Tag Archives: Christmas Eve

Ye Olde Christmas Grace

Old Christmas by Washington Irving (1875)

Tuesday’s Tale for Christmas,  December 10, 2019

Well done, Mr. Irving! If you are looking for a mite of wisdom and the blessings from old-time Christmas  to spark your holiday spirits, Washington Irving’s Old Christmas is a charming read that will warm you from your nightcap to your jingle toes.

 

Old Christmas is a series of short stories about a young man who travels to a companion’s family mansion, The Bracebridges. Our narrator describes the mansion as “thrown in deep shadow and partly lit up by the cold moonshine … heavy stone-shafted bow windows jutting out and overrun with ivy, from among the foliage of which the small diamond-shaped panes of glass glittered with the moonbeams. The grounds about the house were laid out in the old formal manner of artificial flower-beds, clipped shrubberies, raised terraces, and heavy stone balustrades, ornamented with urns, a leaden statue or two, and a jet of water.”

Can you see this setting? Of course you can. Irving was an American original in his prose style of lighthearted but dramatic, exemplifying the writing style of the Romantic era. He set the bar quite high for all short story writers.

[Frontispiece of Old Christmas]

 

We begin with an beautiful introduction of Christmas, and then in Yorkshire, we take The Stage Coach ride with our narrator. If you’ve ever wondered what it is like is to go bumping along in horse-laded coach, this ride is a witty jaunt through village and countryside.

The third story is Christmas Eve. Voluptuous fires in the hearth, friendly neighbors, snowy sky, plums and spice, sweets and cider. There is a harmony going on this Eve.

“The family meeting was warm and affectionate … old uncles and aunts, comfortably married dames, superannuated spinsters, blooming country cousins, half-fledged striplings, and bright-eyed boarding-school hoydens fully engrossed by a merry game; and a profusion of wooden horses, penny trumpets, and tattered dolls, about the floor, showed traces of a troop of little fairy beings, who, having frolicked through a happy day, had been carried off to slumber through a peaceful night.”

They feasted on wheat cakes and mince pies, danced to harp and violin and even recited poetry—”Night-Piece to Julia”—when not admiring the romance of the young women in long lace dresses.

Christmas Day opens with “When I awoke the next morning, it seemed as if all the events of the preceding evening had been a dream, and nothing but the identity of the ancient chamber convinced me of their reality. While I lay musing on my pillow, I heard the sound of little feet pattering outside of the door, and a whispering consultation. Presently a choir of small voices chanted forth an old Christmas carol.”

At Christmas Dinner “The dinner was served up in the great hall, where the Squire always held his Christmas banquet. A blazing, crackling fire of logs had been heaped on to warm the spacious apartment, and the flame went sparkling and wreathing up the wide-mouthed chimney.”

 

And at Christmas day’s finish our narrator discovers what is likely the true benevolence of this celebration: “I was in a continual excitement, from the varied scenes of whim and innocent gaiety passing before me. It was inspiring to see wild-eyed frolic and warm-hearted hospitality breaking out from among the chills and glooms of winter, and old age throwing off his apathy, and catching once more the freshness of youthful enjoyment.”

 

In our modern fashionable Christmases, we desire to break out from the chilly glooms of winter. We need to throw off the apathy of old age. We long to awaken, to catch at least one day fresh with youth to become wild-eyed and warm to our family and friends. In these stories Irving captures not only the beauty and community of olde Christmas cheer, but also the Christmas Grace of  sharing human love, kindness, and generosity.

 

Wishing you all the sacred joys of Christmas!

 

 

Read all five short stories here at Gutenberg.org:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1850/1850-h/1850-h.htm

Famed 19th century American author, Washington Irving is known for his biographical works (most famous the five-volume Life of George Washington), stories  Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Considered to be the first true American writer, Irving fought for stronger laws to protect writers from copyright infringement.

