First, another moment of honesty. This, of course, is one of the five Penguin Christmas Classics I was sent for review. I may or may not have chosen this one at this early date because A.) it's the shortest (clocking in at a brief 65 pages) and B.) I kinda thought I wouldn't like it as much as the other ones. I'd heard it's a little offbeat and not quite Christmassy enough for the Christmas club, if you know what I'm saying. Neither thing that I'd heard is necessarily false, but in all actuality, I quite liked this short tale of Christmas Eve in a small village in Ukraine.
The day of Christmas Eve ended, and the night began, cold and clear. The stars and the crescent moon shone brightly upon the Christian world, helping all the good folks welcome the birth of our Savior. The cold grew sharper, yet the night was so quiet that one could hear the snow squeak under a traveler's boots from half a mile away. Caroling hadn't yet begun; village youths weren't yet crowded outside the windows waiting for treats; the moon alone peeked through, as though inviting the girls to finish up their toilette and run out onto the clean, sparkling snow.
I'll say no more for fear of giving away overmuch, but I was thoroughly charmed by Gogol's remote village where carolers traverse the town on a cold, crisp Christmas Eve, singing for treats from the townspeople. Besides the witch and the devil and the unfortunate Vakula, the town is populated by a cadre of important men made laughable by their foibles, a crowd of fierce housewives, and gaggles of laughing girls. Despite the less than traditional Christmas content, I found Gogol's story to be a delicious and humorous little folk tale of his own creation and a welcome departure from the Christmas norm.
If you'd like to read this book plus four more holiday classics from Penguin, the giveaway is open until Monday evening, so stop by the post and enter!
(Disclaiming: Yes, I received this book for free from the publisher for review consideration.)
Do you have a favorite Christmas story to read around the holidays?