Finished reading: Old Christmas by Washington Irving 📚
A classic set of stories that invigorated the Christmas spirit in 1820s America, which saw the holiday as too-English (the war of 1812 was still fresh) and which banned celebrations in some locales. Irving synthesized his research into older English Christmas customs, games, and rituals into a fictional story of a grumpy outsider whose heart is warmed by the lightness and gaiety. He even includes a ghost story. Dickens was an Irving fan and drew from this book for his own “Christmas Carol”.
It took a while for me to get into the style and pace of the writing, though judicious skimming helped and I did love the rich details.
What leapt out at me were the rather lechy old Master Simon who enjoys the company and attention of the pretty younger girls, and the clear and rigid caste system of gentry and peasants, which the narrator endorses (no one has a word of thanks for the busy kitchen staff who cooked all the extravagant foodstuffs), though he is aware of the class divide: his narrator looks sternly at some of the “peasants” knowingly playing up to the guvner.
Other reading, if you’re interested:
- How Washington Irving Shaped Christmas in America | The National Endowment for the Humanities
- The Root of Our Old Christmas Customs: Washington Irving: A Yuletide Story in its Own Write - HOAGonSight
- HOW THE OLD CHRISTMAS CAME TO SLEEPY HOLLOW
- Old Christmas | The Impact of Washington Irving - House of Cadmus
- How Charles Dickens Stole Christmas - Visit Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown