Holiday Reading Recommendations: Manchester by the Book


What is the Christmas Spirit?  The feeling of love and goodwill toward your fellow man - kindness, decency, mercy, forgiveness.  All those things and more.  Ideas and emotions that we don't dwell on too much during the year, but something about Christmastime brings these sentiments to the fore. How do you catch the Christmas Spirit?  A special family tradition - a Christmas card from an old friend - a kind word from a stranger at the supermarket.  I was once put into the spirit in a church on Christmas Eve by a hymn whose lyrics went something like, “the angel's wings wrap you in mercy.”  I started crying because I wanted an angels' wings to wrap around me mercifully.  Not something I would think about on a July day at the beach, but when I caught the spirit of that hymn, I wanted to be a better person and spread the Christmas magic to others. 

Artists throughout the ages have tried to capture their version of Christmas spirit in their art.  Whether it be Charlie Brown's Christmas or It's a Wonderful Life or Bach's Christmas Oratorio.  The spirit is in high art, low art, everywhere.  But where do you think I like to find it? In books! 

Every year on the day when I put the Christmas lights in the store window, I turn off all the other lights, sit on the couch and read A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.  “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.”  Thomas' magic of “fish-freezing waves,” and, “There were always Uncles at Christmas. The same Uncles,” bring a mood of remembrance of the commonalities of all Christmas memories and the timelessness of them. 

I also read Truman Capote every Christmas.  TRUMAN CAPOTE!!  You gasp.  Yes.  Him.  And he wrote the most marvelous story “A Christmas Memory,” about the Christmas traditions he and an elderly distant cousin shared in Alabama when he was a young boy.  They would make fruitcakes to give to friends and family and strangers.  The fruitcakes contained whiskey, which was outlawed at the time but they could get it from Mr. Haha Jones.  But I digress... it is a beautiful story. 

 And lastly, although there are hundreds of great Christmas books - J.R.R. Tolkien's Christmas Letters always stir up the spirit. Tolkien wrote these beautiful illustrated letters to his children and they saved them and they are in a book.  Goblins and Father Christmas do battle and have fun at the North Pole and Father Christmases' friend Great (Polar) Bear gets into mischief. But the spirit throughout is the great love he had for his children and which he wanted to pass his love of Christmas and all its mythology and magic on to them.  

Merry Christmas! 

j.r.r. tolkien, a christmas memory, christmas eve, truman capote, dylan thomas