A Collection for Christmas

You do not go where the lark is high
But you find yourself under that part of the sky
Where he is singing

You do not look for the wind where it blows
Through the stems of the ivy woods over the snows
But you find yourself pressed against its breast
Where the cold storm is winging

You do not search where Christmas is keeping
Bright the flushed dreams of children sleeping
But you wander wherever the white bells are swinging

‘Over the Snows’ by Margiad Evans

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Walter Crane’s Christmas Card (1888)

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Christmas Eve was the day we liked best. The morning was a frenzied rush for last rehearsals, last posing of cards, last buying of presents. My father came home early, laden with parcels. The tea table was resplendant  with bon-bons (crackers), sweets, and surprise cakes with icing on the top and threepenny-bits inside. The usual ‘bread and butter first’ rule was set aside and we talked  and laughed to our heart’s content.

Then followed the solemn ascent to the study for the play. The boys had bprrowed chair from the bedrooms, and placed them in two rows: the front (stalls) for mother, father, and any aunt, uncle, or vistor who happened to be there, and the back (pits) for the serants, who attended with much gigglement.

Personally I was thankful when this nerve strain was over, and we all crowded down into the breakfast-parlour. Here, earlier in the day, mother and I had arranged the presents – a little pile for each, and we all fell upon them with delight. We were never fussed with a Christmas tree or stockings or make-believe about Santa Claus. Perhaps we were too hard-headed. Perhaps mother considered that waking up in the small hours to llok at stockings was a bad beginning for an exciting day. As it was, we had a nice time before bed for peeping into our new books and gloating over all the fresh treasures.

From ‘A London Child of the 1870s’ by Molly Hughes

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‘My Ball of Twine’ By Jessie Willcox Smith

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December 25th.—Last Christmas I was a bride, with a heart overflowing with present bliss, and full of ardent hopes for the future, though not unmingled with foreboding fears.  Now I am a wife: my bliss is sobered, but not destroyed; my hopes diminished, but not departed; my fears increased, but not yet thoroughly confirmed; and, thank heaven, I am a mother too.  God has sent me a soul to educate for heaven, and give me a new and calmer bliss, and stronger hopes to comfort me.

From ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte

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Christmas morning broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the plowed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice reechoed through Green Gables.

“Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem real, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green—they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why—why—Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!”

Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.

Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was—a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves—they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.

“That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,” said Matthew shyly. “Why—why—Anne, don’t you like it? Well now—well now.”

For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears.

“Like it! Oh, Matthew!” Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. “Matthew, it’s perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream.”

“Well, well, let us have breakfast,” interrupted Marilla. “I must say, Anne, I don’t think you needed the dress; but since Matthew has got it for you, see that you take good care of it. There’s a hair ribbon Mrs. Lynde left for you. It’s brown, to match the dress. Come now, sit in.”

“I don’t see how I’m going to eat breakfast,” said Anne rapturously. “Breakfast seems so commonplace at such an exciting moment. I’d rather feast my eyes on that dress. I’m so glad that puffed sleeves are still fashionable. It did seem to me that I’d never get over it if they went out before I had a dress with them. I’d never have felt quite satisfied, you see. It was lovely of Mrs. Lynde to give me the ribbon too. I feel that I ought to be a very good girl indeed. It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”

From ‘Anne of Green Gables’  by L M Montgomery

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‘Christmas Day’ by Vladimir Akinshin

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I have seen a court, and a dozen courts,
And no court have I seen as gracious
As the court I love for its chieftain’s sake,
Not weak is my praise, like Celligwen:
Heaven’s bounty on earth in Bachelldref,
Where there is a revel each Christmas,
A crowd of kinsmen, a lake of liquor,
Bright the honour of Meurig’s homeland,
Many a minstel and merry fiddler,
And much the mirth on a polished floor,
And a sound of strigs, a deluge of drinks,
And the constant cadence of singing,
And a red-hued lance of Cadwaladr’s line,
A blood-gushing blade, promise of meat,
And minstrels’ swaying, and children chirping,
And the bustle of boys bringing food,
The cup-bearer weary, kitchen sore-tried,
And three kinds of wine for the thirsty.
Three customs there are, a merry country,
At Daffyd’s hight court, blameless boldness:
Whoever you are, whatever you sing,
And whatever the thing you’re known for,
Come whenever you wish, take what you see,
And once come, stay as long as you like.

