Hello everyone and welcome to the fabulous festivus world of Christmas Melrose!! Here you shall join in some of my Festive Favs and learn just what it means to be a gal so obsessed with Christmas and all things related, you top up your egg nog with more than a healthy dose of nostalgia, and break out the jingling carols the day after Remembrance Day ( November 11 here in Canuckville).
I thought I would take you through some of my ritualistic Christmas events. I am a very merry traditionalist who happens to be ( delightfully ) a Victorianist as well; that era full of Christmas traditionalist-making. So, bring out the figgy pudding and pull up a chair decked with bells and holly and what-not.
Christmas without books is actually not Christmas; just some snow-filled phantom globe of a day where the supermarkets are not open. Christmas with books is worth waiting 364 days a year for. Me, traditionalist, Victorianist jingle-jangler, reads the same books every year around this holy, holly time.
Great Expectations the first of the Melrose Christmas picks. I first read this book on a snowy November night at the beginning of high school. The ambience was perfect for the windy chill. After all, the Dickens classic begins at Christmas. Indeed, Pip talks about hearing the carols sing ( feigning innocence to Mrs. Joe about his goings-on with Magwitch the criminal on the moors ), stirring figgy pudding and having a myriad of relatives ( including the unstoppable Uncle Pumblechook ) for a Christmas feast. Most humans are head over heels for Scrooge, I love GE. One of my favourite Christmases included a pack of Victorian classics from my parents---GE was one of them....after I had finished opening gifts and munching turkey, I rushed up to my room to read it once more.
Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene
As a minister's daughter, I spent a lot of time at church growing up. Before and after the morning service I would often prowl ( and later work ) in our church library. I pride myself in introducing churchgoers to a range of classics; such as Christy and Les Miserables. Though not a classic, I have re-visited Vienna Prelude every year since my first perusal from said church library. In essence, I have read Vienna Prelude fifteen times; always at Christmas. Much of the book is set in Austria during the Christmas season in the years leading up to WW II. Partly in the Tyrolean alps in a cozy farmhouse filled with warmth and tradition, at a small-spired church which puts me immediately in mind of the church I imagine was Franz Gruber's muse for Silent Night, and in the lofts and hay of a barn I see so clearly and smell so potently. There are sleighbells and horses and a clear, starry sky that spans for miles. Partly in a bustling Berlin department store filled with shoppers. And, as the titular city, Vienna stands in for Christmas; with street merchants selling carved creches, with fires burning in metal drums along the many winding streets, with a brasher report ducking out of the Sacher hotel and holding a fistful of tickets for Christmas concerts played by the Philharmonic.
Full of classical music and anecdotes of Dvorak, not to mention a swell love story, this is Christmas atmosphere at its best. Vienna became my dream city the moment after I read it.
Rose in Bloom and Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
This tradition started in first year university. They quickly became my "home books", books I left at my parent's house when I returned to Toronto after visits. They are thoroughly Christmas for me. Anecdotal and almost ridiculous in simplicity, they are as comfortable as cider. Rose Campbell is sent to live with her Uncle Alec after her father passes away. It doesn't take long for the orphaned child to find complete happiness with her rowdy male cousins and her strong, Scots uncle who makes her eat "parrich" ( that's Alcottean for porridge) and let out her tight corsets. Early feminism disguised in anecdotal bliss.
Music is my favourite part of the Christmas season. Nothing tugs me back to a particular time in my childhood than hearing my favourite carols. As an advocate for the reinstatement of hymnal traditions in church, and as a lover Church Music history, I relish the poetic words, strands and cadences of beautiful old Christmas hymns. From the Gregorian through the Baroque, through Handel to Bach's Arioso and to the Christmas hymns that permeate the 17th-20th Centuries with their haunting chords and t0-die-for lyrics, I am a Carol junkie. No secular Rudolph for me, Christmas songs must have religious meaning for it is those songs alone which leak an almost ethereal beauty.
I remember clearly listening to Elvis and the Carpenters' Christmas songs growing up; not to mention the old Bonanza tv show LP my dad has ( Christmas at the Ponderosa or some such ) which isn't so bad when Adam Cartwright sings an old negro spiritual.
Michael W. Smith's Christmas album remains ( I think ) his most credible endeavour. Partly because he uses Gregorian strain and influences, intersperses latin with the prophet Isaiah and enlists the Vienna Boys Choir to sing with dazzling orchestration. I usually don't pay attention this artist, but his Christmas cd is a work of art.
The Sound of Music
The Muppet Christmas Carol
It's a Wonderful Life
the Sound of Music
RANDOM HIGGLETY FESTIVE PIGGLETY
Christmas at the World's Biggest Bookstore : stand at the front of the store, wear reindeer antlers or a santa hat, wear red or green ( thanks Christine ) and throw Hershey's kisses at people while making a penguin puppet form festive greetings. Too many late nights, too many free order-in lunches, thousands upon zillions of books sold.
Christmas at home: I take an annual walk ( I love walking ) mid afternoon just as it is getting dark so I can see the lights and wander in the snow. Sadly, there is no snow here yet which makes me think I might see my first green Christmas ever ( don't make me scream!! )
Christmas Eve service: a must, followed by a feast---my mom is a spectacular cook; we have spinach dip in sourdough bread, jalapeno poppers, brie, etc., etc.
The Answering of the Phone: ever since Elf was released, my sister Fruity and I started a tradition. From the 23rd through New Years' we answer the phone " Buddy the Elf, what's your favourite colour?" Fun people respond with their favourite colour and laugh, stupid people hang up thinking they reached some demented business.
Advent calendars: my mom still gets us each one every year. She sends them to us at university.
Narnia: a recent development but ever so Christmas what with Aslan and Father Christmas
The Bible: my dad reads a chapter ( usually Luke 2) before we open our presents. But there is always the Matthew/ Luke debate and yelps of "read the one with the wisemen."
Lots of presents, lots of reading, lots of laughs.
Hope you enjoyed reading about Christmas in the land of Moi!
Merry Christmas to all of you-----every single one. Have a bookish holiday and squeal a couple of your favourite titles at me if you want recommendations. I have sold hundreds upon hundreds of books this season. Here's hoping for many more.