Since Christmas is round the corner and I’ve always been a big Christmas fan, I think it’s appropriate that I write a column about Christmas elements in literature. Never mind that an Indian Christmas, the season where there isn’t quite an inch of snow on the ground and stockings by a fireplace, didn’t quite match up, culturally and contextually to the Christmases I read and enjoyed as a girl.
All the Christmases I read about as a little girl were a far cry from the Christmasses I had at home in my third floor apartment with friendly neighbours asking if they could help with the tree. That didn’t make me love them (the books I mean, not the neighbours) any less. There was the Little House series for starters. Pa Ingalls would more often than not go out and shoot the meat the family would eat for Christmas Dinner and there was always things like doughnuts, sour dough biscuits and gravy going around not to mention an obscenely large fire. Of course there wasn’t too much of an emphasis of Christmas presents, so real life won there. Owing to difficult conditions (of the wild wolves right outside your front door variety) the Ingalls made do with knitted socks or a new handkerchief or something. Boring. The only book in the series that made any kind of Christmas sense was Farmer Boy (Lots of cousins and aunts coming over. Yeah, Indian Christmases are all about chaotic, loud extended family and your older cousin slyly stealing your share of cake and fudge.)
Another writer for whom Christmas was a big ass deal was Louisa May Alcott. Little Women opens with the line “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” and in Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom there is at least a chapter or two dedicated to the preparation of and the actual day in this season of love and goodwill. Of course, in true Alcott style there was always room for a little preachiness. Somehow I couldn’t stand that books like Rose in Bloom had all the answers. Trust me I’m the last person on earth to diss Loiusa May Alcott (she’s awesome) but at some point it was alright, we get it- Christmas is about giving, sharing and loving thy neighbour, we get it- can we have some more cake now please.
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an absolute dream to read. Right from the characters (Go Tiny Tim) to the narration and even the kind of hilarious future pop culture love they inspired (Eric Cartman quotes from the book in Starvin Marvin), the book is start to finish, a Christmas treat. I love the detail that Dickens goes into. Even today I remember reading about Bob Cratchit’s scarf was extra long so that he had to wrap it around his neck or that Marley had chains and padlocks wrapped all around him for eternity. I mean, come on, that is the stuff.
There was also short fiction that specifically dealt with aaaaaw Christmas messages and you probably read them in a big, bound volume that your grand aunt gave you. The Gift of the magi, was one I remember and of course The Little Match Girl. The best part about Christmas is without a doubt the food, the presents and the family and though I specifically felt short changed in terms of Christmas context, I still loved and continue to love reading books that celebrate the season. God bless us, everyone.