Sunday, December 9, 2018

Antique Christmas Books to Inspire a Festive Atmosphere

I've enjoyed several days of reading and relaxing this past week, having gone through my shelves and dug out a nice stack of Christmas stories. Life has slowed down and I'm ready to dive into the massive To Be Read pile I've been accumulating for years. Ok, fine, the "pile" is actually four shelves shoved full of books from all genres and eras. But 2019 is the year I tackle it....even though it will likely be the same size this time next year---just full of different titles.

But anyway...back to Christmas. This first title, The Man Who Found Christmas, was written by Walter Prichard Eaton, former drama critic and early to mid-century author. The Man Who Found Christmas was originally published in 1913, just before the beginning of WWI. It tells the tale of Wallace, a man who has lost his faith in family and God. He's cynical about Christmas, when something stirs up a memory and puts him on a path to discover its true meaning. In a quaint village, he meets Nora and family who help bring him round to a renewed joy and a higher purpose.

Eaton wrote the updated introduction to this story at a critical time for American men. The war had been over for several years and life had adjusted dramatically after the loss of so many men. America was entering a depression and cynical attitudes were rampant. The author captures this feeling well in the character of Wallace, contrasting it beautifully with the lovely Nora. The story hinges on the idea that "Christmas is service", and this is true! Those of us who celebrate the true message of Christmas---Christ's coming to Earth to save us---know that there is no better way to serve God than to obey him in service to his people.

I really enjoyed this story---it's a timeless one for every generation. I'm sure this will become a traditional Christmas read for me. 

Washington Irving was an American short story writer, biographer, and diplomat who came of age at the turn of the 19th century. (He wrote at the same time as Jane Austen!) Old Christmas in Merrie England is a short essay Irving wrote about a Christmas he spent with a friend in England. It's full of fun anecdotes and insights into pre-Victorian England. I believe it is featured and first published in his work, The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, published in 1819.

Christmas Every Day and Other Stories is an antique collection of Christmas stories told for children from the works of W.D. Howells. Published in 1892, it includes: Christmas Every Day, Turkeys Turning the Tables, The Pony Engine and the Pacific Express, The Pumpkin-Glory, and Butterflyflutterby and Flutterbybutterfly.

I really enjoyed this charming and witty book. These are super funny and imaginative stories with fun interaction between Papa and the children. I caught a neat mention in one story of "postal cards" as being different from letters. I always like reading about Victorian letter writing practices. I'm sure this will become a yearly Christmas favorite.

Handmade bookplate of an earlier owner.
Fabulous illustration by H.C. Ireland, popular illustrator of the time. The image of the Santa looking back and smiling is also featured on one of the postcards I bought and sent out to the members of my Victorian Letter Writers Guild this year.

Lastly is this 1901 copy of Louisa May Alcott's A Christmas Dream. My mother in law gave me this book about 10 years ago to share within the family. Her family read it at Christmas time when she was a little girl and her mother had written the family name and address inside the front cover. 

The volume features two stories; A Christmas Dream and Baa! Baa! Both are stories of the act of serving and blessing those less fortunate. This is a common theme with Alcott and a great one to meditate on---then act upon---at Christmas time and all throughout the year!

What are you reading this Christmas season? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Besides reading some traditional picture books we've had for years, like One Wintry Night by Ruth Graham, and that my young adult kids asked to re-read this year, I'm reading my third Elizabeth Goudge book of this year - Green Dolphin Street.

    1. We are Elizabeth Goudge fans here, too! My favorite is The Little White Horse.

  2. Just yesterday I picked up a book called "A Vintage Christmas" at Barnes and Noble. It is a collection of stories and poems by Alcott, Dickens Montgomery, Twain and many more. Just felt like reading something heartwarming and this jumped out at me. And then I happened upon your IG account just now! Meant to be! ��

  3. Oh wow. That Louisa May Alcott book!! I am in love. I did my annual reading of "A Christmas Carol" and I recently found one called "The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation" by Anne Fellows Johnston. It says "First published October 1905, ninth impression June 1908" and it's got a great inscription in the front!