04 September 2014
Just when I thought summer would never end, September slipped in the door in the midst of DragonCon. You couldn't have told it by the weather, which has remained hot and steamy. But a few autumn magazines have already strayed my way, and the sky knows it's autumn if the sun does not. Today I found a Christmas magazine from the publishers of "Country Sampler." And I've been reading the first of my three pre-Christmas reads, Celebrate the Wonder: A Family Christmas Treasury.
It's usually the first because it talks about planning for Christmas as early as September, which may make some blanch, but Christmas has turned into such a circus of excess, and even more in the intervening years since this book was published in 1988, that it feels like you must start planning the holiday as if it is a military campaign. Never fear, this book makes planning a gentle thing; the authors' sole purpose is to start you thinking early, with gentle meetings, musical interludes, and thoughtfulness, so that your December does not become a frantic, stressful rush. The volume is Christian-centered, which may turn off some readers, but if you are more a secular celebrant there are many good ideas for simple crafts, ethnic dinners, and tons of snippets about the history of Christmas celebrations and about celebrations in other countries. While many of the illustrations are clipart-type simple line drawings, the book also features some wonderful 19th century engravings from Thomas Nast and other Victorian artists. One of my favorite parts are the bits of poetry quoted throughout, from unfamiliar European carols to familiar passages from A Christmas Carol. It makes you want to pick up a book of holiday poetry.
These days there is also a wonderful nostalgia factor to the book, as it was written just as the internet was aborning. Catalog shopping has been replaced by web surfing, but in the end the results are the same. If you have a chance to pick up this mellow volume at a used bookstore or library sale, it still has something to say to today's Christmas celebrants. My only quibble with it is that it does not address anything after New Year's, although Epiphany and its cast of characters (La Befana, Babouska, the Little Camel, etc.) are talked about in earlier chapters.