Old Christmas

But is old, old, good old Christmas gone? Nothing but the hair of his good, grey, old head and beard left? Well, I will have that, seeing that I cannot have more of him

I love Christmas. I love books. Naturally, when you combine the two you end up with the following conclusion: I love Christmas books. I have been picking up books devoted to Christmas since I was in college. It all started with a facsimile of the original Christmas Carol. I bought one for myself and one for my Grandpa in 1979. A few years later, I found another facsimile, this time the book was Washington Irving’s Old Christmas, first published in 1819-1820 and then republished in 1875 by Macmillan and Co. with illustrations by Randolph Caldecott. This book, a facsimile of that 1875 reprint, is especially charming and deserves to be more widely read. The reproduction book jacket (which I have kept in pristine condition) says this about Irving’s delightful collection of Christmas stories: “In these five timeless tales, Irving writes of mistletoe and evergreen wreaths, Christmas candles and the blazing yule log, singing and dancing, carolers at the door and the preacher at the church, wine and wassail, and, of course, the festive Christmas dinner.”

My facsimile copy of 'A Christmas Carol'

Reading Irving’s observances of “old Christmas,” the ancient traditions of a true English Christmas, (coming as he did from the “new world”) makes me realize how every century celebrates and repackages perceived ancient traditions which stretch back in time and memory. While we now consider the Christmas traditions we celebrate to be venerable observances, (our Christmas icons if you will) the tree, Rudolph, Frosty and especially Santa in all his red and white glory  weren’t even a twinkle in the eye of the “good old Christmas” celebrated in Irving’s day.

Here is a picture of my own copy of this delightful book… As the twelve days of Christmas pass, I hope to share more of my favorite Christmas books as well as my collection of old Christmas cards…

“Even the poorest cottage welcomed the festive season with green decorations of bay and holly - “

After all, ‘tis the season…

It is a Charles Dickens Trend


I am soooo behind on my blogging. There seems to be a renaissance in Charles Dickens biograhies these days. It has been twenty years since the last one was written. Claire Tomalin (my favorite biographer) is currently working on a book and Michael Slater has just released his. It will be available in the U.S. November 10th.

I have not read everything Dickens ever wrote. Not by a long shot. I think Masterpiece Theatre is partially responsible for this. Many of Dickens greatest novels have been expertly serialized for the ‘small screen.” My sense is that this TV-ization of Dickens has led to a decline in his readership. Yet, I would be willing to wager the number of people who could give a synopsis of one of his novels without having actually read one is huge.  It is also fascinating to think the TV versions were presented to the public in the same form Dickens came to the public in the mid 19th century: serialization.

My great grandfather’s complete set of Dickens is housed in my family’s cottage in Wisconsin. This is my preferred place to read Dickens. When I was twenty-something, I chose to read Little Dorrit because it was the one Dickens novel I had not seen rendered in some sort of film version. Happily, that has been rectified (twice, in 1988 and in 2009, I never saw the 1988 version, young motherhood and all that) and the recent BBC production was wonderful. I am looking forward to this biography. I will probably pick up Bleak House as a result. Biographies have that effect on me.

I found this bit of information to be very validating, since I am guilty of the same: “The sinister villain who entraps Oliver was named after his (actually friendly and helpful) workmate in the blacking factory, Bob Fagin.” The T-shirt admonition is apparently spot on. Be careful, or you’ll end up in my novel!