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:
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?