It’s that time of the year again! The Santa cut-outs and the red caps make an appearance on shop fronts and malls across India. Your good spirits or your kids’ pester power will ensure you celebrate Christmas with red felt caps, cake and hopefully some mulled wine. Why not soak deeper into the festive spirit with a selection of books as well? Here’s my pick of top 7 Christmas reads:
1. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus: Let’s begin this list with an editorial. Yes, an editorial that spawned books, movies, musicals, shopfronts and what not. It also turned out to be the most reprinted English editorial anywhere in the world. On September 21s, 1897, The Sun printed an editorial titled Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus penned by Francis Church. This was in response to a letter from an 8 years old Virginia O’Hanlon who asked The Sun, ‘Please, tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?’ So go ahead, pick up the old fashioned illustrated version of the editorial-turned-book Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus or just read the beautiful editorial on wiki.
2. The Greatest Gift: This short story written by Philip Stern in 1943 is about George Pratt who stands on a bridge on Christmas Eve of 1943, thinking of suicide. A man approaches him and strikes a conversation and George says he wished he was never born. The strange man grants George his wish. George Pratt goes about his new life without being George Pratt and soon realises he wants his old life back. Sounds familiar? The Greatest Gift became the inspiration for the 1946 film Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life – rated as one of the best 100 American movies ever made. The film is now considered traditional Christmas viewing
3. Letters from Father Christmas: There is a world of J.R.R Tolkien beyond The Lord of the Rings. And one gem in that alternate world is Letters from Father Christmas- a collection of letters written and illustrated by the master story teller, for his children every year on Christmas. These letters were written between 1920 and 1942 and came every year to his children in envelopes, carrying stamps designed by Tolkien himself. Go ahead, recreate that magical world with this marvellous collection of letters.
4. Skipping Christmas: Yes, there is a world beyond legal thrillers for John Grisham as well. In 2001, this fun Christmas novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham was published and it reached No 1 on book charts soon. The plot revolves around a couple, well-known for their elaborate Christmas celebrations, who suddenly decide to skip Christmas and go on a holiday. The book became the plot for the movie Christmas with the Kranks, released in 2004.
5. The Snow Queen: One of the many fairy tales penned by Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen is the story of Gerda and Kay, who get separated because of the Snow Queen. Like all fairy tales, this too carries layers of good vs evil stories within itself. It is believed that the Disney blockbuster Frozen began as an inspiration from Andersen’s Snow Queen. Do you remember the characters from Frozen? They are Hans, Kristoff, Anna & Sven. Now say these names in quick succession. Does it sound like Hans Christian Andersen?
6. Gift of Magi: There’s very little chance you have not read O’Henry’s short story The Gift of Magi. This story has been a staple in English books for middle school in India for ages. This is the story of Della and Jim as they look for Christmas gifts for each other on a Christmas eve. With no money on them, they sell their most prized possessions to buy gifts for each other, only to discover a heart-tugging twist in what they got as gifts.
7. Little Women: “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents”- so begins this marvellous story of the four sisters of March family, being brought up by their mother, while their father is away fighting the American Civil War. Published in 1868 & 1869 in two parts, Little Women by Louisa M Alcott is the story of four sisters growing up into adolescence and beyond in war-torn America, struggling (and confirming) with gender stereotypes of those times.
Give these a read this lovely winter and let us know how you liked them!