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Dublin: 1°C Saturday 23 January 2021

Sitdown Sunday: A Christmas special

Seven deadly Christmas longreads for you to enjoy this festive season.

Image: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

CHRISTMAS TIME IS here, so what better time to sit back and enjoy some festive longreads?

We’ve gathered seven here for you, from essays to short stories. Some are serious, some funny, but all have Christmas as a theme.

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

If you have a heart, then you’re going to love The Muppet Christmas Carol. And here (joy!) is Michael Caine talking about what it was like to work on.

(GQ, approx 10 mins reading time)

Well I didn’t know I could sing as well as it turned out! I mean it wasn’t bad, I wasn’t ashamed of it. I thought I was going to make a fool of myself but it didn’t matter, because it’s Muppets, you know. Scrooge sings badly, and it’s fine! It’s funny!

2. Two-sentence fiction

A host of great writers pen short, short stories about Christmas.

(Salon, approx 14 mins reading time)

I awoke to the cold of the maid’s quarters having displaced my brother’s hired help, all too eager to tear open presents and get the hell out. As my nephew Dashy descended the grand staircase in his Batman onesie, toting a baby machine gun under one arm and a toy cash register in the other, I knew that this Christmas, we would all receive exactly what we deserved.

3. Chicago Christmas, 1984

The inimitable George Saunders writes about an unforgettable Christmas. It is, perhaps, an anti-Christmas story.

(The New Yorker, approx 15 mins reading time)

Mid-December then, and still no snow. Strange Chicago crèches appeared in front yards: Baby Jesus, freed from the manger, leaned against a Santa sleigh half his height. He was crouching, as if about to jump; he wore just a diaper. Single strings of colored lights lay across bushes, as if someone had hatefully thrown them there. We patched the roof of a Jamaican immigrant whose apartment had nothing in it but hundreds of rags, spread across the floor and hanging from interior clotheslines. Nobody asked why. As we left, she offered us three Diet Rite colas.

shutterstock_163310750 Source: Shutterstock/Andy P

4. High for the holidays

The ‘high’ here refers to actual height, as opposed to drugs. Isaac Fitzgerald writes about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his dad and sister during the Christmas season. The trip made him think deeply about his family’s history.

(Buzzfeed, approx 12 mins reading time)

Christmas on Kilimanjaro is the first holiday I’ve spent with family in seven years. Since 2006, I had been living in San Francisco — 3,000 miles away from any family gathering. Before that I was in college, and before that I was on scholarship at boarding school. Every summer I spent working. I never went back. The very first time I ran away from home, I was in middle school. I got two towns over on my father’s bike before a police officer stopped me on the side of the highway. My parents never found out.

5. The last Christmas of the war

Italian-Jewish writer Primo Levi writers a sobering story about Christmas time in the concentration camp Monowitz.

(The New York Review of Books, approx 15 mins reading time)

It was a memorable Christmas for the world at war; memorable for me too, because it was marked by a miracle. At Auschwitz, the various categories of prisoners (political, common criminals, social misfits, homosexuals, etc.) were allowed to receive gift packages from home, but not the Jews. Anyway, from whom could the Jews have received them? From their families, exterminated or confined in the surviving ghettos? From the very few who had escaped the roundups, hidden in cellars, in attics, terrified and penniless? And who knew our address? For all the world knew, we were dead. And yet a package did finally find its way to me, through a chain of friends, sent by my sister and my mother, who were hidden in Italy.

6. A Christmas memory

Moving from real life to sort-of real life: here is a semi-autobiographical story by Truman Capote about a little boy’s Christmas.

(Christmas Memory, approx 32 mins reading time)

A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable—not unlike Lincoln’s, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. “Oh my,” she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, “it’s fruitcake weather!”

7. A Country Christmas

Another short story here, this time from Louisa May Alcott, who most will know from her Little Women series.

(Classic Lit, approx 20 mins reading time)

Pretty Ruth was chopping the mince, and singing so gaily as she worked that the four-and-twenty immortal blackbirds could not have put more music into a pie than she did. Saul was piling wood into the big oven, and Sophie paused a moment on the threshold to look at him, for she always enjoyed the sight of this stalwart cousin, whom she likened to a Norse viking, with his fair hair and beard, keen blue eyes, and six feet of manly height, with shoulders that looked broad and strong enough to bear any burden.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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