Sunday, November 30, 2014

An Advent Calendar of Stories

Since I was a child, and even to this day (when I just ACT like a child sometimes), I have always loved advent calendars. They come in many shapes and sizes (including the ones filled with chocolate, which of course are my absolute favorite kind), but they all share one thing in common: to help impatient children count down the days until Christmas, while making each day along the journey special with the surprise of a toy, trinket, piece of chocolate, or even just a thought for the day.

An advent calendar I bought today at the drugstore just for this post. And maybe the candy.

Now, the older I get, it seems the less impatient for Christmas I get. In fact, some years I wish Christmas could be skipped altogether -- at least the hectic, hurly-burly commercial side of it. But I still enjoy that time before Christmas, which seems to be one of the most magical times of the year, no matter how you feel about Christmas itself. The music, food, parties -- everything about the pre-Christmas season is special as we anticipate the big day.

So I have been thinking for some time about a special reading project to mark the days before Christmas, in the same way one might use an advent calendar. But what could serve the same purpose as candies (for example) hidden behind the tiny doors of a calendar? Yep, you guessed it: short stories!

An antique advent calendar that looks especially enticing.

I toyed with the idea of reading some Christmas-themed books in the 24 days before Christmas, but my adventure earlier in the year with The Christmas Train during the Ho-Ho-Ho Holiday Readathon made me a little leery of that. If I "waste" my pre-Christmas season reading stuff I don't like, it won't turn out to be too festive. Granted, with a list of 24 short stories, there will also surely be some misses along with the hits, but hopefully there will be more hits than misses!

My only worry (worrywart that I am) is that I won't be able to keep up with the story a day. More importantly, I might not be able to blog about each story every day. I certainly won't have time to do a full review of each story. Plus, daily blogging is something I have never yet achieved. So right now I am thinking that I might just do a "progress report"/digest every few days or so, and keep up with my reading and blogging that way.

So here is the list I have crafted for my reading over the 24 days of December before Christmas:
  1. Santa Claus Beat – Rex Stout
  2. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. A Kidnapped Santa Claus – L. Frank Baum
  4. At Christmas Time – Anton Chekhov
  5. The Other Wise Man – Henry Van Dyke
  6. The Burglar’s Christmas – Willa Cather
  7. What Love Can Do – Louisa May Alcott
  8. Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas – John Mortimer
  9. The Spy and the Christmas Cipher – Edward D. Hoch
  10. I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus – George Baxt
  11. Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor – John Cheever
  12. Old Folks’ Christmas – Ring Lardner
  13. The Tree That Didn’t Get Trimmed – Christopher Morley
  14. The Tailor of Gloucester – Beatrix Potter
  15. The Kid Hangs Up His Stocking – Jacob Riis
  16. Mr. K*A*P*L*A*N and the Magi – Leo Rosten
  17. Crisp New Bills for Mr. Teagle – Frank Sullivan
  18. Merry Christmas – James Thurber
  19. The Plot Against Santa Claus – James Powell
  20. Christmas Party – Martin Werner
  21. The Bargain – Richard Barre
  22. A Christmas Memory – Truman Capote
  23. A Christmas Tragedy – Agatha Christie
  24. The Gift of the Magi – O. Henry
Some of these stories can be found in the public domain on the Internet; others are from anthologies that I already had, such as Merry Murder and A Christmas Treasury.

I have numbered the stories for convenience (and to make sure I had 24!), but what I actually plan to do is to print out the list and cut the story titles into strips. Then I'm going to fold them up and put them in a container (maybe a Christmas stocking?), and each day I will draw a strip to see what story I will read that day. Just to make it more like the little spark of surprise you get when you open the door on an advent calendar.

So what do you think? Have you read any of the stories on my list? Some of them I have read before, but they were so good I am looking forward to reading them again (such as the Cheever, Capote, and the O. Henry) -- it will be like greeting old friends at a Christmas gathering.


  1. Capote's A Christmas Memory is one of my favorites! I'm also interested to hear what you think of Ring Lardner's Old Folks' Christmas. I haven't read it but have found Lardner to be someone I want to read more of.

    1. I'll let you know. The other day I read (what I think is) my first Ring Lardner story, "The Golden Honeymoon," and it was pretty comical.

  2. I've always loved advent calendars too. What a great festive story idea! I think the only one I've read is the Sherlock Holmes story. I know The Gift of the Magi, but I'm not sure I've actually read it, if that makes sense.

    1. I think the O. Henry story is so famous that probably lots of people know what it's about, without having actually read it. But it's well worth the read! :-)

  3. I'm in! I've found a perfect anthology (it doesn't have enough stories, so I'll do my own advent calendar lite version) :-) working on a post now.