Holiday Gems

One of the joys of the holiday is settling down

after all the energetic activities

to read inspired holiday fiction.

 

You are no doubt familiar with some of the well-known holiday books and short stories…

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…     The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson…

Eugene Field’s The First Christmas Tree…          O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi…

A Visit from St. Nicholas   (‘Twas the night before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore…

And, of course, the sacred Bible accounts of the first Christmas.

 

Well, here are some gems that I’ve recently discovered.

They are not as well known, perhaps, but are some of the most beautiful holiday stories I’ve read!

Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck

A farm boy works so hard, only to see disappointment in his father’s eyes, until one Christmas he overhears his parents’ conversation and learns what Dad really thinks of him.

 

My Christmas Miracle by Taylor Caldwell

A true story of the lowest point of her life

 

A Christmas Inspiration” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fun-loving young women living together in a boarding house take notice of one of their quirky, quiet neighbors.

 

A Gift from the Heart” by Norman Vincent Peale

The true story of a young Swiss girl employed by a wealthy American family and her Christmas surprise.

 

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien (1976)

A collection of letters the author wrote from 1920 to 1943 to his children “from Father Christmas”.

 

and, my VERY favorite,

The Man at the Gate of the World by W.E. Cule

The Magi Caspar’s quest to find the Saviour of the World, and his obedience to the call to stand at the Gate of the World—in the city of Damascus—and wash the feet of weary travelers.

Most of these I found during the past few weeks of reading these two books:

A Classic Christmas, and The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories.

 

For more selections

Here is American Literature’s beautiful collection of Christmas Stories, and

(I can’t resist!) Linus’s version of the first Christmas.

 

Wishing you many peaceful, happy hours of reading, and

A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020!

 

Thunder and Lightning and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

While listening to a radio program which mentioned Santa’s reindeer in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, something occurred to my mom about Donner and Blitzen. In her native German language, donner means thunder, and blitzen means lightning. We were both curious to know if the creator of the song chose these names because of these meanings.

Well!  What fun we had on the phone, her asking questions and me surfing the Internet to find the answers. The first link I landed on said that the song came from the book.

Book? Rudolph was a book before it was a song? Now I’m really interested! Who wrote the book, and when?

In 1939, Robert L. May, an ad man for Montgomery Ward retail store, was asked by his boss to write a little story that could be made into one of the booklets that the department store gave away to their customers at Christmas time. He created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a rhyming story poem.

May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and melody for a song based on the character in the book. He borrowed most of the reindeer names from the classic 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (more commonly known as “Twas the Night before Christmas”) written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. or Clement Moore.

And now we come to the answer to our original question. According to ThoughtCo.com,

The 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” refers to “Dunder” and “Blixem”…Dutch names written into the poem by Livingston.

Only in later versions, modified by Moore in 1844, were the two names changed to German: Donder (close to Donner, thunder) and Blitzen (lightning), to better rhyme with “Vixen.”

Finally, for some reason, in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Johnny Marks turned “Donder” into “Donner.” Whether he made the change because he knew German or because it just sounded better is uncertain. In any event, there is certainly some logic in using German Donner and Blitzen (thunder and lightning) for the names.

Since 1950 or so, the two reindeer names have been Donner and Blitzen in both “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”

So, Mom, now we know! Here are some other fun links to check out:

The Archive.org video of the 1948 Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer film, including some stanzas from the original story poem by Robert.L.May

The touching story from the December 22, 1975 Gettysburg Times newspaper, “Robert May Tells How Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Came Into Being”  (Part 2)

An NPR webpage with audio of their interview with Robert L. May’s granddaughter in which she reads the poem. The webpage includes images of the original color sketches for the book drawn by Robert May’s friend in the art department, Denver Gillen.

Happy New Year everybody!

Review of The Little Hunchback Zia by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“And it came to pass nigh upon nineteen hundred and sixteen years ago”

Front page, The Little Hunchback Zia

This begins Frances Hodgson Burnett’s little book published in 1916 about a rejected, deformed orphan boy who is sent to beg for the cruel woman who keeps him.

The Little Hunchback Zia

The Little Hunchback Zia

One day, hiding in the brush near the road to Bethlehem, he watches a surprising number of families and animals pass by on the road, playful and happy. But Zia falls asleep sobbing in unbearable loneliness.

The Little Hunchback Zia

Yet in the night Zia awakens smiling, feeling an unexplainable calm, without and within. Soon he sees one part of the sky growing lighter, and the sheep nearby suddenly attentive. In the darkness, a weary man walks slowly up the road, leading a donkey which carries a woman. A radiance surrounds her.

 

The Little Hunchback ZiaAlthough he thinks he is dreaming, Zia nevertheless feels compelled to follow them. And as the crippled and diseased boy climbs the steep hill toward Bethlehem, he does not waver or stumble.

Whatever had led Zia to Bethlehem now leads him to find the radiant woman and her husband in the mangers of the cave. The woman invites him to come near to the new born baby.

But he refuses, warning her that he is an unclean leper. Yet she insists. “Draw nigh,” the woman says, “and let his hand rest upon thee!”

Front cover, The Little Hunchback Zia

Zia obeys. He bows his head to the Holy child and feels the feather light touch of his tiny fingers. Soon Zia is healthy and standing upright for the first time in his life.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, the well-known author of The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and many other books, writes in a way that immediately engages and grips her reader. Every page of this little book seemed to draw me deeper into Zia’s experiences and emotions. Even though the story is based on the well-known events in the Bible, and the ending is predictable, every compassionate word of this beautiful story is precious.

The intricately drawn illustrations were done by Spencer Baird Nichols and W.T. Benda. I always love it when a book has a beautifully hand-written presentation in the front pages, and this brand-new book was a gift to a Sunday School student for faithful attendance during 1916.

Inscription, The Little Hunchback Zia

You can buy a printed copy of this sweet book on Amazon, read the Kindle version for free on Amazon, and various versions for free on www.gutenberg.org, www.childrenslibrary.org, and http://www.online-literature.com/burnett/3042/ .