This time of year, a lot of book groups choose their monthly reading according to holidays. Spooky books in October, sometimes Thanksgiving stories in November (even though it’s only relevant to Americans) and Christmas books in December. These can occasionally be interspersed with holiday stories from other cultures, but most often it’s Christmas.
Do you read seasonally? It seems that books exist in every genre for Christmas in particular. Some like to read a traditional tale, notably A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, while others like to find something new within a favourite genre; a heartwarming Christmas Romance, a Cozy Mystery, something that has built on the Victorian flavour of Dickens or even a Christmas Horror novel.
What appeals to one person might be very different from the chosen reading of another, but the commonality between the Romance reader and the Horror aficionado is the instigation of that holiday feeling; an acknowledgement of the holiday season at hand.
A good Christmas tale brings back that childhood excitement for good things to come. Special holiday foods, the smell of snow (even for those of us who grew up in warm climates) and the sights and colours of Christmas decorations. While the shops try their best to reduce the holidays to blatant consumerism and spending oneself into potentially alarming debt, a good story reminds us of the magic of the holiday and sometimes of the simple things that bring that magic to the fore.
Generosity, kindness, caring for others are common holiday themes, even in some Horror tales, and the reminder that these are the qualities that make all the effort worthwhile can rescue us from the despair of materialistic voracity. Family and friends feature highly in most holiday stories, sometime love and even forgiveness.
Victorian settings have a particularly Christmas-like feel to them thanks to Charles Dickens all but defining Christmas for us, yet in actual Victorian times, telling ghost stories was traditional. We still find Victorian era ghost stories among Christmas collections and some excellent modern ones have been written, reflecting the era with a modern perspective.
A lot of series from various genres, especially Romance, have added a Christmas story where characters familiar to regular readers encounter relevant experiences involving the holidays. Alternate versions of Dickens’ famous books are also prolific across the modern publishing spectrum, including sequels following Tiny Tim or The Artful Dodger.
As a reader, I enjoy a wide variety of material across most genres and when I choose my holiday reading, I’m fairly open minded about what form it will take. I’ve enjoyed Dickensian Christmas stories, including re-reading A Christmas Carol every couple of years or so, I’ve enjoyed a variety of ghost stories and one Horror where a group of modern young women have a séance to call up the ghosts from Dickens’ story, and in this year’s intended reads I’ve got one called Cowabunga Christmas which I assume is set ‘down under’ as it’s a surfing story and the cover picture is on a beach.
The reason I read these stories is to get into the holiday mood. While the television and even the Internet is shouting at me to buy everything under the sun, reading holiday stories helps me to recapture that child-like feeling of excitement that comes with the holidays. Anticipation of special foods that are only available at this time of year and of stepping outside of time and normal routine to enjoy the magical side of Christmas, set apart from all the materialism.
I’ve had Christmas alone and Christmas with too much family (which can lead to squabbles) but regardless of who I spend my holidays with, I love having a good book to read to bring back the magic of this strange cultural tradition we have called Christmas.
So what books will you be reading in December?
Books available at: