The birthdays in our family are concentrated into four months extending from the end of November through to the end of March. It makes the time leading up to Christmas rather full. I’ve never read much in the way of short stories generally but I’ve enjoyed finding some for Christmas. If you are short on time for including some Mother Culture in your life at this time of year, how about some short stories with Advent & Christmas themes? I originally posted some of this in 2017 but have updated the post for this year. Here are some ideas & best of all, for most of them, they are either free to read online or to listen to on Librivox:
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke is my favourite Christmas story. The copy above is only 95 pages but it delivers an emotional punch for such a small offering. I love, love it! An ideal book if you’re short on time over the Christmas season.
The Story of the Other Wise Man (the edition above is published by Dover) is by far the best of the two stories in this book above but The First Christmas Tree is a worthwhile read also so I’ll quickly mention a bit about that first. Set in Germany in the eighth century, The First Christmas Tree tells of the encounter between Winfried (known mostly by his Roman name, Boniface) and a group of pagans celebrating a festival in the woods. Boniface intervenes and saves the Chief’s young son from being sacrificed to appease Thor.
“…out yonder in the wide forest, who knows what storms are raving to-night in the hearts of men, though all the woods are still? who knows what haunts of wrath and cruelty are closed tonight against the advent of the Prince of Peace? And shall I tell you what religion means to those who are called and chosen to dare, and to fight, and to conquer the world for Christ? It means to go against the strongholds of the adversary. It means to struggle to win an entrance for the Master everywhere. What helmet is strong enough for this strife save the helmet of salvation? What breastplate can guard a man against these fiery darts but the breastplate of righteousness? What shoes can stand the wear of these journeys but the preparation of the gospel of peace?”
The First Christmas Tree is free to read here.
Henry van Dyke tells the tale of ‘the fourth wise man,’ one of the Magi from the East who was to go with the other three to seek the Saviour of the world:
The Birth by Gene Edwards
An unusual look at the Christmas story. I wrote about it here.
Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope (1815 – 1882)
This is a collection of five short stories in a lovely HB presentation & set during the Christmas season. Christmas at Thompson Hall is the longest of the stories and is an enjoyable, light-hearted read that relates a sort of comedy of errors on the part of a Mrs. Brown. Mrs. Brown is a very proper British woman who commits a blunder in a night-time encounter in a French hotel. By a series of ‘fibs’ to cover up her embarrassment, her innocent mistake develops into a serious situation.
Trollope’s description of Mrs. Brown:
‘She was a large woman, with a commanding bust, thought by some to be handsome, after the manner of Juno. But with strangers there was a certain severity of manner about her, – a fortification, as it were, of her virtue against all possible attacks, – a declared determination to maintain at all points, the beautiful character of a British matron, which, much as it had been appreciated at Thompson Hall, had met with some ill-natured criticism among French men and women.’
Christmas at Thompson Hall is available on audio at Librivox read by one of my favourite narrators, scholar and gentleman, Nicholas Clifford (scroll down to Chapter 21 where the story begins). Also free online at Gutenberg.
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie (1960)
Agatha Christie described this collection of short stories as a book of Christmas fare with two main courses: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and The Mystery of the Spanish Chest. It also includes a selection of three entrees, and a sorbet!
YouTube has an impeccable recording of the story read by Hugh Fraser. Very British!