Thursday, December 10, 2015

Stories that Capture Holiday Traditions

By Nina Kendall

Storytelling is an essential part of the human experience.  No matter the form the urge to record tradition, explain events, and share experience continues. Great works reach out to us and touch on memories, knowledge, and tradition.  The words create familiar places that we know but haven’t visited full of activities we have enjoyed and stuff we treasure.   This is never more true that at Christmas. 

Generations have enjoyed classics like A Visit From St. Nicholas, The Nutcracker, and A Christmas Carol in one form or another.  The novella, A Christmas Carol, and the ballet, The Nutcracker, are performed live each year, and captured on film.  Each work engages the senses of viewers young and old. A Visit from St. Nicholas or Twas the Night before Christmas is often repeated and freely adapted poem more than 100 years after its first publication by Clement C. Moore. My favorite version from childhood is the recording of The Night Before Christmas on Sesame Street recording released in 1975. 

The works created to tell the story of the holidays continue to grow. Books, movies, and songs continue to be created to capture the story of the holidays. Popular works vie for position among holiday classics. Do you have a favorite popular holiday work? Is it a recent discovery or something you have treasured since childhood? How does it highlight a moment in history? How does it connect to your tradition? My favorite holiday works draw upon childhood memories. Here are a few works that touch on traditions I have enjoyed. 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson written in the 1970’s focuses on the Herdman’s. The Herdman’s are group of unruly children who are the center of gossip in this small town. At the opening of the book, the Herdman’s come to church for the first time on the day the Christmas Pageant is planned. The rest of the book traces the adventures of Herdman’s through presentation of the pageant. I enjoyed this book as a child and again as an adult. Each new detail of the story evokes memories of community pageants and homemade angel wings.

“A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote is another Christmas story I treasure. This short story was published in the 1950’s two relatives, Buddy and a young child, during the holiday season. It was first read to me by my middle school teacher, Libby Kurninec. I have read it many times since. The relationship between Buddy and the child as they prepare for the holidays takes me back to holidays as a child when shelling pecans, baking fruitcake, and making decorations were annual activities.

No matter your preferred form in the holiday genre share your favorite holiday work with someone you know. Make literature part of your annual traditions. Holiday celebrations have room for works new and old.  You may stumble across a common memory or lead a young reader to a new treasured holiday tradition.  Happy Holidays!

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