‘A Christmas Revel’ by Dafydd Bach ap Madoc Wladaidd (1340-1390)

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‘Noël’ by Loïs Mailou Jones

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Dearest Alyse,

Usually one begins a thank-letter by some graceless comparison, by saying, I have never been given such a very scarlet muffler, or, This is the largest horse I have ever been sent for Christmas. But your matchbox is a nonpareil, for never in my life have I been given a matchbox. Stamps, yes, drawing-pins, yes, balls of string, yes, yes, menacingly too often; but never a matchbox. Now that it has happened I ask myself why it has never happened before. They are such charming things, neat as wrens, and what a deal of ingenuity and human artfulness has gone into their construction; for if they were like the ordinary box with a lid they would not be one half so convenient. This one though is especially neat, charming, and ingenious, and the tray slides in and out as though Chippendale had made it.

But what I like best of all about my matchbox is that it is an empty one. I have often thought how much I should enjoy being given an empty house in Norway, what pleasure it would be to walk into those bare wood-smelling chambers, walls, floor, ceiling, all wood, which is after all the natural shelter of man, or at any rate the most congenial. And when I opened your matchbox which is now my matchbox and saw that beautiful clean sweet-smelling empty rectangular expanse it was exactly as though my house in Norway had come true; with the added advantage of being just the right size to carry in my hand. I shut my imagination up in it instantly, and it is still sitting there, listening to the wind in the firwood outside. Sitting there in a couple of days time I shall hear the Lutheran bell calling me to go and sing Lutheran hymns while the pastor’s wife gazes abstractedly at her husband in a bower of evergreen while she wonders if she remembered to put pepper in the goose-stuffing; but I shan’t go, I shall be far too happy sitting in my house that Alyse gave me for Christmas.

Oh, I must tell you I have finished my book—begun in 1941 and a hundred times imperilled but finished at last. So I can give an undivided mind to enjoying my matchbox.

Sylvia Townsend Warner – From ‘More Letters of Note’

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‘Nativité’ by Georges de la Tour

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Down by the shore, just above the Bay of Orde, we suddenly had an impulse to foresake the car, alk a little way off and lean over the gate. And for a moment I had a passionate hatred for motor cars that could let me neither hear nor smell, but only see. The air and the turf and the seaweed smelt sweet and aromatic, and we heard the waves break in a long thin sound as though as though a line of glass were being very gently, very regularly, shattered a quarter of a mile away. And curlews were twittering and curving nearby, or perhaps they were smaller frienlier birds; and a few sheep with black faces grazed near the quiet grey stone sheds and barns. And the wind fluttered and sighed in the sun.

“Next Christmas,” I said to Paul, when I had rather more than I could bear of imagining myself, next Christmas, somewhere quite different perhaps, longing to be back in Skye and leaning over the gate just above Orde Bay looking across in solitude towards Rhum, looking my first, looking my last, on all things lovely. “Next Christmas,” I repeated, buff and hearty, and leaving out “perhaps” because I feared Paul was going to throw an attack of scepticism. But he said, to my amazement: “Yes, we’ll come here again next Christmas,” so that for the sake of D.V. and touch wood and all the rest of superstition I had to add quickly: ” We may not be able to, of course. It would be safer to stop here till Christmas of 1939.”

And then slowly and relactantly we climbed into the car, and backed, and made motoring noises which startled the whaups, and drove away. Slowly and reluctantly.

From ‘Another Part of the Forest’ by G. B. Stern

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15 thoughts on “A Collection for Christmas

  1. Such a lovely post to pick up on Christmas Eve, Jane, thank you. Wishing you a very merry Christmas and every happiness in 2019. 😀🎄


  2. This is such a lovely collection Jane! I got to it kind of late, but the beauty of the poems, prose and pictures, fill me with absolute pleasure! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with all your loved ones and here’s wishing you a happy, peaceful and bookish 2019!


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