I am nothing if not astute.
It has been said, ‘that Jon, he’s astute’. It is among the kinder things that I have been called.
I have noticed that Christmas is almost upon us and this has put me in mind to write a Christmas-related story. But what type of story should I write? It would seem that there should be snow, and children, perhaps some presents, or a snowman. How about a snowman with presents? Should Father Christmas feature, or Santa? Should the story be saccharine sweet, or bitter with a surprisingly upbeat ending?
I thought about famous Christmas stories and two immediately sprang to mind. The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs: a classic of children’s literature, a firm favourite in many people’s minds. Or is it? Do people remember the book, or the animated film? I do not believe that it matters; at the heart of both lies the same story and that is what has captured readers’ imaginations for the last 35 years.
The second is a little older. A Christmas Carol, by – well, you know who it’s by. Published in 1843, it had a significant head start over The Snowman, although it is worth noting that The Muppet Christmas Carol did not arrive until 1992, some 10 years after the animated film of The Snowman. Draw your own conclusions from that.
The Snowman is uplifting, with a sombre ending. A Christmas Carol is a darker tale, with redemption in the final pages. Two different approaches to telling a Christmas story, but both have darkness and light. Why is it that we like our Christmas time to be tinged with a little darkness, something a little downbeat? Is this, I wonder, what I should be aiming for with my Christmas story?
And what of the other tales? There will be a long list, although not as long as the one Father Christmas holds in his hand on Christmas Eve – who has been good and who has been bad? – and this list will hold all of the Christmas stories that I haven’t read, or I have read and forgotten. I should probably go back and read them as well. But there is no time – there is never enough time – and so I should probably just get on with writing my story.
But what are your favourite Christmas stories? Remembered from childhood or discovered as a grown-up, which are the tales that you come back to year after year?