12 reads for the 12 days of Christmas

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12 reads of christmas

Whether you say Merry Christmas or Bah Humbug, here’s 12 stories for each day of Christmas.

Day 1 – How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

The day after Christmas when Dr Seuss was brushing his teeth he looked up to see a ‘very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror’. Realising it was himself he wrote the book to try and discover something about Christmas that he felt he’d lost.

“Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more….”

Day 2 – A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

Largely autobiographical, the short story centres around the friendship between the young narrator and his elderly cousin. It explores love and the joy of giving as well as the loneliness and loss that it often more keenly felt at Christmas time.

“And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing me from an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven.”

Day 3 – Santa Claus in the Bush by Banjo Paterson

Probably Australia’s most famous bush poet Banjo Patterson graces the $10 note and the text of his poem, The Man from Snowy River appears in the copy protection microprint. Less famous is this Christmas ballad about the importance of giving and acceptance of fellow man – you never know, the stranger you help may end up being Santa.

“‘Tis well, ’tis well”, said the bonny wee man,
“I have eaten the wide world’s meat,
And the food that is given with right good will
is the sweetest food to eat.”

Day 4 – Christmas Trees by Robert Frost

Frost wrote this Christmas circular letter in 1916 and has since then, along with much of his poetry (and indeed, himself) become associated with the American Christmas experience.

I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.”

Day 5 – At Christmas Time by Anton Chechcov

The Russian physician, dramaturge and author is considered to be among the greatest short story writers of all time. He was famously quoted as saying; “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress.” This sad Christmas tale reflects the loneliness many experience at Christmas time when they are away from their loved ones.

But now Christmas had come, and Vasilissa could endure the silence no longer.”

Day 6 – The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien

This collection of letters were published posthumously having been written over a period of 20 years to entertain Tolkien’s children at Christmas time. The letters detail the adventures of Father Christmas sent from either himself or his elvish secretary. Each letter was delivered in an envelope with a postage stamp and mark from the North Pole which Tolkien designed himself.

“If you find that not many of the things you asked for have come, and not perhaps quite so many as sometimes, remember that this Christmas all over the world there are a terrible number of poor and starving people.”

Day 7 – Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter

A simple, myth like tale about two children who leave their grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve and take a wrong turn in the mountain snows. Trapped with rock crystals of the frozen glacier this story takes a suspenseful turn and influence Thomas Mann and others. Poet W.H. Auden called the work “a quiet and beautiful parable about the relation of people to places, of man to nature.

“Ice–nothing but ice.
There were great slabs lying, covered with snow but on the edges glassy green ice showed; there were mounds of what looked like pushed-up foam, the sides dull but with inward glimmers as if crystals and splinters of precious stones had been jumbled together…”

Day 8 – Nicholas was… by Neil Gaiman

One for all the bah humbugs, this morbid and very short poem has a simple moral – it sucks to be Santa.

“…older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter. He wanted to die.”

Day 9 – Little Women by Lousia May Alcott

The Christmas scenes in Little Women are where we see the March girls rich in ways beyond their circumstances – it just takes them (excluding Beth) a little longer to realise it.

“Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she remembered her mother’s promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey.”

Day 10 – The Cultivation of Christmas Trees by T.S. Elliot

In 1927 Richard de la Mare the production director at London’s Faber & Gwyer (later Faber and Faber) asked famous writers and illustrators to contribute to a poetry pamphlet to be sent in lieu of Christmas cards. The notorious cat lover and celebrated poet, T.S. Elliot famously wrote six poems for the collection over the years including one of the most well known – The Cultivation of Christmas Trees.

“So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By “eightieth” meaning whichever is last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy.”

Day 11 – The Turning by Tim Winton

Not exactly Yule Tide stories but rather this collection features many of summer – those hot, sticky days that remind me of Christmas time in Australia; sunburn and sea, mozzies and mangos, the bush and too much beer. They are tales of love and hope and loss, of families and dysfunctional relationships.

“Time doesn’t click on and on at the stroke. It comes and goes in waves and folds like water; it flutters and sifts like dust, rises, billows, falls back on itself. When a wave breaks, the water is not moving. The swell has traveled great distances but only the energy is moving, not the waves. Perhaps time moves through us and not through it.”

Day 12 – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Carol has been heralded as one of the greatest influences in rejuvenating old British Christmas traditions at a time when society was exploring new symbols of celebration. The story was a way for Dickens to superimpose his humanitarian ideals and visions of the holiday onto readers – an ideology which has been coined as Dickens’ Carol Philosophy.

“But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time… as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, where men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

What are the Christmas stories you like to read or share during the season? Let us know in the comments.

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