PODCAST SUMMARY (please click on links above for full interview)
I talked with editor, writer, and friend, Hayley Swinson, about books and how they help us get into the spirit of the holidays. She shared a story about Ian Rankin, the Scottish crime novelist, and I shared a story about my Bag of Books, holiday books. [For her full story and interview, listen to podcast here]
Reading in my family kicks off the holiday season and I’ve learned how important that is this time of year, because I can be a real Grinch. I take down our Bag of Books from the attic and break out holiday favorites as a remedy to the chores of the season. The stories also help me with perspective. Chores may be blessings in disguise. Cards, gifts, decor, parties, cooking. All of it.
I steal ideas from friends, like displaying cards on the pantry door (thanks Jess) or baking with my children (thanks Barbara). These may mean effort OR joy. Sandra would tell me to CHOOSE JOY. In Hayley’s case, her annual Rankin Ritual revives her nostalgia for travel and reminds her when she discovered him and his twenty-some book series about Inspector Rebus. It also provides an ideal gift choice for her.
Good writing and reading touches us. It rekindles memories. My bag of books includes my children’s books, as well as my own, many we’ve collected over decades. It’s nice to touch the covers and to read Peanuts Christmas comics or Jan Brett’s story, The Mitten. That can be done alone or together. Songbooks may be the best of all. I took them out before Thanksgiving this year, playing carols and favorites on the piano, as well as classics from the Nutcracker Suite.
On the podcast, Hayley and I discussed books we loved, what it means to give the gift of reading, as well as receive a book or story or collection.
Here are titles from the Podcast. I hope these may be helpful for anyone else stuck in Grinch-ville.
BOOK TITLES & LINKS
“These aren’t necessarily holiday reads, but just books that make me think of winter–mostly because their settings are in dreary, cold, wintery places.”
- The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
- The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
- The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
- Annual Reading – Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus Series. Knots and Crosses, #1
- Beatrix Potter Tale of Peter Rabbit
- A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh
- Rowling Harry Potter
- C. S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia
- J.R. R. Tolkien The Hobbit
- Essay – most reprinted editorial in history, Yes, Virginia! [full text below]
- Story – Capote’s Christmas Memory, read alone or aloud, perfect for anyone
- Book – Sedaris Holidays on Ice
- Poetry – Billy Collin’s Christmas Sparrow
- Children’s – The Grinch Stole Christmas, any SUESS books
* Link to Hayley’s magazine, NewSouthernFugitives.com
** Editorial of Yes, Virginia below in its entirety. Link to Crisis of Faith and what a medical professional has to say about Santa Claus in the medical room.
“Is There a Santa Claus?” reprinted from the September 21, 1897 issue of The New York Sun.
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 West Ninety Fifth Street
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Francis Pharcellus Church, an editorial writer for the New York Sun, wrote this iconic response to a letter about Santa in 1897.