Classic holiday entertainment is always a big part of Advent in our house, like the original Charlie Brown Christmas special. Indispensable to its charm is the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack, which I have come to appreciate more with every passing year, especially the “Skating” song. Its rapid but gently cascading notes makes one think of falling snow. Guaraldi’s performances are marked by a rare knack for artistic sophistication and spiritual innocence – from traditional arrangements like “Hark, the Herald Angel Sings” to his trademark “Linus and Lucy” jazz theme.
Holiday books are also enjoyable, especially for some quiet reading time with little ones at the end of the day. At our library I recently found the diminutive volume Merry Christmas, Harry by Mary Chalmers about a young cat who asks Santa for a baby brother. The author was born in 1927, and began writing and illustrating in the 1950s. I have been unable to determine if she is still alive. Chalmers did a number of feline-themed stories, which always appeals to a cat lover like me. While some of the visual details of Merry Christmas, Harry clearly date it to the seventies, the storytelling and imagery recall the golden age of children’s literature of earlier decades. Some of Chalmer’s best artwork appears, appropriately enough, in A Christmas Story (1956) about a little snowsuit clad girl named Elizabeth and her friends Harry Dog, Alice Rabbit and Hilary Cat as they trim the tree and meet the official Santa Claus for Rabbits and Other Small Animals.
For thoughts on the season from previous years, see A Christmas Garland (2006), Christmas With Dickens (2007), Pickwick for the Holidays (2008), Belloc on Time and Tradition (2009), Christmas Past and Present (2011) and Christmas Future (2012).