Books to Boost the Holiday Spirit

It’s time to get in the spirit of the Holidays!  Here are some fine old books with themes that have the potential to make anyone’s holiday season more enjoyable.   Since Thanksgiving is almost upon us, I’ll start with this one:

Thanksgiving Day in Modern Story

Edited by Maud Van buren and Katharine I. Bemis and published by The Century Company in 1928, Thanksgiving Day in Modern Story includes more than twenty wonderful stories celebrating the typically American festival of Thanksgiving.  Authors include Rebecca Harding Davis, Ben Ames Williams, and Eugene Field, among others.  Story titles include “Squiggles’s Turkey,” “Thanksgiving on Snowshoes,” “The Widened Hearth,” and many others.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life by Keene Abbott (Doubleday Page, 1927) is a story with a Christmas message.  Set on the western great plains of America, it involves a scraggly pine tree, the only landmark on the snow-swept prairie,  cut down by a stranger.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Baster

Edward Streeter, who authored the hilarious stories Father of the Bride and Mr. Hobbs’ Vacation, also brought us Merry Christmas, Mr. Baxter, a poignant and funny tale about the frustrations of the Christmas season.  Mr. Baxter struggles with all the things we love and hate about the holiday…including office parties, Christmas cards, shopping expeditions, and commercialization.   All of this is dealt out with the wry humor that has endeared Streeter’s books to so many readers.   It is illustrated with delightful drawings by Dorothea Warren Fox.

The Saintmaker's Christmas Eve

Pulitzer Prize winning author Paul Horgan wrote and illustrated The Saintmaker’s Christmas Eve  (Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1955). This colorful and suspenseful story is set in New Mexico in 1809.  Two brothers, Roberto and Carlos, have made an art of the craft of making beautiful statues of saints.  At the time of the story Roberto has the task of delivering their masterpiece, a statue of St. Christopher holding the Christ child, to the tiny community of San Cristobal, where it is to be placed in the church on Christmas Eve.

Journey Into Christmas

Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories is a collection of Bess Streeter Aldrich’s favorite Christmas stories, new and old.  It includes one of her own classic tales called “The Drum Goes Dead.”  Illustrated by James Aldrich, these stories include a variety of dramatic, inspiring, and whimsical themes.

Beasley's Christmas Party

Frontispiece from Beasley's Christmas Party

Beasley’s Christmas Party by Booth Tarkington (Harper & Brothers, 1909) presents a charming and romantic tale , set in a house that “looked like a house where there were a grandfather and a grandmother; where holidays were warmly kept; where there were boisterous family reunions to which uncles and aunts, who had been born there, would return from no matter what distances; a house where big turkeys would be on the table often; where one called “the hired man” (and named either Abner or Ole) would crack walnuts upon a flat-iron clutched between his knees on the back porch…” The book has a pretty decorated binding and lovely color illustrations by Ruth Sypherd Clements.

The Christmas Companion

The Christmas Companion (E. P. Dutton, 1941) also has a pretty binding. and is filled with Christmas poems, stories, recipes, songs, suggestions for Christmas drinks, decorations and Christmas party games and puzzles. Edited by John Hadfield, it includes works by authors as diverse as Geoffrey Chaucer and T. S. Eliot.   There are winter gardening tips in “A Gardener’s Christmas,” by Miles Hadfield, and wine tips from “Wine in the Cellar” by Edmond Seagrave.  Mrs. Arthur Webb shares recipes in “Cook’s Christmas.”

Here is a recipe for hard sauce:

6 oz. sugar

3 oz. unsalted butter

4 Tablespoons brandy or rum

Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and frothy, then add the spirit a little at a time and beat into the mixture.  Press into a small glass dish, and put away in a cool place until required.

This, of course, should be served on the Christmas Pudding (recipe is in the book!)

All of these books are available at Old Scrolls Book Shop.  Happy Holidays to all!

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