The shops are full of Christmas books for children. Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas is a good one, as is Allan Ahlberg’s Jolly Christmas Postman and I agree with many of the others mentioned on this list which is why I’m not going to compile my own. Lazy or what? Guilty as charged.
Obviously there’s only one true Christmas Story and that’s the one told by Matthew and Luke in the New Testament about the birth of Jesus. Whether you are religious or not, whether you believe it or not, it’s an awesome story, in the true sense of the word.
Luke describes Jesus’ humble birth. There’s no room at the Inn so Mary and Joseph are forced to seek shelter in a stable. There, Mary gives birth to her baby surrounded by animals. Lowly shepherds, alerted by a bright star, are the first visitors. In Matthew’s version that same star guides three kings or wise men to the family. As we all know from attending countless school Nativities the two versions are often melded so that shepherds and wise men meet in the stable as well as angels, sheeps, donkeys and whatever else the teacher throws in.
The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard Van Honthorst (d 1656)
One of my favourite Christmas cards this year came from my friend and mentor Gwen Grant It’s a detail of this strained glass window in the Bardardo’s Children’s Church in Barkingside, Essex.
I’ve only written one Christmas story but I’d like to do more. The one I wrote appeared in an anthology published by Usborne in 2004:
Despite having some cracking stories in it by top authors such as Malorie Blackman, Karen McCrombie, Alison Uttley and Martin Waddell and having fabulous illustrations by Ian P Benfold Haywood it couldn’t compete in the crowded market and is now out of print. It’s such a shame as I am particularly proud of my story Room at the Inn.
It’s based around a village school’s Nativity Play. I remember a teacher telling me about the year the pupil at his school playing the Innkeeper let Mary in. I guess it’s not an original twist but it’s the one I used in my story. In Room at the Inn 10-year old Lucas decides to pad out his role as the Innkeeper. His mate Stephen, in a wheelchair, is playing Joseph. Here’s a short extract. Joseph has just asked if there are any rooms:
Lucas: We’re full to bursting but seeing as these are exceptional circumstances, you can have the kids’ room. They won’t mind bunking up with me and the wife for one night.
Stephen: You what?
Lucas: Breakfast’s eight till ten – will you be wanting full English or Continental?
Stephen (after a pause): Well, full English of course, pal, but hold the black pudding – it makes me trump.
Lucas: No problem. Come in; you’re just in time for the News. That Herod, eh? What a nutter.
Stephen: Tell me about it. I was just saying to Mary –
Mrs Ellison – Lucas Whittaker! Stephen Clay! What do you think you are doing?
Aw! I think I’ll re-read Room at the Inn as a treat. I might see if I can get the rights back, too, and get it on an e-book.
Christmas Eve tomorrow. Awesome!