 

 

 

This book would make a lovely Christmas gift! Find it on Amazon. This edition has some of the sketches you see here on this blog. https://www.amazon.com/OLD-CHRISTMAS-Washington-Illustrated-Stage-Coach/dp/170749696X

 

 

 

 

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

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 Lovecraft Ezine    HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

   Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian       The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

Blog Collection

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PEACE TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.

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Lovecraft for Christmas

The Festival   by H.P. Lovecraft (1925)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    December 2, 2014

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No one but Lovecraft could bring you to the dark and dreary yuletide of the season. Come to Kingsport, an old fishing town in Massachusetts. Willow trees. Graveyards. Crooked streets … “antiquity hovering on grey wings over winter-whitened gables and gambrel roofs; fanlights and small-paned windows one by one gleaming out in the cold dusk to join Orion and the archaic stars.” There are black gravestones in Kingsport that stick up “through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse.”

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Not exactly glistening angels and the merry sparkles of Christmas trees. Charles Dickens’ gave us cranky old Scrooge on Christmas Eve, but Lovecraft brings us  into subterranean rituals. Are you ready for the opposite of merry, merry? Gloomy, gloomy. Our narrator tells us that four witches were hung in Kingsport in 1692. Lonely and far from home, he is looking for his relatives for the merry season. He finds his relative’s home on Green Street. A man answers the door, a man with a face like wax and eyes that do not move. Invited in, our narrator enters the house. No one speaks. All he can hear is the “whir of the wheel as the bonneted old woman continued her silent spinning, spinning” before the fireplace.

He participates in a procession through the streets to the Festival, led by voiceless guides to a church and yard. When he looks back, he finds there are no footprints in the snow of these night marchers … nor his own. What does this festival bring? And how does he survive it?

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imagesThe power of Lovecraft’s language here touches deeply into fear, not an emotion we associate with holiday time. Fear, loneliness, displaced from home can harbor its own madness. As Lovecraft tells us in Latin at the beginning of his story: Demons have the ability to cause people to see things that do not exist as if they did exist.

 

 

 

 

Creature Sketch Art by Jason Thompson: MockMan.com

 

Read the full text at H.P. Lovecraft.com

Listen to the audio version on YouTube with visuals. Turn out the lights and listen to this one!

Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjcM_sIDfUs Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62ICpQs9aac Part 2.

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The Water Ghost, A Christmas Eve Tale

The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall  by John Kendrick Bangs  (1894)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror December 24, 2012

 

12-Howsham-Hall-q85-303x200‘The trouble with Harrowby Hall was that it was haunted …’ writes John Kendrick Bangs, American author/humorist, known at the turn of the  century for his humorous supernatural fiction. He immortalized Bangsian Fantasy, which were spoofs about the afterlife.

This water ghost, a creepy and soggy feminine figure, appears every Christmas Eve at midnight, casting her cavernous blue eyes into the Hall’s owner Henry Hartwick Oglethorpe. She displays her long ‘aqueously bony’ fingers and bits of dripping seaweed while she draws the weedy ends across Henry’s forehead, until he feels nearly insane, swooning and going unconscious, at the same time soaking him thoroughly in seawater.

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There’s a heartless sea nymph, a curse, a death and Henry’s heir to Harrowby Hall who must deal with the water ghost haunting him every Christmas Eve in this same flooding way. Who wins in this little Christmas tale, man or ghost? The Water Ghost is really quite entertaining and probably a fun story to read aloud. The images are charming and the ghost quite polite actually. A perfect story to sparkle the spirit on this Christmas Eve.

You can find it here: http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/WateGhos.shtml

Listen to the narration by Librivox http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIJf_4_wwa8

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Other  stories by Bang:

Thurlow’s Christmas Story (1894)  Short story is published in Ghosts: A Treasury of Chilling Tales of Old & New by Marvin Kaye, at your library or on Amazon.com

Ghosts I Have Met and Some Others (1898) Paperback on Amazon.com

Please leave a comment!

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