I tend to read books whenever the fancy hits, which means I don't coincide my holidays with books of a holiday or seasonal topic, etc. However, three weeks ago, in my quest to find fun writing activities to finish off 2013 with my seventh graders, I decided to use A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. At 133 pages (only because of the school edition's bigger font), it would be easy to fit in before Christmas break and give us plenty to talk and write about. I read the entire story aloud to my classes and we discussed along the way. After each stave (chapter), the students completed a project. They wrote about their families' holiday traditions, illustrated a scene from the book, wrote holiday/winter carols, wrote and made holiday greeting cards, and completed a plot summary/opinion of the book overall. We packed a whole lot of work into those three weeks and by the end, even kids who only thought the story was okay said they now understood it better than before.
This made me think about Christmas stories. A Christmas Carol is really the only one I've ever really known, and even that one I'd never actually read until now. The edition of A Christmas Carol I have at home has two other short Dickens stories included: The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth. I decided to read them, really just to say I'd read other holiday based stories.
The Chimes is reminiscent of A Christmas Carol and was published one year later, in 1844. Main character Trotty Veck is poor, but unlike the easy-to-sympathize-with Cratchit family of A Christmas Carol, he is the "villain" of this story. He is not really a bad guy, per se, but his attitude about life is not right and as Dickens does with Ebenezer Scrooge, Trotty Veck has a near death experience that leads to the redemption of his life and all those whom he touches.
The Cricket on the Hearth, published in 1845, carries a theme of deceit. Characters deceive others and even themselves throughout the story. Sometimes it is even out of good intention, such as Caleb, who wants his blind daughter to be spared the humiliation of their lives and so leads her to believe everything they have and do is better than it really is. However, she ends up more crushed when things do not happen as they should, given what she understands of her surroundings. Like the previous two stories, supernatural elements intercede, giving the characters an opportunity to "see the light."
There are two more Dickens Christmas shorts out there: The Battle of Life and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain. Without reading either of them and based on the three I've read above,I'd say A Christmas Carol is still top of the list. It's complexity, beautiful writing, depth of character, and moral compass make it a story for all times.
What is your favorite holiday related story?