Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day in Literature

When I think of Christmas Day, as encountered in literature, the two instances I think of first are not those famous ones from the pen of Charles Dickens, but these: one from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, the other from 19th century American novelist Louisa M. Alcott.

A snippet from A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas:

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.............

..........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. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush. I would blow up balloons to see how big they would blow up to; and, when they burst, which they all did, the Uncles jumped and rumbled. In the rich and heavy afternoon, the Uncles breathing like dolphins and the snow descending, I would sit among festoons and Chinese lanterns and nibble dates and try to make a model man-o'-war, following the Instructions for Little Engineers, and produce what might be mistaken for a sea-going tramcar.

Illustrations by Edward Ardizzone

And from Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott

Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she remembered her mother's promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey. She woke Meg with a Merry Christmas, and bade her see what was under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared, with the same picture inside, and a few words written by their mother, which made their one present very precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage and find their little books also, one dove-colored, the other blue, and all sat looking at and talking about them, while the east grew rosy with the coming day.

In spite of her small vanities, Margaret had a sweet and pious nature, which unconsciously influenced her sisters, especially Jo, who loved her very tenderly, and obeyed her because her advice was so gently given.

Girls, said Meg seriously, looking from the tumbled head beside her to the two little night-capped ones in the room beyond, Mother wants us to read and love and mind these books, and we must begin at once. We used to be faithful about it, but since Father went away and all this war trouble unsettled us, we have neglected many things. You can do as you please, but I shall keep my book on the table here and read a little every morning as soon as I wake, for I know it will do me good and help me through the day.

Then she opened her new book and began to read. Jo put her arm round her and, leaning cheek to cheek, read also, with the quiet expression so seldom seen on her restless face.

How good Meg is! Come, Amy, let's do as they do. I'll help you with the hard words, and they'll explain things if we don't understand, whispered Beth, very much impressed by the pretty books and her sisters' example.

I'm glad mine is blue, said Amy. And then the rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned, and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting.

 Illustration by Jessie Wilcox-Smith


Sonny G said...

Merry Christmas~!!

may all your dreams come true..

so happy to have ya'll in my world. t'was meant to be and I am grateful for ya's.


Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Merry Christmas, Sonny - and the feeling is mutual!
Hugs! ((( )))

Anonymous said...

Ah, Dylan Thomas:

'Useful Presents ... and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes....
Useless Presents ... once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet....'

And, of course, growing up in Canada, we knew whereof he spoke when he described:

'It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

We were so still, Eskimo-footed arctic marksmen in the muffling silence of the eternal snows - eternal, ever since Wednesday - that we never heard Mrs. Prothero's first cry from her igloo at the bottom of the garden. Or, if we heard it at all, it was, to us, like the far-off challenge of our enemy and prey, the neighbor's polar cat.'

No one recaptures childhood as he can.

Earlier this year, by chance, I came across the obituary of a man with whom my mother worked for many years in the House of Commons in Ottawa, and whom I met a few times as a youngster; he the one-time friend of Dylan Thomas; how few the degrees of separation between us here on our little planet, the Earth.

mike said...

Peace, my friends!

Twilight said...

Sabina ~ His words in A Child's Christmas in Wales are magical - he must've been a latter day Welsh wizard! :-) Your Christmases in Canada would more often match his memories than many of ours in parts of England, when Christmases were more likely to be dank and drear than white and wonderful, and certainly in Oklahoma - though, as it happens, I have experience one white Christmas during my 11 years here.

Thanks for the link - as well as the interest relating to Dylan Thomas, the mention of the Kardomah Cafe brought back memories for me. I well remember the Kardomah in Hull when I was a child, and that I deeply resented finding it had disappeared later on - possibly bought out and morphed into a Wimpy Bar or some such.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thank you - and to you too.
That's a lovely video advert, thank you. Dang - but it made me cry though!

mike (again) said...

BTW - Though a commercial advertisement, it is a re-enactment of real history.

"The Christmas truce (German: Weihnachtsfrieden; French: Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man's land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce. However, the peaceful behaviour was not ubiquitous; fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies."

I looked at the astrological transits...many planets & Nodes in the last degrees of signs making aspects.

Did you and anyjazz make your annual sojourn to the scenic mount with your cheese sandwiches?

Sonny -

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ I think I've heard/read about it before - yes. The astro-transits are in a fitting circuit - I see Pluto/Saturn in early Cancer in trine to N.Node at the end of Aquarius and opposing Sun/Mars from Capricorn, with N.Node in trine to Sun/Mars.

We drove through and around the wild life refuge with Mt Scott beside us, but didn't drive up the mountain this time - we set off a tad late, after scoffing our sandwiches at home; so saved that pleasure for St.Valentine's Day or my birthday. Saw only one lone buffalo, all was quiet, but it was a very pleasant drive. :-) Maybe the wildlife were hiding, in preparation for bad weather threatening, from Monday onward for a day or two.

Anonymous said...

mike - By chance recently I heard my fave movie critic saying his fave Xmas film was Scrooge 1951, and while the host agreed with him, he said his second fave film was about the Christmas Truce and was called Joyeux Noel 2005. Interestingly, the critic had never heard of it and asked if it wasn't A Midnight Clear 1992 he meant. But, no, Joyeux Noel it is - you could tell it had strongly affected the radio host; anyway, if you see it before I do, let me know if it's as good as it sounds.

I share the following link without prejudice - it's got some good bits.

And, yes, oh yes, Peace.

Twilight, I, too, tend to deeply resent change when it's Kardomah Cafe to a Wimpy Bar. I haven't been abroad in years and wonder what I'd make of the world today. Altho I think the speed of growth is scary, it's the sameness of it all that's the real horror. If you blink, you could be anywhere. One Love okay, but not at the price of homogeneity.

mike (again) said...

Sabina - "Peaceful Waters" is very poignant...haven't heard Gordon for a while...also enjoyed the Elora Festival Singers. I was not aware of "Joyeux Noel"...not available on Netflix and youtube states content is blocked by Sony Pictures. Thanks!