Happy Christmas!

What’s your own favourite Christmas reading?

At one time, it seemed to be the job of the Head of English to select something modern to accompany the traditional readings at the school Carol Service. T S Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’ was a common, if not necessarily popular, choice. In my classroom, I preferred Charles Causley’s more accessible (and more amusing) ‘Ballad of the Bread Man’, with its arresting opening:
Baby in crib
Mary stood in the kitchen
Baking a loaf of bread.
An angel flew in the window
‘We’ve a job for you,’ he said.

U A Fanthorpe’s enjoyable Christmas sequence, including ‘Cat in the Manger’ and ‘The Wicked Fairy’, has a similar tone. Her Christmas Poems are well-worth seeking out.

John Betjeman’s ‘Christmas’ was another favourite; it must be an English trait to treat this central Christian festival in such a low key, ironic manner before hinting at belief. There is, of course, a long traditional of Christmas verse in English, including Christina Rossetti’s ‘Christmas Carol’ (‘In the bleak mid-winter’), which has become so well-known as, well, a Christmas carol, that it’s easy to forget it’s not traditional. More on the Christmas page.

What’s your own favourite Christmas reading, for the classroom or comfortably by the fireside?