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Two Days to Christmas: Light a Candle (or Two or Three)

From “A Christmas Dream and How It Came to Be True” by Louisa May Alcott in A Vintage Christmas: A Collection of Classic Stories and Poems:

“Bells were ringing so merrily that it was hard to keep from dancing. Green garlands hung on the walls, and every tree was a Christmas tree full of toys, and blazing with candles that never went out.”

From “A College Santa Clause” by Ralph Henry Barbour in A Vintage Christmas: A Collection of Classic Stories and Poems:

“Suddenly, they found themselves in darkness, save for the firelight…. Then, one by one, the tiny candles flickered and flared bluely into flame. Some one pulled the shades from before the two windows, and the room was hushed. Outside, they could see the flakes falling, silently, steadily, between them and the electric lights that shone across the avenue. It was a beautiful, cold, still world of blue mists.”

From “A Christmas Carol” in A Christmas Carol and Other Writings by Charles Dickens:

“Once upon a time — of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve — old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement-stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already: it had not been light all day: and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms….

“The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

“‘A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

“‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!'”





Three Days to Christmas: Time for Music, Time for Toys

From “Noel” by Robert Bridges in A Vintage Christmas: A Collection of Classic Stories and Poems:

Distant music reach’d me
peals of bells aringing:
The constellated sounds
ran sprinkling on earth’s floor
As the dark vault above
with stars was spangled o’er.

Then sped my thoughts to keep
that first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching
by their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields
and marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels
or the bright stars singing.

From “A Christmas Carol” in A Christmas Carol and Other Writings by Charles Dickens:

“[Now] a knocking at the door was heard, and such a rush immediately ensued that she with laughing face and plundered dress was borne towards it the centre of a flushed and boisterous group, just in time to greet the father, who came home attended by a man laden with Christmas toys and presents….

“Then the shouting and the struggling, and the onslaught that was made on the defenceless porter! The scaling him with chairs for ladders, to dive into his pockets, despoil him of brown-paper parcels, hold on tight by his cravat, hug him round the neck, pommel his back, and kick his legs in irrepressible affection! The shouts of wonder and delight with which the development of every package was received….

“The joy, and gratitude, and ecstasy! They are all indescribable alike. It is enough that by degrees the children and their emotions got out of the parlour and by one stair at a time, up to the top of the house; where they went to bed, and so subsided.”








Four Days to Christmas: Winter Solstice in Silver and Blue

From “The Winter Solstice” in Christmas: A Short History from Solstice to Santa by Andy Thomas:

“‘Solstice’ is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), and so literally translates as ‘the sun stands still.’ This describes perfectly what happens to the sun as we see it in the sky, usually on December 21 or 22…. At this point in the earth’s orbit, the heavens appear to pause. Thus, what the naked eye sees for three days or so from the winter solstice is the sun rising and setting in effectively identical places. But then, around December 25, positions begin to change and the sun starts its new cycle toward lighter days….

“For the ancients, this was a momentous time, because it meant they could now definitively look forward to life becoming just that little bit more survivable again. Somewhere in our bones, we still feel that joy.

“A celebration of light in the darkness at this time of year raises its head in many cultures…. They all revolve around the same jubilant fact: the sun has begun its slow curve back, so summer and warmth will return, crops will grow, and nature will be abundant once again.”

From Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram:

“During the summer, with its drawn-out days, the sun has little chance to tarry in the ground, but in the autumn it hastens more swiftly across the firmament, yielding further time to rest in the rocky density below. Then, at last, during the long nights of winter, and especially at the winter solstice, the sun lingers and sleeps in at the heart of the earth, nourishing the dark ground with its lustrous dreams, infusing the depths with the manifold life that will soon, after several moons of gestation, blossom forth upon earth’s surface.

“It is a story born of a way of thinking very different from the ways most of us think today…. Yet the tale of the sun’s journey within the earth holds a curious resonance for many of us who hear it… [for] the story brings us close to our senses, and to our direct, bodily awareness of the earthly cosmos.”






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