Last Sunday morning when I woke up, my daughter was playing her video games and my husband was on the computer. I decided to check out one of the fabulous vintage books that my sister gave to me for Christmas. I chose a little one called "The Christmas Angel" by Abbie Farwell Brown.
This book was published in 1910 and the wonderful thing about the copy that I have is that it was given as a gift to Miss Nellie Johnson for "Perfect attendance, Plymouth Sunday School, Year 1910" in Utica, NY. You can view the actual copy that I have or believe it or not get the newer version that was published in 1999! (It's just astounding to me that books from the early 1900's are so well documented on the web!)
The other wonderful thing about my copy is that it had a green construction paper cutout of a Christmas tree, perhaps made by Nellie. It had been in the book for so long that it stained the pages with the outline of the limbs! I could just imagine their Sunday School class talking about the meaning of Christmas and making the delicate little trees.
Anyway, I got a blanket and a fresh cup of coffee and settled in to read this charming little story. It's reminiscent of the Christmas Carol but much more touching...
We are introduced to Miss Terry, a stern, no-nonsense spinster that sits before a fire on Christmas Eve with a big box of Christmas toys from her childhood that have been collecting dust in her attic for years. She's ready to burn the entire collection but to prove her belief that Christmas is nothing more than commercialism at its best, she decides to conduct a few experiments. She does this by throwing out one toy at a time on her darkened door step and rushing to the window to see what happens. The reactions of passers by strengthens her belief of selfishness and complete disregard for humanity, even at Christmas time.
But then she throws out The Christmas Angel. A delicate little pink paper-mache tree ornament that holds sentimental feelings for her and brings back memories of her youth. A drunken man stumbles by and kicks the pretty little angel. Filled with an unexplainable emotion, she rushes out to rescue him from the snow. She props him on the mantle and proceeds to burn the rest of the toys. After that nasty bit of business is finished, she falls asleep in her chair by the fire.
While she sleeps, the Christmas Angel comes to life and she thinks she is in a dream. He shows her the rest of the story she did not see from behind the heavy curtains of her windowsill. From the fighting boys that give their toy to a brother suffering from a serious illness to a crass, pompous man who saves the life of a baby who crawled in the street about to be hit by a car. Overnight, she becomes transformed. Her heart opens to the true spirit of Christmas!
It's such a lovely little story and I finished it all on that Sunday morning. I actually thought it might be cute to start collecting these old copies of Christmas books. I just love them! You can imagine so much history in old books... Previous owners, their lives, their homes. For me, there is something so much more personal about books than an antique or old garment. So, in the coming months, I might be heading out to the used bookstores to see what I can find!