Ten writers for children. All with something to say.
Tonight is one of my favorites of the holiday season. We will go to our friend Kirsten and Drew's for the annual lighting of candles on their Christmas tree. Yes, they use real candles, and because they are real candles we all must sit around and watch them burn down. After a nice meal and homemade eggnog, the quiet of sitting and watching these beautiful lights is soothing.
At a time of the year when so many animals are slowing down, we are encouraged to speed up in a mad rush to finish end of the year activities and prepare for the holidays. I want to slow down now and reflect about this year and the one to come.
On Monday evening we will have another favorite activity when we go to Hidden Falls down by the Mississippi River for our annual solstice fire. People will bring wood for a fire, beverages to share, musical instruments, and paper to write down things they would like to let go of as well as hopes for the new year. These papers will be placed in the fire that will light up the darkest night of the year. We've got plenty of snow here now, but it is always warm around this fire. You are welcome to join us.
My favorite Christmas tale has always been A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I admit to a couple years of unfaithfulness when I became enamored of Charlie Brown's Christmas when I was young, but I returned to Scrooge when my pagan roots grew strong and the lure of spirits and merriment at the darkest time of year seemed the most sensible of all seasonal past times. I think Mr. Dickens was a great proponent of therapy- a man before his time. When Scrooge is flying with the first spirit of Christmas past, he asks" "Spirit, what is that light on the horizon?" and the Spirit replies, "It is the past." and certainly, in this dark time of year it is filled with memories from the past that may light up our holidays or certainly light a fire to our writing and painting. And it is in our darkest times that we may look to the past to shed some sort of light on our present experience. As a child, I loved the three visiting spirits-- was frightened by them also, but they filled me with hope... hope that things can change for the better.
I cannot finish a blog on my favorite Christmas book without also mentioning The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. I discovered this book about ten years ago and was riveted to the couch from beginning to end. Her knowledge of early pagan celebrations in England and Wales at this time of year, blending the past with the present to create a fantasy that brings the yuletide alive in a battle of light and dark, brought new meaning to this time of year. I now embrace the evergreens and lights as necessary to make it to the new year. It is a book that touched upon my ancient Anglo roots, shedding light on the past to make for a changed present-- as in A Christmas Carol. For me, Christmas is all about the dark and hope for the light to return. And good books are certainly part of the vital light.
A few years ago, I discovered what has become my favorite children’s Christmas-themed novel: The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper by Jean Van Leeuwen. The story follows the ongoing antics/adventures of a mouse named Marvin the Magnificent and his two cohorts, Raymond and Fats, who made their first appearance in The Great Cheese Conspiracy and who also appear in three other novels, all of which are fast-paced and funny and make great read-alouds. Good quality copies, reasonably priced, are hard to find (the book was published in the Seventies) but a full-cast audio edition came out a few years ago, so if nothing else you can always turn on the Christmas lights, snuggle under a warm comforter, and listen to a great Christmas story!