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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 even9781462114634 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.

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8 Responses

  1. Em says:

    This is lovely. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. The dark is what brings out the light, and if everything is not glowy it makes the holiday that much more meaningful.

  2. Quimby says:

    That ‘light in the darkness’ is something I miss deeply, celebrating Christmas now in the southern hemisphere. Summer is always so bright and merry and happy – a time for celebration and fun – that Christmas seems almost redundant; whereas, in the depths of winter, when the days are at their shortest and you long for warmth again – that is when you feel the need for Christmas. That is when you want the promise of lighter, brighter days ahead. It’s weirder yet to celebrate Easter (with its promise of birth and new beginnings) in Autumn as everything is dying; but Christmas in the Summer – for all its promises of beaches and barbecues and flip-flops and backyard cricket – will never have the same magic for me.

  3. Melody says:

    Thank you for this review and for the beautiful thoughts. “The desperate patience of hope” is one of the most lovely phrases I think I’ve heard. And I agree completely that Christmastime is unique in the strange and wonderful array of feelings it brings. I cry a lot during the holidays – for all sorts of reasons.

  4. Rachel says:

    Such a beautiful quote from what sounds like a very beautiful book. Thank you for reviewing it, here.

  5. spunky says:

    I agree so much with this posy and all of the commenters- this book is a gift for more than a handful of friends this season!

  6. Kristine says:

    So kind, Amanda–thank you.

    Linda’s collections are always just right; she has such a good ear and sense of balance and proportion. I always feel a little more sane and happy and wise after spending some time with her and her friends!

  7. EmilyCC says:

    I just wanted to echo Kristine’s sentiment about Linda’s work. This series is amazing. Her Visiting Teaching-themed book, Chocolate Chips and Charity, helped convert me to visiting teaching.

  8. “the desperate patience of hope”–so beautiful

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