Writing Journal: Always Winter and Never Christmas

Santa-Clause1

“Always winter and never Christmas,” is one of those lines that is used, in excess, in my family. Any time someone says anything about winter a chorus of voices says “Always winter and never Christmas.” The magic of this statement is found in the Chronicles of Narnia, in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis.

I have always loved the idea the evil magic kept Christmas from coming and that Santa Claus actually works as one of the King’s servants. I love it when he comes to Peter, Susan, Edmond, Lucy, and the Beavers and says, “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last.”

He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as holly berries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest.…
Now that the children actually stood looking at him… he was so big, so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

“I’ve come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The witch’s magic is weakening.”

And Lucy felt that deep shiver of gladness that you only get if you are being solemn and still.

It is a wonderful feeling as a child to have such a joyous representation of the coming of Aslan. Every child given the chance to celebrate Christmas knows the thrill of the holiday. They know all about bells, sleighs, the man in the red suit, carols, special food, and presents.

I have always wanted to share my love of Christmas in my writing. Many of my books take place in the fall and early winter, but I’ve never had one that worked with the Christmas holiday. The other ones were too short and dark. The light and delight of Christmas seemed harsh and garish in that setting. I had not established a world where it soothed the soul like it does in ours. There was zero soul soothing in my first world.

In my YA story, Jonah has been rescued from Prison by the sacrifice of a man named Soul and brought to live in a new place: Greenhome. Greenhome is a magical place of safety and joy. Families are made there. Men and women take in the worst of children and give them a home. The childless and the parentless come together in Greenhome. Jonah comes from the Streets—a dirty, dark, and violent place—and finds himself awed not just the abundance of food and clothing, but by the celebration that’s about to take place.

Jonah has never celebrated Christmas. He’s never been given a present and he has never given a present.

Lights, candles, garlands, trees, holly, presents, and songs surround him. (While I work on these scenes, I often sing “What’s This?” from Nightmare Before Christmas.) His head spins with all the traditions that are so new to him.

Using Christmas to juxtaposition the difference between the coldness of the Streets and the warmth of Greenhome has tickled my heart. I love Christmas. I have more fun, and sometimes funny, Christmas stories than I have time to write, though one year, maybe this year, I’m going to try to record some of them. I have written about why Vincents celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, but have I written about the year the yard caught on fire? Have I written about the magical Christmas where it snowed and my brother got to come home? Have I ever written about my first kiss being on Christmas Eve?

In book 2, after all the things that could go wrong have gone wrong, the joy of Christmas will be part of what holds Jonah up through the darkness. The light of Greenhome decorated for the holiday will remind him that not all the world is lost in shadow, war, and hopelessness, for that is what Christmas does, right? Christmas is the celebration of God coming with a peace-offering to a dark and lost world. He is the light and he came down to us offering peace. His Son came and willingly subjected himself to a body, poverty, betrayal, suffering, and then death for us. This is the great and deep truth of Christmas. This is the under-girding foundation of all that is wonderful and magical about this holiday.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2/14

As a writer, you pour bits and pieces of yourself into your worlds and your characters. Christmas, in all its glory and magic, is one of the ways I’ve done that in my story. It makes me so excited!

A sound made him pause. Voices lifted outside his frosted window. People were singing. He listened wondering what kind of songs they sang here in Greenhome. Where they bawdy songs filled with cursing like the one Christopher taught them? Or maybe they were the haunted sad song the crones sang? Sometimes an unborn would be harvested that could sing. They usually died quickly on the Streets. Singing wasn’t a helpful skill. The words came to him: born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

The song made little sense to Jonah. It did draw him in a way, a quiet way. It didn’t feel dirty like Christopher’s song and it didn’t make life seem darker like the crones’ song. There was a powerful joy in the voices raised and the words sung. He’d have to ask Soul what it meant. Maybe it had to do with this Christmas thing everyone seemed so excited about.

– Icicle Rain by Abby Jones

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10 thoughts on “Writing Journal: Always Winter and Never Christmas

  1. I absolutely love this!! Christmas is by far my favorite time of year. And I always appreciated Lewis’ “always winter never Christmas” theme. Love the way you’re incorporating it into your own story too. Beautiful!!

  2. With the right attitude, every day can be Christmas when you go to the mailbox. Yea, another bill! Ha ha. Can’t wait to catch up with Jonah and the boys.

  3. I’m so delighted to finally sit and read this tantalizing glimpse into your novel! When I first dove into the Reformed stream, most folks I ran into were radically opposed to celebrating the “catholic holiday” Christmas. For a time I was leaning that way too. But something held me back. The thrill of those scenes in Narnia always gave me, I suppose. I gradually became a bigger advocate of celebrating Christmas than ever but found I was kind of a minority among the Reformed people I knew. So it was really refreshing when I met your family and learned y’all were such lovers of Christmas!

    • We are more Christmas-holics. 😉 My parents always felt it landed under Christian Liberty and you are free to celebrate or not as your conscience dictates. To me it is thrilling to have the extra focus on Christ’s birth and also to have all the wonderful memories, traditions, and time with family. We also grew up understanding Santana wasn’t real and treating it more as an American holiday than s Roman Catholic one. It’s funny cause I’ve been reformed pretty much my whole life and have only met a tiny handful of reformed people who don’t celebrate Christmas.

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