Natalia Duran shares her warm holiday memories, her thoughts on Holiday literature, and what to read this season.
The cosiness of the holiday season is unbeatable. Filled with warmth and joy, family gatherings and wonderful feasts, music playing, and the twinkling lights. It’s that time of the year that brings the world together, and thus, stories are shared. From the beginning of cultural development, humans have been known as storytellers. All the way from Ancient Greece to today’s multicultural world, stories have been and continue to be heard, passed on, and shared once again. Storytelling is something that has brought us all together, regardless of geographical or linguistic differences. The same stories can be translated today into various languages and be shared across the globe. And the holiday season, a time of sharing and surrounding yourself with loved ones, has become a popular time for storytelling, and with that, holiday literature has emerged.
I have always loved the holiday season. In Guatemala, my family and I celebrate it every year in grandeur. One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is gathering to sing with family and read a story together at my grandmother’s before feasting on tamales and ponche (a traditional Latin-American holiday dish). My grandmother always thought it important to share time with loved ones, especially during the holidays, and so we would gather every year in her living room, and share stories all together.
people have gathered and heard the same stories for years, unified by a single narrative
Holiday literature holds an important role during this time of the year because it brings people together. Its popularity continues to increase through cultural and religious traditions shared during the holiday season. Religious beliefs have been shared throughout storytelling; it is what has made each religion grow and expand. Ideologies were shared, tales delivered globally. No matter where you stand in the world, religious stories are still heard and they bring people that share similar beliefs together; from family and friends to complete strangers, people have gathered and heard the same stories for years, unified by a single narrative.
Over the years, holiday literature has evolved and begun to separate from its origin of religious beliefs to unite even bigger groups of people during the festivities. The seasonal stories were modified and adapted to fit popular themes of society. During the Victorian era, holiday literature took an exceptional leap in becoming a worldwide favourite. Charles Dickens, known for being a great novelist of the time, has also been recognized in an article by The Guardian as a “revivor of the holiday spirit during 1843” (Laverne). In a time where the population of England was accommodating to the new urban way of living, festivities were forgotten over work and financial stability. Many suffered poverty alongside Dickens, which inspired what is still known to be one of his most popular stories, A Christmas Carol.
Dickens’ instant hit was an attempt to revive and bring the joyfulness of the holiday spirit back into society. The story of ghostly visits and the redemption of miserable Ebenezer Scrooge from his greed built a sense of communal sharing which resonated with people all around the world. It delivered the message of unity, moving away from financial hardships and consumerism, and instead, finding joy within one’s self and others. Dickens’ holiday narratives sparked cheer and love for the season and, like several of his other stories, were created to remind people of the holiday spirit.
A personal favourite of mine has to be J.R.R Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas. Inspired by Tolkien’s tradition to write his children a letter every Christmas, this book is filled with experiences of that year and life lessons to meditate upon. Tolkien’s Christmas narrative represents his sense of gratefulness and consideration for others: “I (and also my Green Brother) have had to do some collecting of food and clothes, and toys too, for the children whose fathers and mothers and friends cannot give them anything” (Tolkien, 1976). The holiday season in my family has always been celebrated as a time of gratitude, a time of reflection, and a time of helping others; ‘delivering joy to the hearts of others’ as my grandmother used to say. Tolkien’s holiday tale is what holiday literature is all about. The intention of speaking about the kindness and holiness of sharing is understood by all humankind, but most importantly, the intention to bring back consciousness into the holiday spirit’s purpose of simplicity and humility that sparks immense joy.
The Holiday Season falls upon all of us, no matter if it is filled with twinkling lights around the Christmas tree and Santa’s presents, if it’s Menorah candles that burn for eight nights, or if it is celebrating Kwanzaa, dancing to the rhythm of drums. It is this time of the year everywhere, that Holidays storytelling brings us all together, all under one single Holidays spirit.