Celebrate the return of the light (in the northern hemisphere) as the shortest day has arrived!
Discovered on Twitter this week – fans of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising read the book every year, ideally starting on Midwinter Eve (20 December). This is something I do ever since I came across the book in a Toronto bookshop sometime in the late 1970s. The copy I have was published in 1973. Although The Dark is Rising is the second book chronologically in the series, it was the first one I read and remains my favourite of the five books.
The 2007 film version, “The Seeker”, was largely a flop. Fans of the book weren’t impressed, particularly as it was so Americanised. There was nothing of the contrasts of the young hero’s cosy family life in a Buckinghamshire village pitted against the ancient battle between good and evil – based primarily on Arthurian themes and a mix of other myths and legends.
Some of the family’s traditions in the book remind me of my own childhood. We didn’t burn a Yule log, but I recall making paper chains and bringing in the live Christmas tree on the 24th of December to decorate. I may have been told then, but I didn’t register the religious significance of the twelve days of Christmas – only that the tree was brought into the house in preparation for the first day – and taken down afterwards on January 6th.
I think this musician, Handspan, has caught the atmosphere of the time of the story brilliantly with his musical compositions. He’s putting a different tune on his Soundcloud site every day – the previous one will disappear after 24 hours. And if you want to join in with the Twitter discussion group just follow this link or put in #TheDarkIsReading.
A little bit of magic at Christmas appeals to my inner child. I’m sure anyone who read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at a tender age still remember the horror of reading about a place where it was always winter but never Christmas.
Another book from my childhood (and let’s face it, my increasing adulthood) that gets read every year is Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome. Of the twelve books in his Swallows and Amazons series, this one remains a firm favourite. The story takes place after Christmas and the children are hoping that the lake will freeze over before they have to go back to school. They want to be able to skate to the ‘North Pole’ at the far end of the lake. It doesn’t seem likely until their holidays are extended by a month when one of them gets mumps and they’re all quarantined. Although no magic is involved, the story feels magical, within a world suspended by the onslaught of snow and ice.
For my wife and I, Christmas gift buying shrinks each year. We’ve reached the conclusion there’s no point in getting each other anything other than books. So we exchange lists.
This year I’ve asked for Philip Pullman’s new one, The Book of Dust, La Belle Sauvage. The start of another trilogy—I can’t wait to delve into Pullman’s magical world.
For a different kind of magical journey, you could take a trip to Winterbourne House, a lesbian retreat, in Christmas at Winterbourne.
And for variety, the Christmas Medley anthology offers eight Christmas-related stories from Affinity authors.