25 March 2018

Rudolph Day, March 2018

"Rudolph Day" is a way of keeping the Christmas spirit alive all year long. You can read a Christmas book, work on a Christmas craft project, listen to Christmas music or watch a Christmas movie.

I'm still in "read a book for Rudolph Day" mode, but got a little delayed by James' hospital stay, which started out in a frighteningly abrupt manner that brought him to the ICU and ended up somberly twelve days later, with new protocols and routines for both of us. However, since it was Women's History Month, I decided to read something on that subject, and came across this little volume, which I had read before, but apparently had never mentioned in this blog.

"May Your Days Be Merry and Bright": Christmas Stories by Women, edited by Susan Koppelman
There is a genre of literature called "occasional stories," which, many years ago, were written for magazines, whether for sensationalized pulps such as "Black Mask" or "The Shadow" or for staid newsstand favorites like "Redbook" and "The Saturday Evening Post." Many of these "occasionals" were written for women's magazines and of this subsection there was a smaller genre of Christmas stories that usually revolved around home or family. You've probably read many of these if you are an aficionado of Christmas literature.

These are, in general, more obscure tales from noted writers like Edna Ferber and Dorothy Canfield Fisher, bookended by the Christmas chapters from Little Women and the story "Christmas for Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo," who are the "little women" one hundred years later, three daughters of a traditional Gullah weaver who was widowed in wartime. In between are such treats as "Old Mother Goose," about a despised woman from the wrong side of the tracks who longs to see the famous singer Thamr√®—who is keeping a secret of her own), the enjoyable "Mrs. Parkins's Christmas Eve" (a bit of a cross between "A Christmas Carol" and the Christmas tale "The Water Bus") in which a parsimonious woman has a telling lesson on the day before Christmas, the chilling "The Twelfth Guest" wherein a family accidentally sets an extra place at dinner only to have a lost child show up at the door to fill it, the Damon Runyon-ish "The Nth Commandment" about an exhausted shopgirl supporting a sick husband and a child and the raffish man pursuing her, and Edna Ferber's pointed "No Room at the Inn" which rewrites the Nativity story as a modern-day refugee tale. The rest of the stories are swell, too, especially Fisher's often amusing "As Ye Sow" about a woman who discovers her little boys are tone deaf.

A great collection of Christmas gems, but without the mawkish sentiments that often accompany Christmas stories.

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