The Faber Book of Christmas

This edition printed in:

A tortoiseshell cat lies beneath a Christmas tree with her multi-coloured paw stretched out along the side of the multi-coloured cover of a book.

It’s the Holiday Season!

We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, and then we brushed up on our list and our plan and then we got some rest. Why? Because Black Friday was upon us and that requires an early morning and some serious determination.

I’m actually relatively new to Black Friday shopping. This is only my fourth or fifth year of it, and every year I get asked if it’s worth it which is a bit of a complicated question. The sales save us a bit of money depending on what gifts we need at what stores. But honestly, the sales are only part of the story. For me, Black Friday is more about spending time with my lovely spouse and starting in on the more daunting of the Christmas preparations. It’s when we start the hardest of the shopping and put on the holiday playlist in the car. It’s when it stops feeling like I’m starting Christmas early and starts feeling like it could be just around the corner.

That being said, if I had any advice for someone considering hazarding Black Friday it would be to start early and end early. All of the clerks we were talking to were vehement about the fact that, come afternoon, the insanity would get very real.

A paw stretches beside The Faber Book of Christmas. The book features a cover with a very busy fabric print involving striped balls and many abstract flowers.

The Joy of the Christmas Anthology

A good Christmas anthology can really get you in the holiday spirit and, because of that, I’ve reviewed several of them here including Penguin’s Christmas anthology and the famous Christmas Cracker. So when I saw The Faber Book of Christmas in the bargain bin, I bought it and dreamed of the wonderful bit of fun reading it would be.

In many ways, the collection met my expectations. It includes a lot of interesting ephemera from literature, some traditional Christmas classics, as well as excerpts from letters, newspaper items, and a substantial amount of poetry. However, I will say that the mix of elements is where this anthology fell a bit flat. It’s a Christmas anthology with some very old sources, so I expect some religious content, but there was so much of it that it was alienating. I don’t think it was necessary to reprint biblical passages. It gave the tone of strong Christian overtones, and that’s not what I was looking for. Also, the book catered to those that do not enjoy the holidays — which I found a bit strange and off-putting. However, I will discuss that more in the point after next.

The Faber Book of Christmas sits beneath a Christmas tree, in the glow of the lights. A tortie lurks behind it.

The Most Excellent

There were a lot of excerpts from works I really enjoy. There were two or three from Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales (which I will be reviewing later this month), plus some writing from Charles Dickens, and excerpts from Diary of a Nobody which I posted on Instagram several Decembers ago. The poetry was a nice addition too — including several more humorous poems about the idiosyncrasies of the holiday season. Some favourites of mine were A.A. Milne’s ‘King John’s Christmas’ and Boris Parkin’s ‘Monstrous Ingratitude’.

A tortoiseshell cat peeks over the corner of The Faber Book of Christmas.

I also really enjoy the non-fiction components such as ‘The Worst Christmas Dinner, Ever’ in which Michael Meyer recounts a terrible Christmas meal he had in the company of Graham Greene. There’s also a delightful, drole letter written by Philip Larkin about why he hates this time of year. Several excerpts from books on Christmas etiquette are quite amusing and the writing concerning the Christmas armistice in the trenches during World War I were poignant.

Almost every section of the book has a gem in it, and often many more than one.

Inside the Faber Book of Christmas, poems and prose are set with wide margins and snowflakes to underline the chapter titles.

The Least Excellent

Other than the inclusion of biblical texts, I was also less than thrilled to see several reprintings of sermons that took up a lot of page count. I also didn’t particularly like that some texts were put in not only to cater to those that don’t like the holiday season but to showcase the grim fact that bad people don’t cease being bad people over Christmas.

Yes, I realize that this is unfortunately true. But, for me, Christmas is a time where I don’t really want that particular piece of reality paraded around in front of me. After all, the endings of most versions of A Christmas Carol still make me cry. I spend the rest of the year reading literature — which features a lot of bad people — I want one season where I can focus on the better parts of humanity and traditions.

Plus, when it comes to putting anti-Christmas stories into the holiday mix, I wonder why one would bother considering readers who are unlikely to ever purchase this book let alone read it.

The Faber Book of Christmas has a hard cover wrapped in the print of a vintage fabric: vines, striped balls, and flowers in many colours, especially blue, yellow, purple, and orange.

It’s Time for Some Wrapping

The best part of Black Friday? When we get home and have a cup of tea and take all of the wrapping paper and ribbons down from the closet. Then we usually put on a Christmas film and start wrapping the presents we’ve accumulated.

We can’t actually leave them under the tree due to several years of experiencing cat-based minor disasters. But we have a lot of fun saving ourselves a lot of future work and trying to select the perfect ribbon for the perfect paper — without getting too obsessed about it.

In theory.

A tortoiseshell cat sits sweetly beneath the glow of a Christmas tree. In front of her is The Faber Book of Christmas.

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