Christmas/Winter Books

I think that if you live in the UK there are lots of children’s books which make you think – Christmas – it’s because of that fabulous tradition pantomime. My local theatre always has about 2 months of panto from the beginning of December and well into January. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Puss in Boots, Peter Pan – something different every year. All of those stories spell Christmas and if you’re lucky – as we were in Kirkcaldy, it’ll be produced and performed by a real veteran of the craft, the late Jimmy Logan was great in panto.

Oscar Wilde stories

I have a book of Oscar Wilde stories for children which is illustrated by P.J Lynch. I love the cover which as you can see is of snowy medieval rooftops and the first story in the book is The Selfish Giant who doesn’t want to share his garden and builds a huge wall around it to keep children out. It’s forever winter in his garden – The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak and the Frost painted all the trees silver. It’s only when he learns to share it that the garden is transformed by the spring. This is a Christian story but if like me you aren’t particularly religious it’s still worth a read, you should be able to read it here in his Happy Prince and other stories anthology.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Again, this series is very Christian, but don’t let that put you off. What is it about cold and ice, it’s always used in literature to portray evil and nastiness? It could just as well be used to mean pure and clean, but that doesn’t seem to happen. In the first book of the series, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe Lucy explains about the White Queen: She isn’t a real queen at all, she’s a horrible witch, the White Witch. She has made an enchantment over the whole country so that it is always winter here and never Christmas.

White Queen Narnia

What a ghastly thought, but fear not, at the end of the last Narnia book Father Christmas turns up! C.S. Lewis was a good friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and when Tolkien read that bit he advised Lewis to take that bit out of the book before sending it to his publisher, he felt that it spoiled it but Lewis was determined to keep it in. I’m in two minds about it.

One of my sons was obsessed with the Narnia books as a youngster, in fact I almost lost my voice reading them to him, way past the time when he could read perfectly well himself! Then he got obsessed with the Doctor Who books.

Next week, I’ll chat about some more Christmas/Winter books which I’ve enjoyed, sometimes re-reading them to get me in the mood for the season.

16 thoughts on “Christmas/Winter Books

  1. You know, I’ve never read Narnia or much else by Lewis. Only the screwtape letters. There’s a short video of the Selfish Giant on YouTube. You might have directed me to it for my grans. Maybe I should try reading Christmas stories it might help my bah humbug attitude!

    • Peggy Ann,
      I think I did send a link to The Selfish Giant to you, I also think there’s a new film of it out now, or maybe I dreamt that! I can be very bah humbugish too, I hate all the commercialism that goes with it nowadays.

  2. Ahh Narnia. I only ever read the first, didn’t like them after that when I was a child. Perhaps I was too frightened about never having Christmas.

    I have started some Christmas reading, it is good for the soul.

  3. I just love the front cover of the Oscar Wilde stories! Marvelous!!! Wish I had a copy. And yes, C.S. Lewis–I’m sad to see a trend of children not reading the series any longer. I would enjoy seeing a resurgence of interest. Again, this illustration was beautiful. Will link to your post!


    • Judith,
      Thanks. I think the Narnia books probably seem very dated to youngsters nowadays, also it’s hard for them to understand the temptation of something like Turkish Delight. The books were written when rationing was still ongoing here and ordinary food was difficult to get, sweets almost unheard of, that’s why there are so many lists of fantasy food!

      • Katrina,
        I haven’t read The Lion in the Wardrobe in quite a long time, so I suppose the foodie things went right over my head! I’d love to read the series now, keeping this historical tidbit in mind.

        I was a history major in college, and during my final year I participated in a seminar about the challenge with food and agriculture and the “Welfare State.” I found the way the government came together to improve the diet of the population fascinating, although I imagine the lack of tasty substances for the middle and upper classes must have been an awful trial. And to think of these shortages enduring into the fifties!

        • Judith,
          There was a thriving ‘black market’ so if you had money you would have been able to get food which others couldn’t get. In some ways the diet was actually much better in those years though, the lack of sugar was a big advantage for teeth and waistlines. Rationing went on much longer than it had to and they actually tried to prolong it even more but housewives revolted at last as they were expected to feed families with practically nothing! After the war some people even moved to France because they didn’t have rationing there, I do think that UK governments enjoy ‘punishing’ the people! You might be interested in this article – as you can see, even soap was rationed.

  4. I remember The Selfish Giant story, it was included in a book of Easter stories that I used to check out of the library every year – back when I had no idea who Oscar Wilde was. I do love the cover of that book.

    I am usually in a bah humbug! mood until I get all the shopping done – I loathe shopping anyway, and the Christmas frenzy in the stores is just scary. I think I’ll put up some lights today & see if that helps – I do love seeing Christmas lights.

    • Lisa,
      I love Christmas lights too but I preferred the old fashioned ones, these LED lights look so cold to me, even the coloured ones. I’m not a fan of shopping either, especially when the shops are so crowded. I’m way behind this year and haven’t even got my cards written – tomorrow definitely!

  5. Love Narnia. I wonder if creeping (nay – galloping! ) secularism doesn’t influence children’s reading, to some degree. Wonder if my atheist SIL has introduce his children to Narnia, or is put off by the allegory? That’s my favorite part – but I didn’t stumble across CS Lewis until I was an adult and read Screwtape. What a delightful discovery! Weird I missed Lewis, when I had Tokien covered. Read Lord of the Rings in highschool!!

    I don’t care for the LED lights either, for the same reason – cold and garish !

    We’re ready for Christmas with Mom – headed for FL next weekend.

    • Pearl,
      I hope you all have a great time in Florida, we could be doing with some of that warmth although I shouldn’t complain as it has been mild.
      From this angle the US looks saturated in religiosity, certainly compared with here. I wanted my sons to choose for themselves rather than have it pushed on them as happened as I was growing up, very off-putting. Teaching them right from wrong was my priority! G just loved all the magic and fantasy involved in Narnia. I read The Hobbit but couldn’t get into Lord of the Rings at all.

  6. You’re just hearing the vocal ones with the PR machines. The media loves them. Anything to bash Americans. We’ve become the world’s pinata (Like there are no fools elsewhere!)

    If anything, it’s being squashed here as well. No religious symbolism in public display, only secular music in school “holiday” performances. Dare not wish one a “Merry Christmas” these days for fear of offense. Only a matter of time before we have to scurry off to the catacombs again and worship in secret!

    My SIL the atheist and I have some rousing (in a fun way…most of the time) discussions of religion, though I must say that he is far more ardent in his desire to “convert” me than any proselytizing Christian I ever ran into!

    • Pearl,
      We have plenty of religious nuts here too, they all seem very un-Christian to me. It’s the US creationist/anti Darwin people that I find it difficult to understand!
      A few years ago it went a bit daft here with some places insisting on replacing Christmas with Winterfestival. I think everyone ignored that and we’re all happily doing Christmas – even the pagan winter solstice folks that I see as the originals.
      That SIL of yours is just worried about your soul!

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