Charlie's Christmas Letter is a little document in the form of a letter to my grandson, which seeks to answer the questions that a bright teenager ought to be asking: Why were the shepherds in the fields in winter? Who were the three wise men? Why do we bring holly into the house? Of all the ways of entering a house why does Santa choose the chimney? What is the Messiah about? Why did Tchaikovsky drink unboiled water during a cholera epidemic? What is the Jewish Celebration of Lights all about?
The letter presents some of the more interesting features of the season and incidental matters. Much space is devoted to details of the nativity and the transmittal of these through the uncertainties of the gospel reports; then there are the primitive rituals of food and drink; the origin of Santa Claus; and a summary of the wonderful legend "The Cessation of the Oracles."
Then come features of the season not part of the nativity story: Messiah, The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, containing some of the more colorful and significant details of the lives of Handel, Tchaikovsky, and Dickens. Then Hanukkah. Then Shopping. At best tangentially related, these have in them elements of Christian value. Next, the climax of the season: church on Christmas morning and the carols. Finally the book concludes with an attempt to present for the boy the huge dimension of the inconceivable phenomenon of the Incarnation. The chatty, simple style avoids long words where possible and offers parenthetical explanations. It is not without occasional, innocent wit and is sometimes a bit didactic: there are grandfatherly prescriptions, which Charlie may find a bit pompous.
"The story of Christmas is so familiar, the trappings and rituals so integral to our yuletide festivities; yet familiarity breeds contempt and rituals easily lose their meaning. Kingsley Weatherhead offers a masterful narrative which re-imagines the place of Christmas in our hearts and on our hearths. This he does with passionate warmth and in an easily accessible style. Lucky old Charlie for having a grandpa so young in heart."
author of A View from the Edge
"Kingsley Weatherhead's little book charms with playful, ingenious humor, yet is incisive and always richly thoughtful. The scholarship is far-ranging, the slant on Christmas--its Biblical narrative and age-old traditions--original. Certainly, teenage Charlie will treasure his grandfather's 'Letter.'"
--Harold P. Simonson
author of Through the Church
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