Saturday, December 17, 2011


It was freezing, and up aloft it got so cold that the devil kept shifting from one hoof to the other and blowing into his palms, trying to warm his cold hands at least a little. It's no wonder, however that somebody would get cold who had knocked about all day in hell, where, as we know, it not so cold as it is here in winter, and where, a chef's hat on his head and standing before a hearth like a real cook, he had been roasting sinners with as much pleasure as any woman roasts sausages at Christmas.
——Nikolai Gogol, The Night Before Christmasfrom Christmas Stories

Then they all went to church, as a united family ought to do on Christmas Day, and came home to a fine old English early dinner at three o'clock—a sirloin of beef a foot-and-a-half broad, a turkey as big as an ostrich, a plum pudding bigger than the turkey, and two or three dozen mince-pies. "That's a very large bit of beef," said Mr. Jones, who had not lived much in England latterly. "It won't look so large, said the old gentleman, "when all our friends downstairs have had their say to it." "A Plum-pudding on Christmas Day can't be too big," he said again, "if the cook will but take time enough over it. I never knew a bit go to waste yet."
——Anthony Trollope, Christmas At Thompson Hallfrom Christmas Stories

Vanka gave a tremulous sigh, and again stared at the window. He remembered how his grandfather always went into the forest to get the Christmas tree for his master's family, and took his grandson with him. I was a merry time! Grandfather made a noise in his throat, the forest crackled with the frost, and looking at them Vanka chortled too. Before chopping down the Christmas tree, grandfather would smoke a pipe, slowly take a punch of snuff, and laugh at frozen Vanka…
——Anton Chekhov, Vankafrom Christmas Stories

It was quiet as it can only be on a bright, frosty day. Sleptsov raised his leg high, stepped off the path and, leaving blue pits behind him in the snow, made his way among the trunks of amazingly white trees to the spot where the park dropped off toward the river. Far below, ice blocks sparkled near a hole cut in the smooth expanse of white and, on the opposite bank, very straight columns of pink smoke stood above the snowy roofs of log cabins. Sleptsov took off his karakul cap and leaned against a tree trunk. Somewhere faraway peasants were chopping wood—every blow bounced resonantly skyward—and beyond the light silver mist of trees, high above the squat isbas, the sun caught the equanimous radiance of the cross on the church. 
——Valdimar Nabokov, Christmas, from Christmas Stories

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. 

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