Every year about this time, I like to dig out and re-read my favorite stories with holiday themes. I never tire of going back to them, and they, more than anything else, provide the impetus to move me into the spirit of the seasons. Today’s post will mention a few of my favorites.
Of course, anyone who knows me would say that all things Dickens is at the top of my list. A Christmas Carol and its theme of human kindness and redemption is what makes it a true classic, and one I look forward to reading in the days leading up to the big day.
But there are others as well, if not as well-known. For instance, O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” has always been a good Christmas story with it’s ironic twist of Jim and Della each giving up something that was truly precious to each in order to purchase a gift for the other. I’ve always liked O. Henry’s characters and the hardships of which they try to cope, and this short story is a rather excellent example of unselfish love and what true giving is all about.
Another O. Henry favorite is “The Cop and the Anthem,” although not specifically a Christmas tale. It is, however, set in the heart of New York City, with the chill and unforgiving winds of winter arriving. A homeless soul named Soapy prepares for his annual winter trip to the Island—Riker’s Island—where he can be taken care of at the expense of the taxpayer—warm meals, warm beds, and a roof over his head. Of course, every attempt to get arrested results in just the opposite, frustrating Soapy immensely. Finally, hearing the beautiful strains of a church choir singing inside the church, Soapy thinks of his mother and has an epiphany and decides to turn his life around before it’s too late. Before he can do anything more, though, he is collared by a policeman for loitering and dragged off for sentencing! Love those O. Henry trademark twists!
I remember reading Lincoln Steffens’s “A Miserable Merry Christmas,” in fifth or sixth grade as a pre-Christmas assignment. The little tale runs the gamut of the young boy’s emotions from complete despondency, when he discovers an empty stocking and no pony—the only present he wanted—on Christmas morning, to total rapture when the delivery person shows up—hours late—riding the aforementioned pony. For whatever reason, I somehow was able to relate to the boy, although I never received a pony for Christmas.
There are others, of course, and I look forward to enjoying them late at night, after the writing is finished and the rush of the day is over. There will be a fire in the fireplace to add a festive holiday flavor to the occasions. The winds and swirling rain, sleet, or snow will be up to no good on the outside, while I’m comfortably ensconced within our cozy living room.