Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Traditions: Stories

The other night I was talking to my sister about all the great Christmas movies we used to watch when we were kids, like One Magic Christmas starring Mary Steenburgen. And then my friends over at the PBS Booklights blog mentioned The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket, a short story I read and loved a few years ago. So that got me thinking about some of my favorite holiday stories from years gone by.

You really can't go wrong with a classic, and you can't be any more classic than the poem by Clement Clarke Moore "A Visit from St. Nicholas." It has been re-told everywhich way, from Tim Burton's ghoulish masterpiece to the Cajun version I was interoduced to while living in Louisiana years ago. But it is the version of the poem I had as a child that stands out in my mind more than any other.

When I was really little, we had this pop-up version of The Night before Christmas illustrated by Michael Hague. Because it was the only pop-up book we had, it would get read all year long. We read it so often I had it memorized from the time I was about four, and to this day I can still say the poem verbatim.

As mentioned above, I am a sucker for family Christmas movies. I cried like a baby the first time I saw The Family Stone on a plane trip from Salt Lake to New York, and nothing gets me laughing like While You Were Sleeping. But my very favorite Christmas movie isn't really a Christmas movie at all.

When I sit down to watch Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, I know it's Christmas. Because I have missed a few Christmases with my family, the song Esther sings to her little sister Tootie about Christmas being more about who you have loved than where you are has a special meaning to me.

One of my best memories from high school is the Christmas play I was in. It was a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol in which Scrooge was a self-centered rock star bent on driving himself to an early, lonely grave complete with the dreadlock-sporting ghost of Bob Marley and a tofu turkey for the hippy Cratchits. I really wish I could remember the name of the play, but it was too long ago and I can't find it in my old journals either. Oh well.

I didn't have a big part, but I did have this really dramatic fainting scene at the beginning when the kid who was supposed to catch me wasn't paying attention and I hit my head on the stage. I don't blame him, really. I tend to fall and hit my head a lot--I've even knocked myself out a couple of times. But getting back to the topic at hand...

I LOVE Christmas music. Seriously, I have about 12 hours worth of Christmas music on my iPod. Everything from the King Singers to Fall Out Boy. And all of that music tells a different story of Christmas, whether it's a depressing story of love lost and loneliness, or a song totally focused of the miracle of a baby born in a stable.

To me, one of the most beautiful hymns of the season is It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. That song encompasses everything meaningful about the season. It speaks of tradition and peace, past and present, hope and fulfillment. The imagery is also so moving: "Still thru the cloven skies they come / With peaceful wings unfurled."

There is something so distinct about the stories written about Christmas. This is the time of year when everyone suspends their disbelief for just a moment and believes that magic and miracles and goodness really do exist in the world. We stretch our imagination and make ourselves a little vulnerable to feeling the spirit of Christmas, no matter if we believe in Christ or not.

And new stories of Christmas are still being created every year. Snowmen at Night by Mark and Caralyn Buehner is the perfect example of this.

What are some of your favorite Christmas stories? Are they books or songs or maybe even memories? Maybe it's a story a parent read to you or something you discovered one Christmas when you were far from home. But in this season of glad tides, I hope you are able to find joy and happiness in all your Christmas stories.

1 comment:

  1. I have so many favorite Christmas memories and stories that it would take me hours to list them here. But I've always loved Mannheim Steamroller. My favorite album has always been "A Fresh Aire Christmas." I'm getting excited to develop a new tradition of attending the MoTab Christmas concert. I didn't get into the Conference Center tonight but I did enjoy seeing it in the Tabernacle and probably even had a closer view of the screen. Oh how I love everything about Christmas!