Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It is also an incredibly hectic time for many. Putting down the egg nog, iPad, and to do list is hard the week of Christmas. There are still presents to buy, family to see, food to cook, lights to hang, and all the other stresses that pile up around the holiday season.
Sometimes is it easy to forget what the real meaning of Christmas is. This is true whether you are a “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukah,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” “Bah, Hambug!” or any other holiday celebrator. Writers throughout the centuries have all taken up the pen to memorialize the meaning of Christmas or criticize the commercialization of the holidays.
McFarlin Special Collection has an exciting assortment of holiday reading material that simply exude holiday spirit. Many are your traditional Christmas fare, but this post is meant to highlight the unique and special books in the department.
No list would be complete without mentioning Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. A personal favorite is the 1869 illustrated edition. The illustrations by Solomon Eytinge have set the foundation for how the world currently interpret Dicken’s work. Eytinge’s illustration of Tiny Tim on Bob Crachet’s shoulders was the first time the scene had been illustrated and has become the iconic image associated with Christmas Carol.
Preceding Christmas Carol by two decades is Washington Irving’s The Old Christmas. This delightful tome is a quick read but reveals how several British Christmas customs transferred to the new United States. Irving’s charming prose and the delightful illustration are sure to delight even the Scrooges.
A lesser known, but more light work of fiction, is Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is actually a collection of short works that include “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding,” “The Mystery of the Spanish Chest,” “The Under Dog,” “Four and Twenty Blackbirds,” “The Dream,” and “Greenshaw’s Folly.” Heclue Poirot amuses and amazes his counterparts as he sleuths his way through the stories while Miss Marple delights in “Greenshaw’s Folly.”
Moving to less traditional styles Christmas writing is the 1928 autographed copy of e.e. cummings’ Christmas Tree. Christmas Tree is a refreshing poem to a holiday icon. In a similar vein but very different style is T.S. Eliot’s The Cultivation of Christmas Trees. Eliot wrote six poems exploring the theme of wonder in the holiday times.
Thomas Nast’s Christmas Compendium shows the wonderful construction of Santa that still directs the Santa image today. Nast created the jovial, cherub cheek Santa that we all have come to expect and love during the holiday. The Christmas Compendium is a collection of some of Nast’s most famous sketches of St. Nick.
Last, but not least, is Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book. Originally published in 1908 as a means of raising money for charity, the work is an inside look at Britain royal family. Each photograph was taken by Queen Alexandra and captures the life of King George, Queen Alexandra, various royals and aristocrats, including the King of Denmark, Empress of Russia, and King of Greece. While not Christmas in content, the work is an excellent example of Christmas memorabilia from the turn of the century.
Each book is available at the University of Tulsa McFarlin Library Special Collections during regular business hours. Happy holidays to one and all.