The evenings will start to draw out for us in the Northern Hemisphere now, isn't that a lovely thought, and it is not Truman Capote's 'fruitcake weather' here at the moment because still the rain it raineth.
For the Shortest Day this has turned into the Longest Post, but you have all been so amazing with your wonderful Christmas reading suggestions, and I didn't want to lose the list, so here it is, and thank you so much. They have had me scurrying around the shelves digging out chapters from hither and yonder, and wondering where on earth our copy of The Children of Green Knowe was hiding, found it eventually and ended up reading half the book and will now have to read the rest (thank you Flossie Teacake).
So here's the list for you to cut and paste to somewhere safe (and remind me about when I say the same thing next year) along with one or two extracts that have worked their magic for me in the last few days.
A Christmas Memory ~ Truman Capote and this lovely film extract is well worth eight minutes of respite from the preparations (thank you Mary and Mary) and if watching that makes you want to seek out the story then your luck is in, it's here.
Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.
A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable—not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "it's fruitcake weather!"
The person to whom she is speaking is myself....
And before I forget...Jude in Oz has temporarily mislaid her 'Post' button (Typepad are on the case Jude) but suggests...
The third last chapter of "We of the Never Never" by Aeneas Gunn has a wonderful Christmas complete with outback stockmen, Aboriginal tribespeople, a Chinese cook who makes the most humoungous Christmas pudding all set on a station in the Northern Territory at the turn of the 19thC.
And suggestions from all of you cut-and-pasted in from your comments...
The christmas chapter in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women
The Mole family's Christmas ~ Russell Hoban
Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas ~ Russell Hoban
A Child's Christmas in Wales ~ Dylan Thomas
The Dulce Domum chapter in Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows'.
Alison Uttley's description of Christmas preparations and the day itself in A Country Child.
Cider With Rosie ~ Laurie Lee
The week before Christmas, when the snow seemed to lie thickest, was the moment for carol-singing; and when I think back to those nights it is to the crunch of snow and to the lights of the lanterns on it. Carol-singing in my village was a special tithe for the boys, the girls had little to do with it. Like hay-making, blackberrying, stone-clearing and wishing-people-a- happy-Easter, it was one of our seasonal perks.
By instinct we knew just when to begin it; a day too soon and we should have been unwelcome, a day too late and we should have received lean looks from people whose bounty was already exhausted. When the true moment came, exactly balanced, we recognised it and were ready.
So as soon as the wood had been stacked in the oven to dry for the morning fire, we put on our scarves and went out through the streets calling loudly between our hands, till the various boys who knew the signal ran out from their houses to join us.
One by one they came stumbling over the snow, swinging their lanterns around their heads, shouting and coughing horribly.
'Coming carol-barking then?'
We were the Church Choir, so no answer was necessary. For a year we had praised the Lord, out of key, and as a reward for this service - on top of the Outing - we now had the right to visit all the big houses, to sing our carols and collect our tribute.
A chapter in DH Lawrence's 'The White Peacock'on preparations for Christmas.
The midnight mass scene in The Children of Green Knowe ~ Lucy Boston
Pepys- Christmas Day 1661
A letter from Virginia Woolf to Clive Bell December 26th 1909, Lelant Hotel, Lelant, Cornwall
My dear Clive
It is past nine o'clock and the people still sing carols beneath my window, which is open owing to the clemency of the night...there is the Godrevy lighthouse, seen as through steamy glass, and grey flat where the sea is. There is no moon or stars, but the air is soft as down...no one seems to have any wish to go to bed. They circle aimlessly. Is this going on in all the villages of England now?
Elizabeth Bowen's Home for Christmas.
Short seasonal extracts from D H Lawrence - The Rainbow and James Joyce- The Dead
Lanterns Across the Snow ~ Susan Hill
It was cold. It was absolutely still. Quiet, so quiet, she could hear the pant of her own breathing, in, out and the silky shuffle and squeak of her boots, pushing forward. She stopped. The air smelled cold. Tasted cold in her mouth. Above her head the sky was clearing and she could see a few stars pricking out between the parting clouds. There would be moonlight then, and no more snow tonight. A bone-white, frozen, beautiful world.
John Masefield' s The Box of Delights.
On Angel Wings' by Michael Morpurgo
A superb Christmas scene in TH White's "The Sword in the Stone".
Christmas Eve by Cecil Day Lewis
Jesus' Christmas Party by Nicholas Allen.
Christmas Landscape ~ Laurie Lee
Christmas scene in Return of the Native ~ Thomas Hardy
A wonderful piece by Washington Irving in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, where an American outsider observes the British way of Christmas in the early 19th century.
Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas and the poem by T.S.Eliot about the journey of the Magi.
Miss Read's No Holly for Miss Quinn.
Josteen Gaarder's Christmas Mystery - start on the 1st of December and read a chapter a day until the 25th! Bliss.
Alphonse Daudet with "The Three Low Masses".
Selma Lagerlöfs "Christ Legends and Other Stories"
The diverse Christmas Scenes as told by Laura Ingalls Wilder 'from the wile wile West'.
There are good German-language contributions, stories as by Marie-Luise Kaschnitz or Robert Walser.
Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House On The Prairie
More Miss Read ~ Village Christmas and The Christmas Mouse.
Rumer Godden's The Story of Holly & Ivy.
I can't explain why the Dorothy L Sayers - Peter Wimsey books should fit this bill - but they do especially the books featuring Harriet Vane.
The chapter called Christmas Shopping in Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown.
The chapter about the hideous Christmas doll in Winifred Foley's A Child in the Forest
For poetry Betjeman's Christmas, Marriot Edgar's Sam and the Christmas Pudding and Wendy Cope's Christmas Life. I also really like the letters to her true love in response to all the 12 days of Christmas gifts he sent her - Norwich possibly? And, especially read by Joan Hickson, Christie's Christmas Tragedy.
Sou'West and by West of Cape Cod by Llewellyn Howland (1947). The last chapter, Holly Days, is an evocative marvel.
"The Dead" (Dubliners) by James Joyce (and the film of the same name) in the Usher Island house in Dublin (alongside the Liffey) location...The final story of the book (Dubliners)is considered one of the greatest short stories in the English language.
Christmas Eve in The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill: Susan making mince pies, the carol singers, the new hens arriving and then little Jessica (who of course is now a grown up writer herself) coming out in spots and being ill over Christmas!
I like to read a ghost story at Christmas. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. There's nothing like a good scary book while curled up in front of an open fire - with all the lights on, of course!
As I'm Downunder, I'll mention my favourite Australian Christmas book - 'Christmas at Longtime' by Hesba Brinsmead. It's set in the Blue Mountains where she was born and is based on her childhood and a Christmas Day picnic. It's full of Joy!
The Christmas poems chosen by Carol Ann Duffy for the Candlestick Press pamphlets. A Christmas present to myself!
O'Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" short story. Perfect.
Letter from America" by Alistair Cooke called "Christmas in Vermont".
The description of the Aubrey family's Christmas day in The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West, 1956, begins something like 'We never had a better Christmas until 4 o'clock' . What happened at 4 was more of an irritation than a catastrophe,though as so often in close-knit, fraught families, it was hard for the youngsters to tell the difference and West tells the story through the eyes of one of the children. The Christmas Day up to then is beautiful though, and just in case it makes us too comfortable, it is followed by a disturbing-then-happy post-Christmas visit to relatives, which manages to convey the no-man's land atmosphere of the days-after-Christmas very well.
Please do add any more in comments and I will edit them into this post drekkly.