Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Favorite Christmas Stories

Christmas is coming! To soothe your harried minds and warm your snowed-in souls, we're discussing our favorite Christmas stories this week.

To be entirely honest, my favorite story about Christmas is A Christmas Carol, but since we're (sort of) talking about that on Friday, I'll skip that one. And my favorite story that makes me feel Christmassy is Little Women (and in the 1994 film you'll find my favorite carol, "Here We Come A-Wassailing" which you just don't hear enough these days). But it isn't really about Christmas. So to finally get to my point, I'll tell you about The Polar Express.

The Polar Express cover

When I was in second grade, I had an amazing teacher, Ms. Merrill. She was wacky and fun and got everybody excited about learning, cheesy though that sounds. In December, we read The Polar Express in class.

If you've never read the book (or seen the movie, which I haven't, but according to Wikipedia, it includes the part I want to discuss), I'll give you a brief summary. A little boy wakes up, hears a train, and finds that it's waiting for him, filled with sweets and other children in pajamas. It takes them to the North Pole, where Santa chooses our protagonist to be the first child to receive a gift for Christmas that year. He can choose absolutely anything in the world, and he asks for one of the bells off the reindeers' harnesses, which Santa gives him. When he shows his parents, they can't hear it, and deem it broken. The book ends with the book telling us that his friends used to be able to hear it, but little by little they stopped being able to hear it (although he can still hear it, and so can anyone who believes).

Cute, right? We loved it.

And before winter break that year, my teacher gave all of us a big silver jingle bell wrapped in a festive little piece of fabric, with a tag with a little message about how it rings for all who still believe. It is my most prized Christmas decoration. (And for the record, I can still hear it when it rings.)

So, I'm going to do something a little unprecedented for our blog... and pick the exact same book.  I LOVED The Polar Express when I was little.  I remember it was one of the few books that was always around the house and for everyone's consumption.  In fact, my parents STILL have the copy they bought years and years ago.  (I'm 26 and I don't remember a time we didn't have this book, so you can guess that book is at least 24 years old.  Probably older.)

When I was little, every year around Christmas, my dad or mom would read this book to me before bed.  I remember gazing at all the pictures, because they're really spectacular.

Look how beautiful that is!

As with Alex, my favorite part of the book is probably when they talk about the kids one by one, no longer hearing the bell.  Even his sister, who believed for a very long time, found a Christmas she couldn't hear it.  But he always could.

It almost looks real, doesn't it?  It's not; this is the
picture of the bell from the book.

I have a sister who is almost 13 years younger than me and I still remember the first Christmas that we read this to her.  She was maybe a year old, and she sat in my Dad's lap (just like I had when I was little) and he read her The Polar Express from the same exact book that he had read it to me.  It a wonderful Christmas story, a great family tradition to have and, even though it was fairly long for a picture book, a story I never minded sitting through.

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