The editors of MercatorNet have delved into memory and the internet to bring up stories to enhance your Christmas celebration.

A Christmas Carol (1843)

Charles Dickens

carolDickens’ famous novella truly becomes a festive song as Ebenezer Scrooge is converted from arch-miserabilist into the very embodiment of Christmas cheer and charity. Besides being packed with morals (love of family, cheerfulness in misfortune, charity towards even the heartless and ruthless) the story has wonderful atmosphere (the leaden, bone-chilling cold of a London pea-souper fog; bright indoor scenes with toasty fires, aromatic turkeys fresh from the oven, steaming puddings, laughter, games, and songs). There are movie versions available on the internet, but for folks in northern climes, nothing beats sitting down with the book and a mulled wine next to a blazing fire, and letting a master story-teller charm you once again. ~ Carolyn Moynihan


The Selfish Giant (1888)

Oscar Wilde

giantAs a child I used to listen over and over again to Frederic March’s 1945 recording of this touching fairy tale by Oscar Wilde. It’s Christmassy in tone and theme, without mentioning Christmas. When a selfish giant banishes children from his garden, “it was always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees”. But one day, the children creep through a crevice and Spring returns, except in one corner where a child weeps because he is too small to sit in the branches. This is a wonderful lesson in generosity. ~ Michael Cook


The Gift of the Magi (1905)

O. Henry

magiA poor, young, working-class couple who pay eight dollars of their $20-a-week income on rent for a run-down flat want to give each other the best Christmas present their money won’t buy. Each hits on a way to do it that involves the sacrifice of their most treasured possession, but they do it joyfully. O. Henry compares their gifts to those of the Wise Men, who, in bringing their greatest treasures to the newborn Christ, “invented the art of giving Christmas presents”. A twist in the story makes the young couple’s wisdom look like foolishness, but the author begs to differ. A short but touching parable about true love. ~ Carolyn Moynihan


The Story of the Other Wise Man (1895)

Henry Van Dyke

wiseReprinted many times, this novella recounts the story of a fourth Magus, Artaban, who took a sapphire, a ruby, and a “pearl of great price” as presents for the newborn King of the Jews. But, because he stops to care for a sick Hebrew dying at the side of the road, he lags behind the Three Wise Men as they journey to Bethelehem. By the time he arrives, the Holy Family has fled to Egypt, and he spends the rest of his life in a fruitless search, but filled with deeds of service and compassion. Finally, after 33 years, he finds himself once again in Jerusalem on the day that the King of the Jews is to be put to death. It’s a sentimental but thoughtful story with a great message. ~ Michael Cook

  

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! (1818)

The true story of a Christmas carol

What would Christmas night be without the lilting, heart-stirring strains of Silent Night and its luminous word-pictures of the Nativity? But how did this song, which captures the essence of the religious event with such simplicity, come to us? There are many versions of the history, most of them involving a broken church organ and a choirmaster composing music for a priest’s poem only a few hours before it was to be sung at Midnight Mass, accompanied by a guitar. I found this account by Christmas researcher Bill Egan on Soundscapes informative and convincing. And it sheds a little light on the simple Austrian curate who started it all. ~ Carolyn Moynihan

Listen to the Vienna Boys Choir sing the original six verses of “Stille Nacht…” (The words, in German and English are on the above web page.) Watch a short video giving an imaginative account of the story of Silent Night.

 

Neighbor Rosicky (1928)

Willa Cather

rosickyYou can trawl through all the novels and short stories ever written without finding a better portrait of a truly good man than this unsentimental short story by the American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Willa Cather. Rosicky is a Czech immigrant farmer who has come to the end of his days after decades building up a farm on the rich soil of Nebraska. He works hard. He is devout, kindly and simple; his family loves him. Death comes for him after his last Christmas with his large family. ~ Michael Cook 

 

 

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1952)

Dylan Thomas

dylanIt is impossible to speak too highly of this gorgeous, lavish, colourful, generous, sentimental prose-poem about the Welsh poet’s reminiscences of one wintry Christmas day in his childhood. It evokes all the mischief of boyhood, the incomprehensible world of eating and drinking and snoozing aunts and uncles, of scratchy Useful Presents which didn’t fit and Useless Presents which were devoured in an orgy of lolly-gobbling gladness. Dylan Thomas made a famous recording the year before he died in his rich, expressive voice which you can hear on YouTube. ~ Michael Cook


Papa Panov’s Special Christmas

Leo Tolstoy

tolstoyA Russian village on a freezing Christmas Eve, a lonely old man with nothing but his coffee pot and Bible to console him, a dream, a promise, a day of kindness to strangers and a wonderful reward – these are the familiar elements of a classic children’s story which is no less effective for being completely predictable. It is thought to have been written by a Frenchman, Ruben Saillens (1855 to 1942) – or he may have been recording a folk tale. Tolstoy translated the story from French to Russian and reshaped it considerably. It seems the perfect story for a parent or older sibling to read to a younger child at Christmas. ~ Carolyn Moynihan


The Holy Night

Selma Lagerlof (1858-1940)

holy nightThis short story by Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf (the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature) is set outside Bethlehem on the night of the Nativity. A man goes from hut to hut on the plain looking for live coals to kindle a fire for his wife and newborn child, and finally comes across a shepherd sitting by a fire. The shepherd is a hard-hearted fellow but a series of strange events attending the visitor make him afraid to deny his request. He then follows him back to the cave where the mother and child have the barest shelter – and his heart begins to soften… Something for children, and all those who are children at heart. ~ Carolyn Moynihan 

 

Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit (1927)

P.G. Wodehouse

jeevesApart from taking place on Christmas Eve, this hilarious story about Jeeves and Bertie Wooster has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. But Jeeves, the faithful but independent butler, once again rescues Bertie Wooster from ferocious aunts and a marriageable young woman “who read Nietzsche and had a laugh like waves breaking on a stern and rock-bound coast”. The prose is delightful and the plot works like a fine Swiss watch. ~ Michael Cook

 


Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet.