Archives for posts with tag: holiday

To Mrs K____, On Her Sending Me
an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris
by Helen Maria Williams (1761-1827)

What crowding thoughts around me wake,
What marvels in a Christmas-cake!
Ah say, what strange enchantment dwells
Enclosed within its odorous cells?
Is there no small magician bound
Encrusted in its snowy round?
For magic surely lurks in this,
A cake that tells of vanished bliss;
A cake that conjures up to view
The early scenes, when life was new;
When memory knew no sorrows past,
And hope believed in joys that last! —
Mysterious cake, whose folds contain
Life’s calendar of bliss and pain;
That speaks of friends for ever fled,
And wakes the tears I love to shed.
Oft shall I breathe her cherished name
From whose fair hand the offering came:
For she recalls the artless smile
Of nymphs that deck my native isle;
Of beauty that we love to trace,
Allied with tender, modest grace;
Of those who, while abroad they roam,
Retain each charm that gladdens home,
And whose dear friendships can impart
A Christmas banquet for the heart!


The Night Before Christmas

by Raymond Chandler as told to CJ Ciaramella

It was the night before Christmas, when I first saw the red man. I was settled in my chair in the midst of a long bourbon nap, hand still clutching a highball glass of the stuff, when I heard a clatter, like a body tumbling down a flight of stairs.

I sat up in the chair to see what was the matter. The room was dark, save for the glow of Christmas lights on the tiny tree by the window. At first I thought it was nothing but a dream, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but the outline of a heavyset man creeping slowly out of the fireplace and into the room.

Then I thought about my gat, but it was in my suit coat, which was hanging by the doorway with care.

I sized him up as he moved closer. He was about six-foot-even, dressed from head to toe in a heavy red suit, like some two-bit hustler. His face was hidden under a thick, white beard. Under the suit I could see he was a big man. His belly jiggled like a bowl of jelly as he crept through the apartment. He moved quiet for his size and age. He had a big bag slung over his shoulder. I pegged him for a professional cat burglar or something.

He was halfway to the Christmas tree by the window when he spied me sitting in the chair. We had a nice, quiet moment where we considered each other’s presence.

“Expected me to be in the bedroom, I’m guessing,” I said. “What’s in the bag, Mac?”

He turned his head and laid his finger aside his nose with an impish grin. I stood up slowly from the chair and put the glass on the table.

“Okay, funny guy,” I said. “Okay.”

I went for the coat. He was on me as quick as a flash, awful fast for a big man. The bag clocked me in the back of the head as I reached the coat. Lights popped behind my eyes, and stars and sugar-plums and other silly things danced in front of them.

When I could see straight again, the red man was hoisting me to my feet. He spoke not a word, but went straight to work, planting one of his big, gloved mitts in my stomach, which doubled me over, and another on my chin to straighten me out. Then he tossed me, casually as he probably tossed that bag around, across the room.

“Merry Christmas, shamus,” the red man said real jolly like, throwing me a wrapped package from his bag as I sprawled on the floor. “Have a swell night.”

“How about next time just mail a card,” I said, rubbing my jaw.

He ignored that, walked over to the table, drank my bourbon, and walked out my door, leaving it swinging open.

The package was addressed to me from “St. Nick.” The name meant nothing to me. Inside was a new hat and an emptiness that only gift boxes on dark, solitary nights possess.

I put the tag in my pocket, the hat on a hook, closed the door, and poured another couple fingers of bourbon into the glass. Sat in the chair and waited for dawn or sleep, whichever found me first.


CJ Ciaramella has written for the Washington Free Beacon, The AwlThe Daily Caller, the San Diego Union-TribuneThe Weekly Standard, the Oregon Daily Emerald, the Oregon Quarterly and the Oregon Commentator, among others.

Illustration: Sodahead

by Jack Spicer 

…I would like to write a poem…
As slow as the summer seems
On a hot day drinking beer outside
Or standing in the middle of a white-hot road
Between Bakersfield and Hell*
Waiting for Santa Claus.

Read “Psychoanalysis: An Elegy” by Jack Spicer in its entirety at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jack Spicer (1925–1965) was a poet often identified with the San Francisco Renaissance — the name given to the emergence of writers and artists in the Bay Area at the end of WWII. In 2009, My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer won the American Book Award for poetry.

ILLUSTRATION: “Desert Santa” by laylooper. Stickers available at

*NOTE: Hell, California, is located in Riverside County. (Read more at

New Yorker Story
(Dec, 24, 1927)
by James Thurber

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren’t even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.
The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.

“Father,” the children said.

There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.

“Father,” they said, and banged on their beds.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We have visions of sugarplums,” the children said.

“Go to sleep,” said mamma.

“We can’t sleep,” said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.

“Can you sleep?” asked the children.

“No,” I said.

“You ought to sleep.”

“I know. I ought to sleep.”

“Can we have some sugarplums?”

“You can’t have any sugarplums,” said mamma.

“We just asked you.”

There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.

“Is Saint Nicholas asleep?” asked the children.

“No,” mamma said. “Be quiet.”

“What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?” I asked.

“He might be,” the children said.

“He isn’t,” I said.

“Let’s try to sleep,” said mamma.

The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds.

Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen.

He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys.

“Who is it?” mamma asked.

“Some guy,” I said. “A little guy.”

I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof.

“Shut the window,” said mamma.

I stood still and listened.

“What do you hear?”

“Reindeer,” I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me.

“How would they get on the roof?” mamma asked.

“They fly.”

“Get into bed. You’ll catch cold.”

Mamma lay down in bed. I didn’t get into bed. I kept walking around.

“What do you mean, they fly?” asked mamma.

“Just fly is all.”

Mamma turned away toward the wall. She didn’t say anything.

I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He was dressed all in fur. His clothes were covered with ashes and soot from the chimney. On his back was a pack like a peddler’s pack. There were toys in it. His cheeks and nose were red and he had dimples. His eyes twinkled. His mouth was little, like a bow, and his beard was very white. Between his teeth was a stumpy pipe. The smoke from the pipe encircled his head in a wreath. He laughed and his belly shook. It shook like a bowl of red jelly. I laughed. He winked his eye, then he gave a twist to his head. He didn’t say anything.

He turned to the chimney and filled the stockings and turned away from the chimney. Laying his finger aside his nose, he gave a nod. Then he went up the chimney. I went to the chimney and looked up. I saw him get into his sleigh. He whistled at his team and the team flew away. The team flew as lightly as thistledown. The driver called out, “Merry Christmas and good night.” I went back to bed.

“What was it?” asked mamma. “Saint Nicholas?” She smiled.

“Yeah,” I said.

She sighed and turned in the bed.

“I saw him,” I said.


“I did see him.”

“Sure you saw him.” She turned farther toward the wall.

“Father,” said the children.

“There you go,” mamma said. “You and your flying reindeer.”

“Go to sleep,” I said.

“Can we see Saint Nicholas when he comes?” the children asked.

“You got to be asleep,” I said. “You got to be asleep when he comes. You can’t see him unless you’re unconscious.”

“Father knows,” mamma said.

I pulled the covers over my mouth. It was warm under the covers. As I went to sleep I wondered if mamma was right.

NoteErnest Hemingway came to prominence in 1926 with the publication of his novel The Sun Also Rises. By Christmas of 1927, the book — and Hemingway’s style — had gained enough renown to inspire Thurber’s Yuletide parody.

Illustration: New Yorker cover (Dec. 24, 1927) by Andre de Schaub