With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, sometimes there just isn’t time to sink your teeth into a big, fat novel. But if you’re looking for a little Christmas down time, why not take a quick break with these mostly modern-day holiday short stories and essays? Here are 5 Christmas-themed shorts that you should read this season (and all of them have less sap than your Christmas tree!).
“How to Talk to a Hunter”- Pam Houston
Where To Find It: “Cowboys Are My Weakness: Stories” by Pam Houston
With the backdrop of a snowy Alaskan winter, a howling sheepdog and Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”, this beautifully written story tells of a lonely lady who spends the holiday season trying to decipher her two-timing hunter boyfriend. And while this story is more about relationships than Christmas, you can almost feel the crackling fire and smell the pine needles in her hunter’s cabin. Not a sentimental Christmas tale, this is for the reader who is looking for something different.
“Santa Land Diaries”- David Sedaris
Where To Find It: “Holidays on Ice” by David Sedaris
This book of hilarious holiday essays contains several great picks, but the opening story is a favorite. It details Sedaris’ arrival in New York- with hopes of landing a role on “One Life to Live” but instead being reduced to taking a job as a Macy’s holiday elf. He feels unqualified for the job, but he gets it because he’s short. The rest is Santa Land history.
“The H Street Sledding Record”- Ron Carlson
Where To Find It: “A Kind of Flying: Selected Stories” by Ron Carlson
A young father at a crossroads, hell bent on his off-the-wall annual Christmas traditions (like throwing horse manure up on his roof every Christmas Eve to make like a reindeer so his daughter will see “proof” that Rudolph was there). His wife thinks he’s nuts, but she drops hints that she may want to have another baby. Which would mean many more years more of manure-hurling for her hubby.
“Duel in the Snow or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid”- Jean Shepherd
Where To Find It: “In God We Trust All, Others Pay Cash” by Jean Shepherd
Surely you’re familiar with the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” (if you’re not, you should rent it immediately). The movie was based on a series of essays by humorist Jean Shepherd. This ditty is the best, detailing the author’s boyhood quest for a coveted Red Ryder BB gun that included a botched visit to see the department store Santa Claus. A classic.
“Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor”- John Cheever
Where To Find It: “The Ecco Book of Christmas Stories” edited By Alberto Manuel
This 1949 story tells the tale of Charlie, an elevator operator in a fancy New York apartment building, who gives the ritzy tenants a Christmas Day sob story about how poor he is. In return he gets showered with food, gifts and more than his share of holiday spirits, which leads to a little drunken debauchery in the elevator. His greediness gets the best of him and in the end Charlie is poorer than when he started. Okay, maybe not.