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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# 5 festive reads
5 Christmas longreads for the day that's in it
Need a break? Have a read of one of these.

EVERY WEEK WE share the best longreads in Sitdown Sunday – and today for Christmas Day we’re sharing our pick of the best Christmas longreads. 

1. Being an elf

The great writer and humourist David Sedaris once had a job where he had to dress up as an elf. Here’s how he got on. (Extract)

(The New York Times, approx 12 mins reading time)

In order to become an elf I filled out ten pages’ worth of forms, took a multiple choice personality test, underwent two interviews, and submitted urine for a drug test. The first interview was general, designed to eliminate the obvious sociopaths. During the second interview we were asked when we wanted to be elves. This is always a problem question.

2. Christmas movies

A look at why people get so obsessed with made-for-TV Christmas movies.

(Longreads, approx 12 mins reading time)

It’s easy to assume that viewers enjoy these movies in spite of the repetitive plotlines, as if the networks greedily scam us. But Hallmark and Lifetime both do extensive focus grouping and ratings analysis. They know what works — we watch these movies because the plots are the same. In fact, Oliver calls the plots peripheral: “The real elements of these movies that make people love them is this sense of returning to your own past, your own childhood and sense of innocence from that era.” The slightly varying setups and environs must be similar to deliver us. These films are not art or even entertainment — they serve a function. They are ritual, a ritual as pagan as Christmas’s origins. And their key piece of iconography is the kind of American small town that’s quickly disappearing.

3. A Christmas Memory

One of Truman Capote’s short stories.

(Sail Thou Forth, approx 20 mins reading time)

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.

4. The Christmas gift

Michell Girard agreed to take in a former student who was found wandering the streets – then gave him the Christmas he’d never had.

(Texas Monthly, approx 15 mins reading time)

A dispatcher at the department gave Holder the name of a woman who worked as a special-needs aide at Gatesville High School. “We’ve picked up someone who says his name is Chris,” Holder explained to the aide. “He’s African American, with short dark hair. Looks like he’s in his mid to late twenties. I’m guessing he was one of your special-needs students. Do you have any idea who he is?” She called a colleague from the high school, and together they went to the sheriff’s department. “That’s Chris Barrington,” one of them said when they arrived. “No one has seen him in a long time.”

5. The Christmas Tape

In Wendy McClure’s family, ‘the Christmas tape’ was an important symbol of the festive season. She writes about how it became a record of family history, rituals and grief.

(Longreads, approx 18 mins reading time)

The Christmas Tape meant Christmas, which meant that everything was going to be all right. Because the songs came off the radio — because whoever taped them had only a moment to toggle the RECORD switch — they all have their first few seconds clipped off at the beginning. Each one ends with a few soft thuds of fumbled edits before stumbling into the next song. Nobody knows these songs; nobody outside our family at least. My brother and I never heard them anywhere else, except on The Tape, and we assumed they came from some alternate Christmas universe. 
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