Ah! friend, dear friend, when life's glad day with you and me is passed, when the sweet Christmas chimes are rung for other ears than ours, when other hands set the green branches up…may there be those still left behind to twine us wreaths, and say, "We miss them so!"
* * *
A cabin in the woods. In the cabin a great fireplace piled high with logs, fiercely ablaze. On either side of the broad hearth-stone a hound sat on his haunches, looking gravely, as only a hound in a meditative mood can, into the glowing fire. In the centre of the cabin, whose every nook and corner was bright with the ruddy firelight, stood a wooden table, strongly built and solid. At the table sat John Norton, poring over a book—a book large of size, with wooden covers bound in leather, brown with age, and smooth as with the handling of many generations. The whitened head of the old man was bowed over the broad page, on which one hand rested, with the forefinger marking the sentence. This was the scene on Christmas Eve. Outside, the earth was white with snow, and in the blue sky above the snow was the white moon.
* * *
As the evening wore on, the great clearing round about it remained drearily void of sound or motion, and filled only with the white stillness of the frosty, snow-lighted night. Once, indeed, a wolf stole from underneath the dark balsams into the white silence, and running up a huge log that lay aslant a ledge of rocks, looked across and round the great opening in the woods, stood a moment, then gave a shivering sort of yelp, and settled back under the shadows of the forest, as if darkness was warmer than the frozen stillness of the open space. An owl, perched somewhere amid the pine-tops, snug and warm within the cover of its arctic plumage, engaged from time to time in solem gossip with some neighbor that lived on the opposite shore of the lake. It seemed as if the very angels, who, we are taught, fly abroad over all the earth that blessed night, carrying gifts to every household, had forgotten the cabin in the woods…
—— W.H.H. Murray, How John Norton the Trapper Kept His Christmas
I've collected Christmas books for years, and must have at least a couple hundred. Their contents range from anthologies of seasonal poetry, short stories, and novels, to histories of the holiday and its customs and traditions, sketches and narratives of remembered Christmases by various writers, cookbooks, even a craft book or two, though Myladylove collects the latter two categories and probably has upwards of a hundred Christmas volumes of her own.
This year, starting on the first day of December, I thought it might be fun to dip into a few of these works and share a quote or two from their pages—a few lines of poetry, a bit of prose, maybe even a recipe—on a daily basis, a sort of "Christmas Quotedown," which I'll put up in addition to my regular posts. I'll also include a photo of the book's cover, from which the day's quotes are taken—though a few, lacking a dust jacket or any sort of fancy cover design, might be decidedly non-photogenic. On the other hand, several of my favorite Christmas works are quotably rich troves, indeed, and thus might end up furnishing more than a day's worth of quotes—though I'm starting out with the notion of a different book each day.
Along the way, I hope I select some things you enjoy.