In a year wracked by hurricanes
and tropical storms, rent by political division, shaken by earthquakes, with
most everyone still shuddering from ongoing conflicts around the globe,
uncertain about finances of family and nation, unhappy with politicians of
all stripes, worried about their children’s future, weary of recession and
dismayed over rumors of another, and tired of the tedious 24/7 media
machines that stuff airtime as plump as sausage casings with the salacious
and the sleazy ...
Well, as the year winds down,
surely such a backdrop prompts us to hold ever tighter to the enduring
truths of our faith traditions, the welcoming warmth of home and hearth, and
the comforting certainty of the ancient, inexorable rhythms that turn the
So to celebrate the longer, clearer view that winter
brings to the landscape and to our lives, we continue a tradition that goes
back more than a decade, and herewith share with our readers some of our
favorite passages describing the
magical joys of November and December.
Late November brings an end to full-fledged Autumn. The
lasting warmth, the balmy days, the hazy in-between time, seldom endure much
beyond Thanksgiving. Then it is that the pines and hemlocks stand out in
cold-season strength of green; then the white reach of the birches is clear
and clean against the sky ... The season changes so slowly that I must pause
and listen to hear the silence. Autumn creeps away in sandals woven of
milkweed floss; Winter makes no noise until it owns the land.
— Hal Borland, This Hill, This Valley, 1957.
Imagine a morning in late November. A coming
of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a
spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main
feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two
rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its
A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen
window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a
summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but,
due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her
face is remarkable — not unlike Lincoln’s, craggy like that, and tinted by
sun and wind; but it is delicate, too, finely boned, and her eyes are
sherry-colored and timid. “Oh my,” she exclaims,
her breath smoking the windowpane, “it’s fruitcake weather!”
— Truman Capote, “A Christmas
Memory,” from Selected Writings of Truman Capote, 1956.
Peter ran to the window and pushed the curtain aside to
watch them. Arm in arm they went over the path, two black figures on the
white field of snow, with stars looking down on them and the dark lines of
the hills rimming them in a known world. Now they were running a little,
then they stopped as if to catch their breath and Peter saw his mother toss
her head quickly, then his father threw back his head and laughed. What a
wonderful time Christmas Eve was, Peter thought, the world so still and
everyone in it so happy. For so many days of the year his father was serious
and full of care and his mother’s thoughts seemed far ahead of her as if she
were thinking of all the things she had to do ... .
— Elizabeth Yates, “Once in the Year,” from A Newbery
Christmas (compilation selected by Greenberg and Waugh), 1991.
With a dramatic sweep of her arm, the screen would be
pushed aside and they would parade into the darkened living room where, at
one end, the tree glowed with color, lighting the familiar walls with an
unreal and transient radiance ... They entered the living room, stood for a
moment silently, looking, each seeing in his own way what the crowd had seen
when they looked at the great tree at Rockefeller Center, each sensing
vaguely that he had stepped into a magic circle from which the harshness of
life had been debarred and only its warmth and tenderness admitted.
— Edward Streeter, Merry Christmas, Mr. Baxter, 1956.