Suggested Readings. 1. A reading from A Christmas Carol (Christmas Eve) by Charles Dickens

Suggested Readings 1. A reading from ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Christmas Eve) by Charles Dickens On Christmas Eve – Old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-ho...
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Suggested Readings 1. A reading from ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Christmas Eve) by Charles Dickens On Christmas Eve – Old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather; foggy withal; and he could hear the people in the court outside go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. The door of Scrooge’s counting house was open, that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, Bob Cratchit, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of strong imagination, he failed. “A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach. “Bah!” said Scrooge. “Humbug!” He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s that he was all in a flow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. “Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?” “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” “Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Scrooge, having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug!” “Don’t be cross uncle!” said the nephew. “What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas-time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books, and having every item in ‘em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

Scrooge went to church, and walked about the streets. He had never dreamed that any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house. “Is your master at home, my dear?” said Scrooge to the girl. “He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with the mistress. I’ll show you upstairs, if you please.” “Thank’ee. He knows me,” said Scrooge, with his hand already on the dining-room lock. “I’ll go in here, my dear.” “Why bless my soul!”, cried Fred, “who’s that?” “It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?” Let him in! It’s a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, wonderful happiness!

1. A reading from ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Christmas Day) by Charles Dickens Yes! And the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in! “I will live in the past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this!” He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer, ding, dong, bell. Bell, dong, ding, hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious! Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious! “What’s to-day?” cried Scrooge, calling downwards to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him. “Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder. “What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge. “Today!” replied the boy. “Why, CHRISTMAS DAY”. “It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!” “Hallo!” returned the boy. “Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired? “I should hope I did,” replied the lad “An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up in there? Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?” “What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy. “What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!” “It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy. “Is it?” said Scrooge, “go and buy it”. The boy was off like a shot.

“I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands and splitting with a laugh. “He shan’t know who sends it. It’s twice the side of Tiny Tim.” It was a Turkey! He never could have stood upon his legs, that bird. He would have snapped ‘em short off in a minute, like sticks of sealing-wax. “Why, it’s impossible to carry that to Camden Town,” said Scrooge. “You must have a cab.” The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again and chuckled till he cried.

3. A reading from ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Boxing Day) by Charles Dickens

But he was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If only he could be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his heart on. And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him coming into the office. His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock. “Hallo!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?” “I am very sorry, sir,” said Bob. “I am behind the time.” “You are?” repeated Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.” “It’s only once a year, sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the office. “It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.” “Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the office again; “and therefore I am about to raise your salary! A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another I, Bob Cratchit!” Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

4. ‘Advent 1955’ by John Betjeman The Advent wind begins to stir With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir, It’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea, And in between we only see Clouds hurrying across the sky And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry And branches bending to the gale Against great skies all silver-pale. The world seems travelling into space, And travelling at a faster pace Than in the leisured summer weather When we and it sit out together, For now we feel the world spin round On some momentous journey bound – Journey to what? To whom? To where? The Advent bells call out “Prepare, Your world is journeying to the birth Of God made Man for us on earth”. And how, in fact, do we prepare For the great day that waits us there – The twenty-fifth day of December, The birth of Christ? For some it means An interchange of hunting scenes On coloured cards. And I remember Last year I sent out twenty yards, Laid end to end, of Christmas cards To people that I scarcely know – They’d sent a card to me, and so I had to send one back. Oh dear! Is this a form of Christmas cheer? Or is it, which is less surprising, My pride gone in for advertising? The only cards that really count Are that extremely small amount From real friends who keep in touch And are not rich but love us much. Some ways indeed are very odd By which we hail the birth of God. We raise the price of things in shops, We give plain boxes fancy tops And lines which traders cannot sell Thus parcell’d go extremely well. We dole out bribes we call a present To those to whom we must be pleasant For business reasons. Our defence is These bribes are charged against expenses And bring relief in Income Tax. Enough of these unworthy cracks!

“The time draws near the birth of Christ”, A present that cannot be priced Given two thousand years ago. Yet if God had not given so He still would be a distant stranger And not the Baby in the manger.

5. ‘Christmas Eve’ by Joyce Grenfell Today with a list of jobs to be done As long as my arm, And too many people in too many places pushing, Christmas has lost its charm. What with neon signs blazing and dazing As they changed, And nothing left in the shops. . . No wrapping paper, tags or scarlet string, Not a thing left . . . And the wear and tear Of trying to get from A to B And no time to spare for transit – Oh, I lost sight of Christmas. 'Well, it's not for me anyway,' I said, 'It's for the children'. And I waited, tapping my foot, On an island in mid-traffic, While the lights deliberately stuck To prevent me or anybody else Getting anywhere. 'Oh Lor',' I said, 'Look at that terrible pink, plastic duck In a sailor's hat Going by under a woman's arm. What's that a manifestation of? Thank heaven there are no more shopping days to Christmas'. Christmas? Oh, Christmas. I'd forgotten. I looked along the busy city thoroughfare. The holly colours in a hundred rear lamps Made their small contribution. Red buses rumbled by, loaded with individuals And their packages and private plans for tomorrow. A street band blew a carol. The pink glow above the city Hid the star, But the street was bright with more than electricity And through a crack in a man-made world I caught a glimpse of the glory And the good of Christmas.

6. ‘Christmas Truce’ by Captain R. J. Armes This letter was written by Captain R.J. Armes, a 38 year old Regular Officer with the 1st North Staffordshire Regiment, to his wife, on Christmas Eve 1914, from the trenches in Northern France.

I have just been through one of the most extraordinary scenes imaginable. Tonight is Christmas Eve and I came up into the trenches this evening for my tour of duty in them. Firing was going on all the time and the enemy's machine guns were at it hard, firing at us. Then about seven the firing stopped. I was in my dugout reading a paper and the mail was being dished out. It was reported that the Germans had lighted their trenches up all along our front. We had been calling to one another for some time Christmas wishes and other things. I went out and they shouted 'no shooting' and then somehow the scene became a peaceful one. All our men got out of the trenches and sat on the parapet, the Germans did the same, and they talked to one another in English and broken English. I got on the top of the trench and talked German and asked them to sing a German Volkslied [folk song], which they did, then our men sang quite well and each side clapped and cheered the other. I asked a German who sang a solo to sing one of Schumann's songs, so he sang 'The Two Grenadiers' splendidly. Our men were a good audience and really enjoyed his singing. Then Pope and I walked across and held a conversation with the German officer in command. One of his men introduced us properly, he asked my name and then presented me to his officer. I gave the latter permission to bury some German dead who were lying in between us, and we agreed to have no shooting until 12 midnight tomorrow. We talked together, 10 or more Germans gathered round. I was almost in their lines within a yard or so. We saluted each other, he thanked me for permission to bury his dead, and we fixed up how many men were to do it, and that otherwise both sides must remain in their trenches. Then we wished one another good night and a good night's rest, and a happy Christmas and parted with a salute. I got back to the trench. The Germans sang ‘Die Wacht am Rhein’, it sounded well. Then our men sang quite well 'Christians Awake', it sounded so well, and with a good night we all got back into our trenches. It was a curious scene, a lovely moonlight night, the German trenches with small lights on them, and the men on both sides gathered in groups on the parapets. At times we heard the guns in the distance and an occasional rifle shot. I can hear them now, but about us is absolute quiet. I allowed one or two men to go out and meet a German or two halfway. They exchanged cigars, a smoke and talked. The officer I spoke to hopes we shall do the same on New Year's Day. I said 'yes, if I am here'. I felt I must sit down and write the story of this Christmas Eve before I went to lie down. Of course no precautions are relaxed, but I think they mean to play the game. All the same, I think I shall be awake all night so as to be on the safe side. It is weird to think that tomorrow night we shall be at it hard again. If one gets through this show it will be a Christmas time to live in one's memory. The German who sang had a really fine voice. Am just off for a walk round the trenches to see all is well. Good night.

7. Isaiah Chapter 9

vv2, 6 & 7

Christ’s birth and kingdom are foretold by Isaiah.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

8. ‘King John’ by AA Milne King John was not a good man, He had his little ways. And sometimes no one spoke to him For days and days and days. And men who came across him, When walking in the town, Gave him a supercilious stare, Or passed with noses in the air – And bad King John stood dumbly there, Blushing beneath his crown. King John was not a good man, And no good friends had he. He stayed in every afternoon… But no one came to tea. And, round about December, The cards upon his shelf Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer And fortune in the coming year, Were never from his near and dear, But only from himself. King John was not a good man, Yet had his hopes and fears. They’d given him no present now For years and years and years. But every year at Christmas, While minstrels stood about, Collecting tribute from the young For all the songs they might have sung, He stole away upstairs and hung A hopeful stocking out. King John was not a good man, He lived his life aloof; Alone he thought a message out While climbing up the roof. He wrote it down and propped it Against the chimney stack: “TO ALL AND SUNDRY – NEAR AND FAR – F. CHRISTMAS IN PARTICULAR.” And signed it not “Johannes R.” But very humbly “JACK”. “I want some crackers, And I want some candy; I think a box of chocolates Would come in handy; I don’t mind oranges, I do like nuts! And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife

That really cuts. And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all, Bring me a big, red India-rubber ball!” King John was not a good man, He wrote this message out, And gat him to his room again, Descending by the spout. And all that night he lay there, A prey to hopes and fears. “I think that’s him a-coming now,” (Anxiety bedewed his brow.) “He’ll bring one present, anyhow – The first I’ve had for years.” Forget about the crackers, And forget about the candy; I’m sure a box of chocolates Would never come in handy; I don’t like oranges, I don’t want nuts, And I have got a pocket-knife That almost cuts. But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all, Bring me a big, red India-rubber ball.” King John was not a good man, Next morning when the sun Rose up to tell a waiting world That Christmas had begun, And people seized their stockings, And opened them with glee, And crackers, toys and games appeared, And lips with sticky sweets were smeared, King John said grimly: “As I feared, Nothing again for me!” “I did want crackers, And I did want candy: I know a box of chocolates Would come in handy; I do love oranges, I did want nuts. I haven’t got a pocket-knife – Not one that cuts. And, oh! If Father Christmas had loved me at all, He would have brought a big, red India-rubber ball!”

King John stood by the window, And frowned to see below The happy bands of boys and girls All playing in the snow. A while he stood there watching, And envying them all…

When through the window big and red There hurtled by his royal head, And bounced and fell upon the bed, An India-rubber ball! AND OH, FATHER CHRISTMAS, MY BLESSINGS ON YOU FALL FOR BRINGING HIM A BIG, RED, INDIA-RUBBER BALL!

9. ‘Memories of Christmas’ by Dylan Thomas One Christmas was so much like another in those years, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six; or whether the ice broke, and we tobogganed down the seaward hill, all the afternoon, on the best tea-tray, and Mrs. Griffiths complained, and we threw a snowball at her niece, and my hands burned so, with the heat and the cold, when I held them in front of the fire, that I cried for twenty minutes and then had some jelly. All the Christmases roll down the hill towards the Welsh-speaking sea, like a snowball growing whiter and bigger and rounder, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find; holly or robins or pudding, squabbles and carols and oranges and tin whistles, and the fire in the front room, and bang go the crackers, and holy, holy, holy, ring the bells, and the glass bells shaking on the tree, and Mother Goose, and Struwelpeter – oh! The baby-burning flames and the clacking scissorman! Billy Bunter and Black Beauty, Little Women and boys who have three helpings, Alice and Mrs. Potter’s badgers, penknives, teddy-bears, mouth-organs, tinsoldiers, and blancmange, and Auntie Bessie playing ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ and ‘Nuts in May’ and ‘Oranges and Lemons’ on the untuned piano in the parlour all through the thimblehiding musical-chairing blind-man’s-buffing party at the end of the never-to-be-forgotten day at the end of the unremembered year. And I remember that we went singing carols once, a night or two before Christmas Eve, when there wasn’t the shaving of a moon to light the secret streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe web-footed men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house. “What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?” “No. Good King Wenceslas. I’ll count three.” One, two, three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snowfelted darkness around the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood closer together, near the dark door. “Good King Wenceslas looked out On the Feast of Stephen” And then a small dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing; a small dry eggshell voice from the other side of the door; a small dry voiced through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our house, the front room was lovely and bright; the gramophone was playing; we saw the red and white balloons hanging from the gas-bracket; uncles and aunts sat by the fire. Everything was good again, and Christmas shone through the familiar town. “Perhaps it was a ghost,” Jim said “Perhaps it was trolls,” Dan said, who was always reading.

“Let’s go in and see if there’s any jelly left,” Jack said. And we did that.

10. ‘Old Sam’s Christmas Pudding’ by Marriot Edgar It was Christmas Day in the trenches In Spain in Peninsula War, And Sam Small were cleaning his musket A thing as he'd ne'er done before. They'd had 'em inspected that morning, And Sam had got into disgrace For when Sergeant had looked down the barrel A sparrow flew out in his face. The Sergeant reported the matter To Lieutenant Bird then and there. Said Lieutenant 'How very disgusting The Duke must be told of this 'ere.' The Duke were upset when he heard. He said 'I'm astonished, I am. I must make a most drastic example There'll be no Christmas pudding for Sam.' When Sam were informed of his sentence Surprise rooted him to the spot – 'Twere much worse than he had expected, He thought as he'd only be shot. And so he sat cleaning his musket, And polishing barrel and butt, Whilst the pudding his mother had sent him Lay there in the mud at his foot. Now the centre that Sam's lot were holding Ran around a place called Badajoz Where the Spaniards had put up a bastion And ooh what a bastion it was! They pounded away all the morning With canister, grape shot and ball, But the face of the bastion defied them. They made no impression at all. They started again after dinner Bombarding as hard as they could; And the Duke brought his own private cannon But that weren't a ha'pence o' good. The Duke said 'Sam, put down thy musket And help me to lay this gun true'. Sam answered 'You'd best ask your favours From them as you give pudding to.' The Duke looked at Sam so reproachful

And 'Don't take it that way', said he, 'Us Generals have got to be ruthless. It hurts me more than it did thee.' Sam sniffed at these words kind of sceptic, Then looked down the Duke's private gun And said, 'We'd best put in two charges. We'll never bust bastion with one.' He tipped cannon ball out of muzzle, He took out the wadding and all, He filled barrel chock full of powder, Then picked up and replaced the ball.

He took a good aim at the bastion, Then said, 'Right-o, Duke, let her fly'. The cannon nigh jumped off her trunnions And up went the bastion, sky high. The Duke he weren't 'alf elated, He danced round the trench full of glee And said, 'Sam, for this gallant action You can hot up your pudding for tea'. Sam looked round to pick up his pudding, But it wasn't there, nowhere about. In the place where he thought he had left it Lay the cannon ball he'd just tipped out. Sam saw in a flash what 'ad happened: By an unprecedented mishap The pudding his mother had sent him Had blown Badajoz off the map. That's why Fusiliers wear to this moment A badge which they think's a grenade, But they're wrong - it's a brass reproduction Of the pudding Sam's mother once made.

11. ‘Reginald’s Christmas Revel’ by Saki On Christmas evening we were supposed to be specially festive in the Old English fashion. The hall was horribly draughty, but it seemed to be the proper place to revel in, and it was decorated with Japanese fans and Chinese lanterns which gave it a very Old English effect... The Major gave us a graphic account of a struggle he had with a wounded bear. I privately wished that the bears would win sometimes on these occasions; at least they wouldn't go vapouring about it afterwards. Before we had time to recover our spirits, we were indulged with some thought-reading by a young man whom one knew instinctively had a good mother and an indifferent tailor – the sort of young man who talks unflaggingly through the thickest soup, and smooths his hair dubiously as though he thought it might hit back. The thought-reading was rather a success; he announced that the hostess was thinking about poetry, and she admitted that her mind was dwelling on one of Austin's odes. Which was near enough. I fancy she had really been wondering whether a scrag-end of mutton and some cold plum-pudding would do for the kitchen dinner next day. As a crowning dissipation, they all sat down to play progressive halma, with milkchocolate for prizes. I've been carefully brought up, and I don't like to play games of skill for milkchocolate, so I invented a headache and retired from the scene. I had been preceded a few minutes earlier by Miss Langshan-Smith, a rather formidable lady, who always got up at some uncomfortable hour in the morning, and gave you the impression that she had been in communication with most of the European Governments before breakfast. There was a paper pinned to her door with a signed request that she might be called particularly early on the morrow. Such an opportunity does not come twice in a lifetime. I covered up everything except the signature with another notice, to the effect that before these words should meet the eye she would have ended a misspent life, was sorry for the trouble she was giving, and would like a military funeral. A few minutes later I violently exploded an air-filled paper bag on the landing, and gave a stage moan that could have been heard in the cellars. Then I pursued my original intention and went to bed. The noise those people made in forcing open the good lady's door was positively indecorous; she resisted gallantly, but I believe they searched her for bullets for about a quarter of an hour, as if she had been a historic battlefield. I hate travelling on Boxing Day, but one must occasionally do things that one dislikes.

