Around about this time of year I have a rummage through my bookshelves looking for certain tomes. The first a tiny, little hardback book by Carol Ann Duffy. Illustrated by the gorgeous Rob Ryan, this reimagining of The Night Before Christmas rather wonderfully reminds me of the magical nostalgia of the quiet, reverent stillness of Christmas Eve as a child. The calm night air, the jumpy, squirmy stomach flutters of excitement and (one very memorable year) my utter conviction that I had awoken to the sound of hooves and sleigh bells on the roof.
Duffy creates the most vivid, wintery scenes with similes about “owls with eyes just like planets” and metaphorical “snow that softly duveted the cars”. Poetry is such a wonderfully succinct art, encapsulating in such few words a whole mindscape of imagination or a lifetime of love.
As a matter of tradition, I also always dig out Dickens’ classic Christmas tale of redemption, forgiveness and goodwill. My beaten and battered copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’ has some delicate and detailed old watercoloured illustrations that showcase the miserly, wrinkled and sour visage of Scrooge contrasted with the plump, rosy cheeks of Nephew Fred and the terrifying crooked fingers and devilish grin of the Ghost of Christmas Future. I first of all read the Dickens classic and then, rubbing my hands in glee and setting out tea and choccies to enjoy, I pop in the Muppets’ version and sing along with all the high pitched songs and laugh my head off at Rizzo the Rat.
And finally, we come to ‘Elf’. Yes, it’s a film. Yes, it’s not great literature. But sod it. I love it.
Merry Christmas to All.