Where Love Is, God Is by Leo Tolstoy

Christmas StoriesWhere God Is, Love Is

Martin Avdéitch is an honest and hard-working shoemaker who lives in the basement of a building with only one window where he can gaze out on the street and see people’s feet passing by. Although his work keeps him busy with little time for socializing, he recognizes the people from seeing their boots as they pass.  His wife, poor dear, is dead, as are his many children, however one little boy is still with him and while he thinks of sending him to live with relatives, he decides to keep him with him for company.  Yet, alas, his son passes away from an illness and Martin is left all alone.

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Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope

Christmas StoriesChristmas at Thompson Hall

Those of you who have read Anthony Trollope’s novels know that he is a master of the art of character creation.  Each of the people who populate his novels have distinct personalities that bring them alive to the reader and draw them into his world.  With a short story, however, I wondered if Trollope’s fine skills would hold up using a smaller palette.  And so I began to read Christmas at Thompson Hall with a somewhat apprehensive curiosity.

 

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The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle

Christmas StoriesThe Blue Carbuncle

Two days after Christmas, Watson calls on Sherlock Holmes only to find him scrutinizing an old battered hat.  Holmes reveals that Peterson, a commissionaire, saw a man with a goose over his shoulder being assaulted by some ruffians.  The man raised his cane to defend himself and broke a window behind him; when he saw Peterson running towards him, he hastily fled, leaving his hat and the goose behind.  Peterson sought Holmes for help finding the owner of these treasures, but the only physical clues they discover are a tag on the goose, reading, “For Mrs. Henry Baker” and the initials H.B. inscribed on the inside of the hat.

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The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol

Christmas StoriesDoes the title of this short Christmas story inspire visions of Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick, sugar plums, presents and little children?  Or perhaps you imagine the comfort of a good night’s sleep and the joy of Christmas morning?  Well, wipe those thoughts right out of your mind.  Gogol’s The Night Before Christmas is as far from the favourite poem of my childhood as I could imagine.  He tells of adultery, the devil, thievery and unrequited love in a way that’s rather odd but extremely amusing.  It’s certainly a different perspective on a very important evening.

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The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton by Charles Dickens

Christmas StoriesI’m trying to read some Christmas stories to get in the mood for the season and I’ve had this book, aptly titled Christmas Stories, waiting for me since I saw O’s postings last year, and I decided to order it immediately.  It’s a lovely collection of stories, mostly from classic authors like Dickens, Gogol, Trollope, Tolstoy, Cather, etc.  The Story of the Goblins Who Stole the Sexton is the first story in the collection and it goes like this …

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The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas

The True Saint NicholasThe True Saint Nicholas: “Like many good things, this story begins with a mother’s prayer.”

I downloaded The True Saint Nicholas on a whim as I was trying to accomplish my reading for A Literary Christmas challenge but I decided to read it for my Christian Greats challenge instead.  Oh my, what a amazing book, a fascinating biography of this wonderful saint and his transformation into Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas Jaroslav Cermák

Icon of Saint Nicholas by Jaroslav Cermák ~ source Wikipedia

Raised in a prosperous family, Nicholas showed an early intelligence, growing up to become a priest and then experiencing an unexpected appointment as the bishop of Myra.  Thus began the Great Persecution under Diocletian where Christians, being suspected as enemies of the empire, were imprisoned, thrown to lions, roasted alive or torn limb from limb.  Churches were destroyed and scriptures burned.  Galerius followed Diocletian with even stricter edicts, imprisioning and torturing Nicolas until the people became weary of bloodshed and Galerius reinstated Christian rights.  Finally Constantine, after seeing a vision of the cross, conquered the empire and proclaimed freedom of religion whereupon Nicolas was eventually released.  Both mental and physical destruction of church and families brought about by the Great Persecution was evident in Myra but Nicholas, buoyed by a new inner strength gained by his time in prison, supported people in a way that was nothing short of miraculous and “the doors of his house were open to all.”  With his deep trust in God, Nicholas faced life’s challenges with a calm yet active faith which endeared him to all people.  Tradition says he was one of the bishops who attended the Council of Nicea which gave us the Nicene Creed, slapping the face of the priest, Arius, who was spreading heresy.  He was detained for his troubles but later released.  Our good saint spent the rest of his life in Myra, serving the people and in his later years, his greatest joy were the children who came to him.  In 340, Nicholas fell ill and died on what is now his feast day, December 6th.  He was buried in a marble tomb in the city’s cathedral.

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Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Christmas at Cold Comfort FarmFor someone who has read Cold Comfort Farm, I was so excited to find this book, however I was disappointed to discover the title is misleading.  Instead of being further adventures from Cold Comfort Farm, it is actually a compilation of short stories by Stella Gibbons and Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is only one of them.  And to add further disappointment, only one or two of them even remotely mentions Christmas.  Fool me once, and all that ……

In any case, for a book of short stories they were quite interesting, even if they were mostly missing the Christmas theme.

 

The Little Christmas Tree

Thirty-three year old Miss Rhoda Harting is a single spinster who makes her living as a writer.  Retiring to a cottage in Buckinghamshire one Christmas season she finds herself lonely, a stark contrast to her usually reclusive yet positive character. On Christmas Day she encounters three children at her door who are attracted by her tiny Christmas tree in the window of her cottage.  After lunch and a wild story, the arrival of their father sets up a question: is Rhoda destined to live life as a spinster or will love rearrange her carefully ordered life?

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens“Marley was as dead as a doornail.”

We all know this treasured Christmas story.  Scrooge, a cantankerous old bachelor who lives a solitary life and whose sole purpose is to increase his wealth, initially has a vision of his dead partner, Jacob Marley, on his doorknocker.  Not one for fancy, Scrooge humbugs his daydream, but when he is visited by Marley’s ghost, which is then succeeded by three other spirits – the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future, Scrooge learns many lessons of what he has lost, what he has become, and his fate if he continues on his selfish and merciless path.

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