12. ‘Shirley Valentine’ by Willy Russell Well, when Brian learned he'd got the part of Joseph he was made up with himself. All the time he's rehearsin' this nativity play his behaviour is fantastic; the headmaster's made up with him. I'm made up with him, the teachers are made up with him. An' he's made up with himself. He's practisin', every night in his room. 'We are weary travellers on our way to Bethlehem an' my wife is having a baby and we need rest at the inn for the night'. Well, the day of the show, I got down to the school, the play started an' it was lovely, y'know, all the little angels come on an' they all have a sly little wave to their mams. Then it was our Brian's entrance; he comes on an' he's pullin' this donkey behind him – it's like this hobby-horse on wheels. An' perched on top of it is this little girl, takin' the part of the Virgin Mary an' she's dressed beautiful, y'know, her mother's really dolled her up to be the part. An' she's givin' a little wave to her mam. So Brian gives the donkey a bit of a tug because he's takin' it dead serious an' he doesn't believe they should be wavin' to their mams. He's up there, he's actin' like he might win the Oscar – y'know, he's mimin' givin' hay to the donkey an' he's pattin' it on the head. Well, the headmaster turned round an' smiled at me. I think he was as proud of our Brian as I was. Well, Brian gets to the door of the inn and he goes 'Knock, knock, knock' an' the little Innkeeper appears. Our Brian starts 'We are weary travellers on our way to Bethlehem an' my wife is havin' a baby an' we need to rest for the night at the inn'. So the little feller playin' the Innkeeper pipes up: 'You cannot stay at the inn because the inn is full up an' there is no room in the inn'. An' then our Brian is supposed to say somethin' like: 'Well, we must go an' find a lowly cattle shed an' stay in there'. Then he's supposed to go off pullin' the donkey an' the Virgin Mary behind him. But he didn't. Well, I don't know if it's the Virgin Mary, gettin' up our Brian's nose, because she's spent the whole scene wavin' to her mother, or whether it was just that our Brian suddenly realized that the part of Joseph wasn't as big as it had been cracked up to be. But whatever it was, instead of goin' off pullin' the donkey, he suddenly turned to the little Innkeeper an' yelled at him: 'Full up? Full up? But we booked!' Well, the poor little Innkeeper didn't know what day of the week it was. He's lookin' all round the hall for someone to rescue him an' his bottom lip's beginnin' to tremble an' our Brian's goin', 'Full up? I've got the wife outside, waitin' with the donkey. She's expectin' a baby any minute now, there's snow everywhere in six-foot drifts an' you're tryin' to tell me that you're full up?' Well, the top brass on the front row are beginnin' to look a bit uncomfortable – they're beginnin' to turn and look at the headmaster an' our Brian's givin' a perfect imitation of his father, on a bad day; he's beratin' anythin' that dares move. The little Innkeeper's lip is goin' ten to the dozen an' the Virgin Mary's in floods of tears on the donkey. Well, the Innkeeper finally grasps that the script is well out of the window an' that he has to do somethin' about our Brian. So he steps forward an' he says, 'Listen mate, listen! I was only jokin'. We have got room really. Y'can come in if y'want.' An' with that the three of them disappeared into the inn. End of nativity play an' end of our Brian's actin' career. Me an' our Brian, we sometimes have a laugh about it now, but at the time I could have died of shame. It was all over the papers: 'Mary And Joseph Fail To Arrive in Bethlehem.' I was ashamed.

13. St. John Chapter 1

vv 1 – 14

St. John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

14. ‘The Boy who Laughed at Santa Claus’ by Ogden Nash A less well-known habit of Santa Claus, when on his flights around the world, laden with presents for all the children who are good, is to carry close to his chest a Book of Sins and punish those who are naughty. In Baltimore there lived a boy. He wasn’t anybody’s joy. Although his name was Jabez Dawes, His character was full of flaws. In school he never led the classes, He hid old ladies’ reading glasses, His mouth was open when he chewed, And elbows to the table glued. He stole the milk of hungry kittens, And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE. He said he acted thus because There wasn’t any Santa Claus. Another trick that tickled Jabez Was crying ‘Boo!’ at little babies. He brushed his teeth, they said in town, Sideways instead of up and down. Yet people pardoned every sin, And viewed his antics with a grin, Till they were told by Jabez Dawes, ‘There isn’t any Santa Claus!’ Deploring how he did behave, His parents swiftly sought their grave. They hurried through the portals pearly, And Jabez left the funeral early. Like whooping cough, from child to child, He sped to spread the rumour wild; ‘Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes There isn’t any Santa Claus!’ Slunk like a weasel or a marten Through nursery and kindergarten, Whispering low to every tot, ‘There isn’t any, no there’s not! The children wept all Christmas Eve And Jabez chortled up his sleeve. No infant dared hang up his stocking For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking. He sprawled on his untidy bed, Fresh malice dancing in his head, When presently with scalp a-tingling, Jabez heard a distant jingling; He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof Crisply alighting on the roof. What good to rise and bar the door?

A shower of soot was on the floor, What was beheld by Jabez Dawes? The fireplace full of Santa Claus! Then Jabez fell upon his knees With cries of ‘Don’t, and ‘Pretty please’. He howled: ‘I don’t know where you read it, But anyhow, I never said it!’ ‘Jabez,’ replied the angry saint, ‘It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t. Although there is a Santa Claus, There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!’ Said Jabez then with impudent vim, ‘Oh, yes there is! And I am him! Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t-‘ And suddenly he found he wasn’t! From grimy feet to grimy locks, Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box, An ugly toy with springs usprung, Forever sticking out his tongue. The neighbour heard his mournful squeal; They searched for him but not with zeal. No trace was found of Jabez Dawes, Which led to thunderous applause, And people drank a loving cup And went and hung their stockings up. All you who sneer at Santa Claus, Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes, The saucy boy who mocked the saint. Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.

15. ‘The Nativity Play’ by Gwyn Thomas It is a Christmas rite that The children of the vestry Present in our chapel The drama of the nativity. Some adults will have been Stitching Christmas into old shirts, Old sheets, old curtains To clothe that gang of thespians. 'The Gifts', too, will be throwaways: An old biscuit tin, gilded and adorned, Will become a casket of 'Myrrh'; An old carton of tea will be 'Frankincense'; And a lump of something coloured and wrapped Will become 'Gold'. And there will be, always, a star that’s electric. Other adults will have been coaching Angels, Attempting to show Wise Men how things are done, Trying to prod into the unruly The decorum of 'Shepherds', And struggling to keep Herod and his Men From wild and perfidious insubordination For this there's among them a strong inclination. Mary and Joseph will be somewhat older Than the rest and, so, easier to manage. Baby Jesus is always a dolly. From time to time in the rehearsals there will be Unseemly bickering between Wise Men and Shepherds, And, sometimes, loud arguments there among Angels, And the walloping of heads will be an unmajestic Temptation for Herod's Men with their swords made of plastic. And when the sombreness of Gift-giving is rudely shattered When one of the Wise Men drops the biscuit tin, with great clattering, There is need of grace to stop our Reverend from swearing. But in the love that is there within those walls On the night itself, all there are a family. There the white innocence of those who are acting Makes, miraculously, a birth out of ordinary things, And in our night the electric star will lighten the darkness And will point back to that very first Christmas, And show us the light that can't ever be buried. And in the midst of the horror of a world ruled over by Herod It is said once again that God does not die.

16. The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant’s garden. It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass, and twelve peach trees. The birds sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. ‘How happy we are here!’ they cried to each other. One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. ‘What are you doing here?’ he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away. ‘My own garden is my own garden,’ said the Giant; ‘and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.’ So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.

TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED

He was a very selfish Giant. The poor children had now nowhere to play. They used to wander round the high walls when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside. ‘How happy we were there!’ they said to each other. Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. ‘I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming,’ said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold, white garden; ‘I hope there will be a change in the weather.’ But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave a golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant’s garden she gave none. ‘He is too selfish,’ she said. So it was always winter there, and the North Wind and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees. One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world. ‘I believe the Spring has come at last,’ said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out. What did he see? He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still winter. It

was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still covered with frost and s now, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. ‘Climb up! little boy,’ said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was too tiny. And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. ‘How selfish I have been!’ he said; ‘now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground for ever and ever.’ He was really very sorry for what he had done. So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter again. Only the little boy did not run for his eyes were so full of tears that he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant’s neck, and kissed him. And the other children when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. ‘It is your garden now, little children,’ said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. All day long the children played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him goodbye. ‘But where is your little companion?’ he said: ‘the boy I put into the tree.’ The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him. ‘We don’t know,’ answered the children: ‘he has gone away’. ‘You must tell him to be sure and come tomorrow,’ said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he lived and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad. Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. ‘How I would like to see him!’ he used to say. Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. ‘I have many beautiful flowers,’ he said; ‘but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.’ One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting. Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder and looked and looked. It certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, ‘Who hath dared to wound thee?’ For on the palms of the child’s hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.

‘Who hath dared to wound thee?’ cried the Giant, ‘tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.’ ‘Nay,’ answered the child: ‘but these are the wounds of Love.’ ‘Who art thou?’ said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child. And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, ‘You let me play once in your garden, today you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.’ And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.

17. ‘William’s Truthful Christmas’ by Richmal Crompton William awoke early on Christmas day. He had hung up his stocking the night before and was pleased to see it fairly full. He took out the presents quickly but not very optimistically. He had been early disillusioned in the matter of grown-ups’ capacity for choosing suitable presents. Memories of prayer books and history books and socks and handkerchiefs floated before his mental vision…Yes, as bad as ever!…a case containing a pen and pencil and ruler, a new brush and comb, a purse (empty) and a new tie…a penknife and a box of toffee were the only redeeming features. On the chair by his bedside was a book of Church History from Aunt Emma and a box containing a pair of compasses, a protractor and a set square from Uncle Frederick… William appeared at breakfast wearing his new tie and having brushed his hair with his new brush. He carried under his arm his presents for his host and hostess. He exchanged ‘Happy Christmas’ gloomily. His resolve to cast away deceit and hypocrisy and speak the truth one with another lay heavy upon him. He regarded it as an obligation that could not be shirked. William was a boy of great tenacity of purpose. Having once made up his mind to a course he pursued it regardless of consequences … ‘Well, William, darling,’ said his mother, ‘Did you find your presents?’ ‘Yes,’ said William gloomily, ‘Thank you.’ ‘Did you like the book and instruments that Uncle and I gave you?’ said Aunt Emma brightly. ‘No,’ said William gloomily and truthfully. ‘I’m not int’rested in Church History an’ I’ve got something like those at school. Not that I’d want ‘em,’ he added hastily, ‘if I hadn’t ‘em.’ ‘William’ screamed Mrs Brown in horror. ‘How can you be so ungrateful!’ ‘I’m not ungrateful,’ explained William wearily. ‘I’m only bein’ truthful. I’m casting aside deceit an’ … an’hyp-hyp-what he said. I’m only sayin’ that I’m not int’rested in Church History nor in those inst’ments. But thank you very much for ‘em.’ There was a gasp of dismay and a horrified silence during which William drew his paper packages from under his arm. ‘Here are your Christmas presents from me,’ he said. The atmosphere brightened. They unfastened their parcels with expressions of anticipation and Christmas forgiveness upon their faces. William watched them, his face ‘registering’ only patient suffering. ‘It’s very kind of you,’ said Aunt Emma, still struggling with the string. ‘It’s not kind,’ said William, still treading doggedly the path of truth. ‘Mother said I’d got to bring you something.’ Mrs Brown coughed suddenly and loudly but not in time to drown the fatal words of truth… ‘But still-er-very kind,’ said Aunt Emma though with less enthusiasm. At last she brought out a small pincushion. ‘Thank you very much, William,’ she said. ‘You really oughtn’t to have spent your money on me like this.’

