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The Meaning of Christmas Day



Beginning in 2005, Amy A. Kass (1940–2015), coeditor of What So Proudly We Hail and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, led an annual Christmas seminar on a work of literature with themes appropriate to the holiday. With this ebook in her honor, we examine the meaning of Christmas Day, with selections by American authors such as Washington Irving, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Willa Cather, and Sandra Cisneros, to name just a few. We begin by exploring the American tradition of Christmas, and then consider the practice of giving and receiving, charity and good works, and finally, the religious significance of the holiday.

Christmas Day: An American Holiday
Washington Irving, “Christmas”
Clement Clarke Moore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”
The New York Sun, “Is There a Santa Claus?”
John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Mystic’s Christmas”
William Dean Howells, “Christmas Every Day”
Robert Frost, “Christmas Trees”
Wendell Berry, “Our Christmas Tree”
Ring Lardner, “Old Folks’ Christmas”
Grace Paley, “The Loudest Voice”

Giving and Receiving
Pearl S. Buck, “Christmas Day in the Morning”
Sandra Cisneros, “Three Wise Guys”
O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi”
Bret Harte, “How Santa Claus Came to Simpson’s Bar”
Robert Penn Warren, “Christmas Gift”

Charity and Good Works
Kate Chopin, “Madame Martel’s Christmas Eve”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, “A Luckless Santa Claus”
Sarah Orne Jewett, “A Christmas Guest”
Maeve Brennan, “The Joker”
Gordon Weaver, “Haskell Hooked on the Northern Cheyenne”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Christmas Banquet”

Redemption and Rebirth
Willa Cather, “The Burglar’s Christmas”
Kate Douglas Wiggin, “The Romance of a Christmas Card”
Henry Van Dyke, “The Story of the Other Wise Man”
Philip Van Doren Stern, “The Greatest Gift”
Joseph Bottum, “Wise Guy”
Eudora Welty, “A Worn Path”

Christmas Songs
Isaac Watts & Lowell Mason, “Joy to the World”
James Pierpont, “Jingle Bells”
Benjamin Hanby, “Up on the Housetop”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
Phillips Brooks, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Irving Berlin, “White Christmas”

ABOUT THE COVER: Christmas in America by Alphonse Maria Mucha

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