for 15 December 2022
Wasn’t I just complaining about the unseasonable warmth? I take it back… It’s 7°F as I type this. The heater has been running near continuously. Skies are dark and low, with the tops of the western mountains lost in cloud. There is snow on the ground, but it’s grey also. However, the road salt is so thick, the asphalt looks white. We have more snow coming tomorrow. Maybe half a foot. So it’s definitely Midwinter. Time to not go outside… Ergo time for books!
A Holiday Booklist
Here is a list of books that I dig out most years. These are nominally the adult titles. I don’t read them all every year, but they sit out for easy access.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have the 1868 President Publishing Co collection that also includes The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth. This edition contains the original illustrations by John Leech and a couple notes from Dickens on the writing and publishing of his wonderful work. I have read this every year since I was a child. Probably explains much…
Macrobius’s Saturnalia, Books 1&2 (translated and edited by Robert A. Kaster, my version is a little red book in Latin and English from Harvard University Press, 2011). I still don’t know what to make of this dinner conversation, but there is a wealth of local color in with the lessons on how to be a proper Roman.
4000 Years of Christmas: A Gift from the Ages by Earl W. Count and Alice Lawson Count (1997, Seastone). Written by an Episcopalian priest and then updated posthumously by his wife (a musicologist and historian), this little gem tells the whole story. Yes, it is focused on Christmas, but the title shows that there is far more than the Christian story in this holiday.
Two crafting books from Llewellyn. Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison (2000) and Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice by Susan Pesznecker (2015, part of the Llewellyn Sabbat Essentials series). Lots of ideas and recipes! Let the inner fluffy bunny loose and get creative. Particularly good if you have kids out of school and need to do something about that…
Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVicker Edwards. I kept this lovely book on my read-aloud shelf in the bookstore and sold it year-round. The stories are exquisite!
The Christmas history book — Christmas: Its Customs and Traditions, Their History and Significance by Clement A. Miles (my version is the Dover Classic from 1976, originally published in 1912). Everything from Yule trolls to Christmas cake.
The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year by Linda Raedisch (2013, Llewellyn Publications). One of the funniest collections of winter folklore you will ever find. And, because it’s Linda, more crafts and recipes!
Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus, edited by Kate Wolford (2014, World Weaver Press). A fun collection of stories. Officially, not for kids, but they might steal your copy of the book and read it anyway. Because who doesn’t love Krampus!
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide by Christian Rätsch and Claudia Müller-Eberling (2006, Inner Traditions, originally published in 2003 in German by Verlag). A splendidly illustrated book for the armchair anthropologist on your shopping list. In which we learn that Father Christmas might be a mushroom, among other fantastic interconnections between humans, winter, and the plants we love.
The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews with contributions from Caitlín Matthews (1998, Quest Books). Even more splendidly illustrated, this one is written more for sharing with the family. Equal parts history & lore and a practical handbook for creating your family celebration of the entire season.
I have two Gramercy Books that are invaluable. The first is Christmas Carols (edited by Glorya Hale, 1990) and it is just that — the words and melodies for several dozen midwinter songs. The second is Christmas Poems and Stories (no author or editor cited, 1992). From Luke chapter 2 to The Gift of the Magi, this slim book has all the stories.
And finally, there are two books on cookies… because that’s the real reason for the season… The Christmas Cookie Cookbook by Ann Pearlman and Marybeth Bayer (2010, Atria Paperback) is over 200 pages of cookie recipes and stories about… cookies… The other book is Cookies for Santa, a collection of vintage recipes by Benjamin Darling of Laughing Elephant, one of my favorite publishers (2009, Blue Lantern Studio). Mostly mid-20th century cooking pamphlets packaged with Laughing Elephant’s famous retro style. It’s a cookbook that doubles as a picture book for kids!
©Elizabeth Anker 2022