of its woods, some red lamps burned in the windows.

    Everything was quiet: everywhere there was the faint crackling silence of the winter night. We started singing, and we were all moved by the words and the sudden trueness of our voices. Pure, very clear, and breathless we sang:

    'As Joseph was walking He heard an angel sing;
    'This night shall be the birth-time
    Of Christ the Heavenly King.
    He neither shall be bored
    In Housen nor in hall
    Not in a place of paradise
    But in an ox's stall .....

    And two thousand Christmases became real to us then; The houses, the halls, the places of paradise had all been visited; The stars were bright to guide the Kings through the snow; and across the farmyard we could hear the beasts in their stalls. We were given roast apples and hot mince pies, in our nostrils were spices like myrrh, and in our wooden box, as we headed back for the village, there were golden gifts for all.
  14. xena-warrior

    xena-warrior Star commenter

    Bob Cratchit's Christmas. They had so little, had real problems, but made the most of what they did have, which was a pudding, a goose(let), gin punch and the company of each other.
  15. lindenlea

    lindenlea Star commenter

    I'm with coffee kid. I adored Little Women when I was a girl and thought the Christmas story was wonderful.
  16. oldsomeman

    oldsomeman Star commenter

    Can anyone help.there is a Dickens book in which the men stop at a coaching inn? and before them is a description of a Christmas spread .I can remember enjoying it once but now i cant seem to find it?
  17. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    The Box of Delights.

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