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It’s Comin’ on Christmas…

December 22, 2012

Enid Blyton's Christmas Book

I know we’re due another letter of the book-alphabet – it should be C, actually. But C is for Christmas and C is for Children and so all the other Cs can wait until the New Year.

It’s been a tough semester in University – and I really won’t know how tough until the exam results come out. But in the meantime it’s time to blog, read fiction, decorate the tree and make the mince pies!

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I don’t have many Christmas traditions. Until the old video chewed it up, I used to watch The Lion in Winter every Christmas Eve, hugging a well-mulled mug of spiced cider. (Note to Santa – can I have the DVD please?)  I love the whole glorious, verbose production. Especially Katherine Hepburn’s weary ‘ Well, what family doesn’t have its ups and downs.’  (You supply the New England drawhl.)

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I’ve taken to reading ‘A Christmas Carol’ in bed. But always, always, there is one children’s book. The dust jacket is long gone – probably before I was born. The inscription reads ‘To Joan, with love and best wishes for a happy birthday from Granny. Jan 2nd, 1946’. My mother’s 10th birthday. The book? Enid Blyton’s ‘The Christmas Book’ – illustrated by Treyer Evans, and published in 1944 by Macmillan, London.

bringing in the holly with Daddy.

Benny and Susan come home from boarding school. Little Peter and Ann, and Mother of course, have waited for their return to do all the Christmas tasks – card-making, tree-decorating, holly-picking (which they do with Daddy). As they go about each task they learn the stories of Christmas – why the robin got its red breast, who started the idea of Christmas cards, why mistletoe is hung in the room – not touching anything else.

Let me commend to you the story of Balder the Bright and Beautiful –

Balder was the most beautiful of the Norse gods: protected by all the creatures of the earth swearing not to injure him. Except, that is, the humble mistletoe… considered no danger and therefore not required to take the oath. But Loki, the evil one, jealous of Balder, fashioned a stave out of mistletoe.

All the young gods in Asgard were playing with Balder – throwing their spears, and laughing as the weapons veered away from him. Loki crept up to the blind Hodur – Balder’s twin brother – and offered to help him join in the game. He placed the mistletoe stave in Hodur’s hand, took aim, and drew back Hodur’s arm. Hodur threw the stave; Balder fell, mortally wounded.

Balder’s body was placed in his great longship, and it was set alight. The world shook as the giantess Hyrrockin pushed the ship out to sea.

The mistletoe was planted high up in a tree, where it couldn’t touch the earth and bring pain to anyone. And that, reader, is why mistletoe grows high on the oak tree to this day.

The tone of the book is I say! terriby, awfully, dashed middle-class, and Mother is inclined to ask the children to keep their questions for Daddy, as he has all the answers. That apart, it’s a charming read. So, if you want to know how sirloin of beef is so-called, and why plums no longer feature in plum pudding, or the origins of mince-pies; this is the book for you. And Mother tells the Christmas story when you are all seated cosy by the Christmas Eve Yule log fire. And the mummers call and the carol-singers carol. What more could you want?

bookends The Christmas Book

So, with apologies for a long, advental absence, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

Have a peaceful, tranquil holiday time, and the best for 2013.

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