Saturday, December 3, 2011


Christmas is a'comin',
The goose is getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,
If you haven't a ha'penny—Go bless you!

And I do come home for Christmas. We all do, or we all should.
——Charles Dickens, Dr. Marigold's Prescription

Through the Christmas fires of morning
Streaming upwards in the East,
Leaps the sun with sudden dawning,
Like a captive king released;

And Decenmeber skies reflected 
In the dreaming of the snow—
It is winter, little children, 
Let the summer singing go.
——Mrs. L.C. Whiton, A Day in Winter

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled explore,
The colder countries round the door.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake.
——Robert Louis Stevenson, Winter Time

How far is it to Bethlehem?
Not very far.
Shall we find the stable room
Lit by a star?

God in His mother's arms,
Babes in the byre,
Sleep, as they sleep who find
Their heart's desire.
——Frances Chesterton, How Far Is It To Bethlehem?

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. 


The Weaver of Grass said...

Lovely Grizz. I knew most of them but it is always lovely to read old favourites again at this time of the year. As to the ones I didn't know - lovely to read them for the first time.

Grizz………… said...


Yes, I was afraid you'd know many of these quotes. But it also past of the seasonal celebration to revisit certain familiar literary haunts. I'll try and dig a little deeper, however,

Anonymous said...

After the ha'penny comes the farthing (the smallest British coin pre-decimalisation). and 'If you haven't got a farthing, God bless you'
Your anthology must have been edited after farthings were taken out of circulation - as I remember in the late '50s/early '60s

Grizz………… said...


Your comment made me wonder, as I have several Christmas anthologies published before 1950 which also quote these lines as a nursery rhyme. So I did a bit of research—and while I wasn't able to date the rhyme, I think I can explain how it could be much older than might first be thought.

The first British penny (of silver) was made about 790 A.D. although a coin of that name was being made a hundred years before even that early date. Of course a ha'penny, or half penny, was simply a penny cut in half and used for lesser transactions. Pennies were also cut into quarters. Farthings were first minted in the late-Thirteenth century. A farthing, or fourthling, was simply a one-quarter portion of a penny. They were discontinued in 1960.

Like I said, I couldn't find an origin date for the rhyme, but in 1953, Frank Luther wrote a a fairly popular Christmas song based this bit of verse; there is a second song also based on the verse which predates the Luther tune.

So the verse certainly predates the demise of the farthing…I just don't by how many years, decades, or centuries.

KGMom said...

Some old time favorites here. Thanks for the reminder.

Grizz………… said...


Not unlike reaching into the decorations box and pulling out a favorite ornament. For both of us, actually.