‘I din’t,’ said William stonily. ‘I hadn’t any money, but I’m very glad you like it. It was left over from Mother’s stall at the Sale of Work, an’ Mother said it was no use keepin’ it for nex’ year because it had got so faded.’ Again Mrs Brown coughed loudly but too late. Aunt Emma said coldly; ‘I see. Yes. Your mother was quite right. But thank you all the same, William.’ Uncle Frederick had now taken the wrappings from his present and held up a leather purse. ‘Ah, this is a really useful present,’ he said jovially. ‘I’m ‘fraid it’s not very useful,’ said William. ‘Uncle Jim sent it to father for his Birthday but father said it was no use ‘cause the catch wouldn’ catch so he gave it to me to give to you.’ Uncle Frederick tried the catch. ‘Um…ah…’ he said. ‘Your father was quite right. The catch won’t catch. Never mind, I’ll send it back to your father as a New Year present … what?’ As soon as the Brown family were left alone it turned upon William in a combined attack. ‘I warned you!’ said Ethel to her mother. ‘He ought to be hung,’ said Robert. ‘William, how could you?’ said Mrs Brown. ‘When I’m bad, you go on at me,’ said William with exasperation, ‘an’ when I’m tryin’ to lead a holier life and cast aside hyp-hyp- what he said, you go on at me. I dunno what I can be. I don’t mind bein’ hung. I’d as soon be hung as keep havin’ Christmas over an’ over again simply every year the way we do …’

18. An extract from War Horse by Michael Morpurgo This extract is in the words of the War Horse: The grandfather came late at night, his feet crumping the snow. He had made up the buckets of hot mash. “Emilie, my grand-daughter prays for you”, he said, nodding slowly. “Do you know, every night before she goes to bed she prays for you? I’ve heard her. She prays for her dead father and mother and for her brother that she’ll never see again – just seventeen and he doesn’t even have a grave. Then she prays for me and for the war to pass by the farm and to leave us alone, and last of all she prays for you two. She’s barely thirteen, my Emilie, and now she she’s lying up there in her room and I don’t know if she’ll live to see the morning. The German doctor from the hospital tells me it’s pneumonia. He’s a good enough doctor even if he is German – he’s done his best, it’s up to God now, and so far God hasn’t done too well for my family. If she goes, if my Emilie dies, then the only light left in my life will be put out.” He looked up at us through heavily wrinkled eyes and wiped the tears from his face. There was a heavy shelling all that night, and before dawn the next day the orderlies came for us and led us out into the snow to be hitched up. Pulling the cart through the fresh, uncut snow that morning we needed all our strength just to haul the empty cart up to the front line. The snow disguised perfectly the rut and shell holes, so that we found ourselves straining to extricate ourselves from the piled-up snow and the sinking mud beneath it. We made it to the front line. The field dressing station behind the front line was crowded with wounded and we had to bring back a heavier load than we ever had before, but fortunately the way back was mostly downhill. Someone suddenly remembered it was Christmas morning, and they sang slow tuneful carols all the way back. For the most part they were casualties blinded by gas and in their pain some of them cried, as they sang, for their lost sight. We made so many journeys that day and stopped only when the hospital could take no more. It was already a starry night by the time we reached the farm. The shelling had stopped. There were no flares to light up the sky and blot out the stars. All the way along the lane not a gun fired. Peace had come for one night, one at least. The snow in the yard was crisped by the frost. There was a dancing light in our stable and Emilie’s grandfather came out in to the snow and took our reins from the orderly. “It’s a fine night,” he said to us as he led us in. “It’s a fine night and all’s well. There’s mash and hay and water in there for you – I’ve given you extra tonight, not because it’s cold but because you prayed. You must have prayed to that Horse God of yours because my Emilie woke up at lunchtime, sat up she did, and do you know the first thing she said? I’ll tell you. She said, “I must get up, got to get their mash ready for them when they come back. They’ll be cold and tired,” she said. The only way that German doctor could get her to stay in bed was to promise you extra rations tonight, and she made him promise to go on with them as long as the cold weather lasted. So go inside my beauties and eat your fill. We’ve all had a Christmas present today, haven’t we? All’s well, I tell you. All’s well.”

