Friday 16 December 2011

Twelve Days of Christmas 4: Little Women

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents!" So opens Louisa May Alcott's classic Little Women, Jo expressing what could be a surprisingly materialistic sentiment in a book that, if you're not in the right frame of mind, can come across as irritatingly preachy and twee. (Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy this book - most of the time. But if I'm not in the right mood, it can get on my nerves.) And, to give her her dues, I think it's more the tradition of exchanging gifts that Jo is lamenting, rather than just wanting more stuff!

Still, the March girls manage to do quite well, even under difficult financial circumstances with their father away at war, coming up with small but all the more precious gifts for each other. Then they share their Christmas breakfast with a family in extreme poverty, who welcome them as "angels." ("Funny angels in hoods and mittens," said Jo, and set them laughing.) And this selfless giving really does bring out the true spirit of Christmas, when the girls find joy in being able to help those even less fortunate than themselves.
And when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts, and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.
And after all, the March sisters, though they have little wealth and riches, get just as much joy in their Christmas day celebrations - dressing up and acting out plays with whatever props they have at hand - as they could in going out for a "special occasion" such as theatre performances, concerts or parties. Their celebrations are constructed from joy, fun and love for life and each other.

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