If you are like me, Christmas isn’t complete without pulling out those special books from the Christmas box. The same stories year after year–and sometimes a new one or two–create that nostalgia that makes the holidays so special. Here are a couple new editions of old favorites, and a couple brand new offerings–a style for each personality on your gift list.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
(an old-fashioned gift for reading together)
True, A Christmas Carol has been overdone, being re-formatted every year in plays and TV shows only loosely based on Dicken’s tale. Yet, the original words that Dicken’s crafted are every bit as potent today as in the winter of 1843. They re-awaken that overflow of generosity and graciousness towards one another that echo the very spirit of “good will towards men” that Christ’s own coming demonstrated. Reading A Christmas Carol is one of my yearly Christmas traditions; this year, what stuck with me was how Dickens demonstrates a contentment not based on stability and wealth, but the gifts we have in one-another.
Many of the homes Scrooge visits on Christmas day are full of warmth and joy, despite the daily struggle for a decent meal and sufficient clothes for cold weather. The delight Scrooge gains at the end from bringing comfort and help to lives like Tiny Tim comes not just from alleviating needs, but from the gift of learning from these dear souls. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” comes alive with the thankfulness, contentment, and love of Scrooge’s young sister, his fiancé from younger days, and Mr. and Mrs. Crotchet– eventually effecting Ebenezer Scrooge himself.
This newly released rendition by Paraclete Press (pictured above) contains the un-altered original text, complemented by the original illustrations. I love these old-fashioned, black-and-white illustrations. They are full of character and take you back to the atmosphere of 19th century England. The ghost of Christmas Present is as boisterous a Bacchus as you could imagine. When Scrooge tries to snuff out his light, the high contrast black and whites make this little man battling a great spirit quite preposterous. If you don’t have this classic in your collection, I scarcely know a better way to get into the Christmas spirit. I always find myself grinning, chuckling, crying, and clapping at this heart-warming tale.
A Very Russian Christmas
(a gift for the philosopher)
For a unique and thoughtful holiday experience, spend Christmas with the Russians! If you have a fondness for Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, or Chekhov this hardback collection of twelve stories, many making their premiere appearance in English, will be like opening a treasure box. All three of these great crafters of story appear in this work, as well as others who write with the same heartbeat. These tales take us back to a time of rugged winters with Tsars, shrewd old men, women with influence behind the spotlight, and pitiful drunkards. Despite the harsh life these stories depict they are full of compassion. For instance, one man dies and takes a ghost-led journey of his past deeds which fall far short on golden scales. Instead of meeting with condemnation, the ruler at death’s judgment seat recognizes the hardships that have debased and shaped him. Though theologically questionable, it is a tale that asks valid questions about how we judge one another.
Like Dickens, these tales express a yearning for a future time of good will for all men that we remember to look forward to anew during the Christmas season.
Coloring the Psalms: Seeing God’s Patterns in Our Lives by Adele Calhoun
(a gift for the artist)
There are many beautiful coloring books out there, but what I love about this one is the intentionality of the devotions that accompany each gorgeous coloring sheet. Each ready-to-color illustration is accompanied by a verse from the Psalms and a devotion with specific responses called for from the reader. The book is divided into sections entitled “Meditation”, “Attentiveness”, “Prayer”, and “Worship”. In the meditation section Calhoun might have you pick one word from the verse that sticks with you and mull it over as you color, in the worship section she might have you choose a new topic for thanksgiving each time you pick a new shade to color with. Her practicality invites us to develop spiritual habits through the peacefulness of coloring.
The coloring sheets themselves are lovely, fresh images of nature and animals that relate to the Psalms they reference. I appreciate the small, detailed spaces that make it easy to relax into the moment.
The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Anderson
(a gift for the decorator)
My favorite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is The Snow Queen for its deep theological truths and allegory (also available in this format). However, The Fir Tree couldn’t be more appropriate for reading under a bedecked Christmas tree. Complementing the vision of contentment in A Christmas Carol, The Fir Tree reminds us what a gift we have in the present. Who has not found themselves at one time or another in the same place as this young spruce? Young, he wishes to be older; planted, he wishes for adventure. He gets his wishes at last, jeweled and lighted on a holiday eve, but misses his own life until it has passed him by. This is story of thankfulness for the life given to us in the moment of today.
The style of these illustrations are geometric and contemporary. Their bright and crisp colors look gorgeous on display and evoke the vivacity of Christmas.
Which book is your style as you cosy up for Christmas?