12 December 2014
Classic Tales of the Newborn King
The Christmas Book of Legends and Stories, Elva Sophronia Smith & Alice Isabel Hazeltine
This is a thick book of old-fashioned poetry and stories about the spiritual side of Christmas celebrations, first published in 1915 and expanded in 1944 (with a good deal of Ms. Hazeltine's poetry in the process). The book is divided into sections about various aspects of the Christmas story, including "The Pilgrims," "The New-Born King," "The Christ Child," "The Boy Jesus," etc. and is chiefly verse, some from such noted authors as Katherine Lee Bates ("America The Beautiful"), Heywood Broun, Elizabeth Coatsworth, Selma Lagerlorf, Ruth Sawyer, Sara Teasdale, and even poetry from Joyce Kilmer and John Milton. Legends pepper the pages: that of Babouska (in Italy known as Befana), Joseph of Arimethea, St. Christopher, and Bride, there are stories of Christmas celebrations in foreign lands (including an excerpt from Monica Shannon's Newbery winner, Dobry), and there are also several simple playlets for children to present as part of a church gathering. Interestingly enough, one is about the daughter of one of the Wise Men, who breaks tradition by asking to accompany her father (she doesn't, but ends up having visions of the journey).
Even with all the collections of Christmas stories and poetry I have, several of these stories were new to me, or were new versions of old tales. This is a great book to find at a used book store or library sale for those who wish for something more spiritual to read at bedtime or during quiet time, but simple enough to be calming and nostalgic. A happy find.