Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas in Literature

Some books are Christmas themed, with the celebration of the holiday foremost in the plot. Then there are other stories in which the holiday plays a brief role, just as a small part of the characters' lives. One of my favorites in this second category is Lousia May Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN.

The book actually starts with the March family Christmas and gives us an up-close peek at how it was kept in the 1860's. The family has suffered an economic downturn (though when I first read this book as a child I wondered how they could consider themselves poor and yet have a servant in their kitchen) but the first thing Jo and her sisters decide to do is give up their Christmas breakfast to an even poorer German family.

This is a brilliant literary device. One of the first tasks of an author is to create a sympathetic protagonist. We immediately are shown that the March sisters are good-hearted, generous and don't feel themselves ill-used because they skipped a meal for someone else's benefit.

We like them. A lot.

Christmas is often used to show the passage of time. Even Harry Potter and his friends exchange gifts and Christmas wishes.

Can you think of other books in which Christmas occurs in passing?

PS. I'm still guesting over at Chicks of Characterization. Today the gals are going to post some reviews of A CHRISTMAS BALL. While I appreciate every single review, the ones from readers mean so much to me. If you've read A CHRISTMAS BALL and would like to share, I'd sure appreciate a comment left over there too!


Anonymous said...

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. It's "always winter, but never Christmas" the first time Lucy stumbles into Narnia.

Is there anything sadder than that?

EmilyBryan said...

Oh, I thought of another---Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig. Her characters are gathering greenery and dragging in the Yule log for the beginning of the Christmas festivities just as Robert, the Duke returns to his home after a 12 year absence.

Jane L said...

I don't know if this counts, but I watched it last night, I have seen this movie a hundred times if not more and I really focused on the Christmas scene last night for some reason. Gone With The Wind. The servant is chasing the chicken around the yard for Christmas dinner, they are serving their last bottle of wine and Scarlet has made Ashley a beautiful scarf to match the warm coat Melanie has made her husband. The train station. Just a thought today! LOL!
Happy Holidays everyone!

EmilyBryan said...

LOL, Jane! Trust you to remember a Christmas connection to GWTW. My friend Penny Watson is a big Scarlett fan too!

Note to self: humanize said...

I must confess my family didn't educate me to feel all this magic for Christmas. They talked more often about this season being all about economics and ways of making people buy stuff and offer stuff they don't need or want.

It's sad, I know. They don't even send me presents (yes, I send them). Lucky for me to have gotten married, and have THE family that I wish I always had, on my husband's side. They send presents, even if modest and just symbolic as I prefer it.

All this to say I don't remember ever reading a Christmas book, but I remember seeing that story of the Sisters as a movie.

Cheers for sharing Emily.
Kisses from Ireland,

EmilyBryan said...

Vanessa-I often wish Christmas was less about stuff myself. In fact, I ran across an organization today called Advent Conspiracy that challenges Christians to spend less and give more. Just a fraction of what we spend on things people will probably return on the 26th would provide clean water to the 3rd World.

Something to think about. . .

Glad you found a wonderful family on your husband's side. I did too.

librarypat said...

I have a whole bookcase of Christmas books (many anthologies). Some of the most memorable ones with Christmas scenes have been children's books. They often bring it down to the real meaning of the season and what it means or should mean to us. WINTER'S GIFT by Jane Monroe Donovan is a truly lovely book - both the illustrations and the story. Not your traditional story and not a decorated tree or Santa in sight.

EmilyBryan said...

Pat--I'm in favor of non-traditional. Christmas trees are a relatively new tradition (popularized by Queen Victoria) and Santa Claus isn't really a Christian element of the holiday. The true meaning of Christmas has been cluttered with tons of tradition and borrowed customs.

Espana said...

I am suprised at the diversity of reactions to this movie, though I should not be. This was one of my absolute favorite movies, growing up. My sisters and I watched it over and over, and never got tired of it. I agree with some of the more critical reviewers that some of they key relationships and ideas from Miss Alcotts novel were definately missing in this movie, however. There are, I believe, two reasons for this: 1) A two hour show can only show so much (epsecially if your priority is to get the kissing scenes in there), and 2) Some of the main ideas (i.e. Christianity as the MAIN reason for the developing of one's charactor, ect;) were basically left out so as not to make the people's thinking seem outmoded to modern viewers. That is too bad, but it is still one of the best movies I have ever seen. The filming, acting, music, and setting are beautiful, and convincing. I cry almost every time I watch this. Anyone who has sisters they love would do the same.