Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Readings

We are huddled around the kitchen putting the last touches on our gingerbread houses, and eating little bits of candy as we go.  Pandora's "Christian Christmas" songs lift our spirits, the rain patters on the windows, the wind blows in a little cold front, and we settle into another family Advent season.

All of the world is exchanging gifts these weeks, symbolizing the greatest gift of all.  Christ Jesus was a vulnerable child willing to live a life of difficulty, discipline, and ultimately death, to give us salvation from our sins and freedom to soar.

As the cold snow or rain forces you and your family indoors, you might wonder what to do to keep your family fires burning. I thought you might like to hear some fun stories we have been and are currently enjoying.  May the spirit of Christ reign in your homes, even as these timeless stories bring a deeper understanding of the meaning of the season.  Here, my readers, is my little gift from our home to yours.

The following stories are for listening, free, online.

A Must Read for All Ages:
The Story of Christmas from the Bible
The beginning of all Christmastime, let your children enjoy a reading of the original Christmas story

Youngest Childhood Stories:
Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore
What is Christmas without a reading of this poem that solidified Santa Claus as an American icon?  Listen to one or two renderings and then, have each adult and child take a turn trying to make the story come alive, or do it it round, each child and adult getting a verse.  

Adorable story of a curious mouse and his adventures.  Fun is had by all as the mouse brings a surprise visit on Christmas Day

Christmas Everyday by William Dean Howells
Hilarity reigns as a moment of selfish indulgence in a little girl's wish turns the world askew.  Enjoy this fairy tale with your little ones.  Work is worthwhile, one learns with this cute little story.  

Do you enjoy the magical tale of Santa Claus in the North Pole who brings gifts to boys and girls?  Here, in grand detail, is a sweet story of one little girl's imaginings of what Santa Claus Land is really like.  A great read for a child who knows the truth, yet enjoys a good story or, for a child whose wonderment of Kris Kringle is still very much alive.

Fairy Tales are the stories of childhood.  They bring a sense of magic and enter a child's world of toys and imagination.  Everyone has their favorite style: my eldest boy loves the Brothers Grimm's realism and just desserts, my daughter favors Madame d'Aulnoy's princesses and gentle endings, while I have always favored Hans Christian Andersen for his loyal characters and compassion for the poor.  If you can endure the melancholic situations, these two stories reveal the less than fortunate's Christmas hopes.

A moral tale enunciating the parable of Jesus about feeding him when he was hungry.  Very well known among European children.

A Christmas Star by Catherine Pyle
A fictional rendering of how the star above Bethlehem inspired another little star.   Follow a sweet golden star, anxious to do good and be useful.  Caution, mentions the afterlife.

Middle Childhood Stories:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Turn this one on and sit by a fire to enjoy the beauty of a generous hearted Bob Cratchit and the fruit of that heart in his children's happy hearts, even as the vileness of greed epitomized in Scrooge is revealed for it's hollowness.  Surprise element: hilarity in subtle wit. A timeless classic.

A sweet short story offering insight into the true meaning of Christmas.  Notice Magi, the gift bearers, are in the title, and you will see some amazing modern day gift bearers in this story.  Be ready for a tear or two.

Children (and adults) who listen to poetry will find a depth of understanding not achieved elsewhere. Desiring more of the beauty of Christmas, my children and I daily listen to a few of these poems.  Some are well loved favorites, committed to memory, others, fanciful, others sobering, but each has its place in the Christmas season.  Read through the titles and choose ones that seem intriguing.  You will enjoy the rich rewards of a minute or two invested in these well worded pieces.

The Christmas Stocking by Frank M. Baum
A few minutes of your time and you will have some great facts about how the first stocking came to be.  Brought to you by the same author that gave us The Wizard of Oz, enjoy a moment at his feet learning more about this time honored tradition.

A short little tale giving a glimpse into early American Christmas life.  Short, but lyrically captivating and sweet in form.  Good for those whose attention spans have yet to adjust to longer readings.  Shows a simpler time and the origins of our beloved Christmas Tree tradition.

Though arguing for Santa's existence, the point of this story is that hope and joy must reign and skepticism looses in the end.  We enjoy this story, even though we don't believe in Santa, as we see the beauty of faith in the intangible. This is the actual answer given to a real letter sent into a newspaper.  Show your child these artifacts:
Ask them how they would answer this question if they were a newsperson.  

The author of Alice in Wonderland takes a moment to pen a Christmas greetings.  It rings as true today as when he first wrote it.

Later Childhood Stories:
Old Christmas by Washington Irving
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in another time and another place, a time when Christmas was a joyfilled pause in the calendar from work, to a place where hospitality was practiced by all good men.  Enjoy the pastoral views, the simple times, and the way people found Christmas at dinner tables.  I love Washington Irving's writings.  Be prepared to adjust to his 1700's language.  A true American writer.

A Country Christmas by Louisa May Alcott
If you loved Little Women, you must enjoy this four part short story of Christmas celebrated with great frivolity and fidelity.  Beautiful prose, I can not get enough of this dear author.  Scroll down this webpage until you find "08" recording, and there you will see her story.

Aunt Cyrilla's Christmas Basket by L.M. Montgomery
Did you never get enough of Anne of Green Gables? Here, the author brings us a humble short story bringing where some moments go array, yet good is found in the end.  As always, the cheerful heart is clearly the best one for each of us and making do with what the Good Lord gives us, is the way to enjoy each moment that comes our way.

A Christmas at Sea by Robert Louis Stevenson
Who can resist Robert Louis Stevenson's love of adventure and boyhood wonder.  His rhymes established what many understand a poem to be.  Set in the hearty world of seafarers, Stevenson opens our eyes to a different version of Christmastime.

The Sweet Miracle by Eca de Queiroz
What would it have been like to have lived during the time of Jesus?  How would he change your world or what would you do to fully understand him?  Here a man struggles to believe and then does.  Very well written and set in beautiful Palestine of Jesus times.  This calls for a sophisticated listener, abounds with faith points.

Though I encourage you to read the whole book when you have the opportunity, this Christmas enjoy a sweet telling of Holland's celebration.  Listen, as this modest home finds Christmas delight.  Learn how a child's character is taught and encouraged in a time of celebration.  Spoiler alert: Santa is talked of as a "parent's doing", so not for any young child who still believes in Santa.

The Christmas Angel by Abbie Farwell Brown
A story, similar to Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", here we find an angel tossed out, toys forgotten, and a cold hearted Mistress of them all being moved to change her heart as the story unfolds.  Morals prevail in this sweet children's story.

A Christmas Tree by Charles Dickens
If you enjoyed A Christmas Carol, you might enjoy, A Christmas Tree.  Though not as charming, it contains some enchanting descriptions and memories of Christmas moments.

The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggins
A sweet story of the unexpected blessings a greeting can give.  If you have the time for a longer story, this is a good one.

For Adults only:
Poor Santa Claus by George Lewis
Sympathetic version of Santa's life.  Meant to have a tongue in cheek nod to parents.  Also, ends with the difficulty of inequalities on earth.  Sorrowful, but poignant. 

Want something a little more modern? To purchase or find at the library:

Looking for a good book to buy for a gift?  Great books for all year round. 

Merry Christmas, gentle readers.  May your days be merry and bright!