“Our family always had its Christmas on Christmas Eve. Other less fortunate people, I had heard, opened their presents in the chill clammy light of dawn. Far more civilized, our Santa Claus recognized that barbaric practice for what it was. Around midnight great heaps of tissuey, crinkly, sparkly, enigmatic packages appeared among the lower branches of the tree and half hidden among the folds of the white bed-sheet that looked in the soft light like some magic snowbank.” (page 31)
Christmas traditions… every family has their own unique way of celebrating the holiday. Some come and go over the years while others stand the test of time. In my family there has always been two traditions that we can count on each year: opening the presents early (Christmas Eve at the latest!) and watching A Christmas Story. These days we usually watch it once on Christmas Day but it wasn’t too many years ago that we eagerly sat through a great part of the A Christmas Story 24-hour marathon on TV.
This year I decided to read the book too. The movie is based on Jean Shepherd’s short stories from In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories. Five of the stories that inspired scenes in the movie have been republished in A Christmas Story. It’s a very quick read and one of the advantages of having seen the movie so many times is that it was easy to imagine Jean Shepherd narrating the book like he did in the movie.
“But over it all like a faint, thin, offstage chorus was the building excitement. Christmas was on its way. Each day was more exciting than the last, because Christmas was one day closer. Lovely, beautiful, glorious Christmas, around which the entire year revolved.” (page 10)
While I prefer the movie to the book (a rare thing indeed!), I wouldn’t mind adding it my holiday reading list each year!
From The Cover: The holiday film A Christmas Story, first released in 1983, has become a bona fide Christmas perennial, gaining in stature and fame with each succeeding year. Its affectionate, wacky, and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s typical Christmas joys and travails in small-town Depression-era Indiana has entered our imagination and our hearts with a force equal to that of It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.
This edition of A Christmas Story gathers together in one hilarious volume the gems of autobiographical humor that Jean Shepherd drew upon to create this enduring film. Here is young Ralphie Parker’s shocking discovery that his decoder ring is really a device to promote Ovaltine; his mother and father’s pitched battle over the fate of a lascivious leg lamp; the unleashed and unnerving savagery of Ralphie’s duel in the show with the odious bullies Scut Farkas and Grover Dill; and, most crucially, Ralphie’s unstoppable campaign to get Santa—or anyone else—to give him a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Who cares that the whole adult world is telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”?
The pieces that comprise A Christmas Story, previously published in the larger collections In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, coalesce in a magical fashion to become an irresistible piece of Americana, quite the equal of the film in its ability to warm the heart and tickle the funny bone.
This Edition: Hardcover published by Broadway Books (2003)
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