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?

3 thoughts on “Happy Christmas!”

  1. My daughter kindly bought me The Manchester Carols for Christmas, with words by Carol Ann Duffy and music by music by Sasha Johnson Manning. Delightfully seasonal, I was at first surprised that Duffy’s words seemed so traditional – but then, she was born on 23 December (hence, I assume, her name). More about it on the Christmas page.

    My other children bought me books – very thoughtful, though as one was called Absent Minds and the other i before e (except after c), I was not sure there weren’t some coded messages in their choices….

  2. I rather think Wordsworth’s
    The world is too much with us; late and soon
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers
    Little we see in nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away – a sordid boon.
    has an appropriate ring.
    And what about Cummings’ ‘Little Tree’? A bit cheesy? I think he manages to just about get away with it. But then I have a soft spot for old lower case cummings.

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