Christmas Series: Book Review of Candy Canes and Christmastime
Guest post by Amanda in France
“Christmas is not only, and maybe not even especially, for the happy, the cheerful, or the lucky. Christmas is most of all for those who know, deeply, that we dwell in darkness and still look for the light we hope will come. We dress our children up, coax smiles out of reluctant teens (well, we try), and we tell the happiest possible story of our lives, not because we are naïve or blind to the truth of our lives in the lone and dreary world, but because we choose, sometimes with great effort, to believe the promise that our blighted world can yet be redeemed, that the far-off glimpses of beauty that pierce us with longing are truer and more powerful than the despair and cynicism that tempt us on every side.
“It is impossible, really, what God asks of us at Christmas. The weight of evidence is so abundantly on the side of darkness and ugliness and ruin. We see, with prophets and poets, that we cannot change the world, that our work is likely to come to naught, that “the glory of man [is] as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away (1 Peter 1:24).
“God knows this. He knows that we know it. And yet He asks, commands us to believe the impossible –virgin birth, new stars, nights bright as day, angels talking to shepherds, heaven touching earth. And not just to believe it, but to enact over and over, to tell each other the story again and again…year after year, despite everything. He asks us to learn the desperate patience of hope.”
-Kristine Haglund, “Cards, Weltschmerz, and Heimweh” from Candy Canes and Christmastime by Linda Hoffman Kimball, 2014
Can I just fangirl for a second? I don’t even know how to begin to express how much I love this passage. It’s not a jolly quote about candy canes or gingerbread houses or even a heartwarming story about anonymous acts of service or family reunions. But when thinking about the part that hit me hardest when reading Candy Canes and Christmastime, I kept coming back to this. Kristine so eloquently sums up “the reason for the season” and, I think, why it is so important and comforting to share it together.
When I started reading Linda Hoffman Kimball’s latest compilation of essays, stories and recipes, I knew I’d find the Christmas spirit in abundance. I knew I’d feel a bit of nostalgia, reading about fun American (or English-speaking, perhaps) traditions that I remember with fondness : Christmas cards, cookie exchanges, caroling. Perhaps I was expecting a lot of fluff, warm and comforting, to kick off my Christmas season.
And there are plenty warm and fuzzy stories of love, wonder and family. Lots of stories of being gentle with ourselves as women at Christmas, of adapting traditions to fit our current lifestyle, of running in all directions and having the impression of getting nowhere at all. I found recipes I wanted to try and ideas of how to better invite Christ into our celebrations.
I also found stories that touched me profoundly. After so many years of reading the Bloggernacle, I know a few names among the contributors, and it may be strange to say since they don’t know me and we’ve never met, but I love them and consider them sisters. And reading their stories of joy, sorrow, growth and love just increased my love for them. I love the idea of sharing tips and tidbits for a better Christmas, but I love even more how we can strengthen the bonds of sisterhood by sharing our stories with each other.