Monday, December 10, 2012

Best Christmas Tales

Our little Charlie Brown Christmas tree

I should say, "Best Christmas Tales for Snooty Literary Types Like Me."  Ahem.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my oeuvre, (and if you’re not, WHY NOT?  This is my blog you’re reading!), I’m a big sap when it comes to Christmas. 

I love everything about Christmas—snow (so long as I don’t have to drive in it), lights, roaring fires, pines, cards, gifts, carols, the whole shebang.  

Why?   Well, there’s just something about this time of the year that I have always found magical.  There is a very old tradition linking ghost stories and Christmas—think about the ghosts in A Christmas Carol.  The framing device in The Turn of the Screw is a bunch of old friends gathered together at Christmas.  Even the song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” includes the line: there’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of glories of Christmases long, long ago . . . 

This was popularized, as so many of our traditions by the Victorians, but I imagine there are roots in paganism—I won’t bore you with the new agey details, but Christmas is the solstice, the longest night of the year, when it was thought that the veil between the worlds was the thinnest.  The perfect time for ghosts to walk.

So, yeah, as someone with a lifelong fascination with horror stories, I am naturally drawn to tales of Christmas, and, whenever possible, weave references to Christmas into my own work.  My two children’s tales are Christmas-themed, and were written as Christmas gifts to my best friend and writing partner, Coyote, and his family.  In the Order of the Four Sons series, significant events in the characters’ lives take place at Christmas. 

In honor of the occasion, I thought I’d share a list of great Christmas tales—something sort of off the beaten track from the usual Scrooges and Grinches.  With the exception of Bridget Jones, these stories are somewhat overlooked, probably because no big Hollywood production has ever been made of them. 

Will Make You Laugh: Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
This is a bit of a cheat—the framing device is more about New Year’s and New Year’s Resolutions.  But I make it an annual Christmas read anyway, and it's chock-full of references to holidays . . . including Valentine's Day and, er, VE-Day, so I reserve the right to include it in other lists.  Just so you know.

Will Make You Cry: “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty
This story is about an old woman who makes the long trek from her country home to Natchez to pick up medicine for her grandson.  Her determination to get there despite her age and the many obstacles she faces are heart-wrenching enough, but the end?  The end is simply devastating.  If you read, be sure to have tissues handy.

Will Make You Wanna Pick Up a Sword and Go Slay Some Dragons:  “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” by the Pearl Poet
One of the greatest knights of the Round Table has a Christmas adventure.  'Nuff said.

For a Bit of Intrigue:  “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Yes, Holmes.  I adore all things Holmes about as much as I adore Christmas.  Watson, who is happily married at this point in the series, comes to visit Holmes on Christmas.  Holmes, meanwhile, has been brought a puzzling case-- a man has found the titular blue carbuncle in the throat of a Christmas goose.  Surely there are easier ways to make pate?

Will Freak You the Fuck Out:  “Nicholas Was” by Neil Gaiman
This super-short story (less than 100 words!) packs a wallop in the thrills 'n' chills department.  This tale actually inspired me to start writing my own Christmas stories to give away as gifts.  Gaiman wrote it to send out with his Christmas cards one year, which I thought was a fabulous idea.  I came across it in his short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors. 

Merry Christmas to all, and as always, happy reading!

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