Two Christmas Classics

Every year, I check out a few of the same books from my library branch’s holiday selection. I seek out the classics illustrated by my favorite artists, who include Trina Schart Hyman, Shirley Hughes, James Marshall, and Tomie dePaola. This year, I re-read Dickens’ Christmas Carol to myself, and managed, much to my amazement, to read the entirety of Dylan Thomas’ Child’s Christmas in Wales aloud to both 5yo Drake and 2yo Guppy. They didn’t sit still for all of it, but I repeatedly enticed them back with Hyman’s illustrations. Also, I could tell Drake was drawn to the rolling cadences of Thomas’ prose poem, which was a joy to read aloud.

What I appreciated this year in A Christmas Carol was how secular, not religious, its story was. I liked Dickens’ dry, ironic humor, used to politely skewer certain people or their habits. This contrasted with his rich descriptions:

There were great round, pot-bellied baskets of chesnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars; and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner.

So many commas and semicolons! Dylan Thomas was fond of commas as well:

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed.

Happy holidays to all, and may you enjoy your seasonal favorites as well, be they food, books, family or friends.

Comments are closed.