19. ‘Christmas Cake Recipe’ by Anon The Fabulous Christmas Cake Recipe goes like this: 8 fluid ounces of water 1 teaspoonful of baking soda 8 ounces of sugar 1 teaspoonful of salt Half a pound of butter 8 ounces of brown sugar 1 lb of flour Lemon juice 4 large eggs Nuts 1 bottle of Vodka 1 cup of dried fruit Method First: sample the Vodka to check quality. Take large bowl, (check the Vodka again to be sure it is of the highest quality), pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat the half pound of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoonful of sugar. Beat again. At this point it’s best to make sure the Vodka is shtill OK. Try another cup…just in case. O, turn off the mixerer. Break two legs and add to the bowl, and chuck in the dried fruit. Pick fruit off floor. Mix on the turnerer. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, prise it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the Vodka to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift all the flour. Or sometime…who gives a hoot. Check the Vodka. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or salt, or som’ing…whatever you can find. Ooh – greash the oven. Turn the cake tin – 360 degrees, and try not to fall over. Don’t forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Vodka, and kick the cat. Fall into bed. Jolly good repicee. Piece a cake.

20. An extract from ‘The Messiah’ by an unknown parishioner Most of us are familiar with the words and music of this great oratorio, but old Bill Jones from Golcar, a little village in the West Riding, had never been to a performance and he tried to persuade a friend to go with him to the Huddersfield Town Hall to hear the famous choral society, but his friend refused. “Nay,” he said, “that sort o’ music’s nowt in my line. I like a good comic song or a lively jig, but I reckon nowt to this sacred stuff as they call it. It’s beyond me. An’ another thing, they’ll be none of our sort there. It’ll be mostly religious folk and swells done up in boiled shirts and wimmen wi’ we nowt much on. Nay, you go by theesen and then you can tell me all about it sometime.” So…Bill went by himself and the next time the old pals met, the following conversation took place. “Well, cum on… how did you get on at Messiah?” “Ee, well,” said Bill, “it were fair champion. I wouldn’ta missed it for all the tea in China. When a got there the Town Hall were crowded, it was choc full o’ folk and I had a job to get a seat, but no wonder – it was all them singers – they took up half the gallery. “I was just thinking o’ going when a little chap came on, all dolled up in a white waistcoat and wi’ a flower in his buttonhole and everything went dead quiet. You could have heard a pin drop. He had a stick in his hand and he started waving it about and all the singers stared at him…. I reckon they were wondering what was the matter with him. “Then they started to sing and they hadn’t been going long before they were fighting like cats. I reckon he shoulda walloped one or two of ‘em with that stick. First one side said they were t’ King o’ Glory then t’ other side said they were, and they went at it hammer and tongs, but it fizzled out, so I have no idea which side one. “Then there was a bit of bother about some sheep that was lost. I don’t know who they belonged to but one lot o’ singers must have been very fond of mutton, ‘cos they kept on singing “All we like sheep”. I couldn’t help saying to a bloke next to me that sheeps’ all right in moderation, but I like a bit of beef meself, and he looked daggers at me and said “shhh”, so I shushed. “A lot o’ wimmen stood up after that and all of ‘em looked as if they were….well….getting on a bit. Some of ‘em must have bin 64 if they was a day. They sang, “Unto us a child is born”, and the chap sang back “wonderful”, an’ I thought, “wonderful, it’s a bloomin miracle!” after that they sobered down a bit and sound about a lass called Joyce Greatly. I’ve never heard of her myself, but the chaps had, cos they all looked mighty pleased about it. “Then some bloke got up and said he was the king o’ kings, another one said he was, and then, blow me, they all started arguing about it. I was getting a bit fed up ‘when everyone stood up to see what was the matter and they suddenly shouted, “Hallelujah…it’s going to rain forever and ever.” Well, at that I jumped up and made straight for the door. I’d had me monies worth and besides, I was thinkin’ that if it was going to rain forever and ever I’d better get home before the flood came. “It was a real good do though, you shoulda come, but oh, I do hope they find them sheep.”

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