It's the 2020 Strong Sense of Place 'Get Merry' Christmas Goodies Post

It's the 2020 Strong Sense of Place 'Get Merry' Christmas Goodies Post

Tuesday, 8 December, 2020

The countdown to cookies and Santa is on, so now seems like a good time to remind you that we have a few blog posts and solid book recommendations to help you revel in the holiday spirit.

We’ll be sharing more winter-appropriate books and recipes over the coming weeks, but here are some excellent suggestions to get you started. We’re read these books in their entirety (multiple times) and enjoyed them wholeheartedly. Feel free to leave us a note about your favorite holiday reads in the comments!

rule

Celebrate Jólabókaflóðið

an open book with christmas lights
Photo courtesy of Eleonora Albasi/Unsplash.

The island nation of Iceland has much to recommend it: breathtaking scenery, the creamiest yogurt, friendly inhabitants, amazing seafood, and a charming holiday tradition: the Christmas Book Flood called Jólabókaflóðið. Spend Christmas Eve in cozy PJs with chocolates and a new book! {more}

 

Russian Teacakes

russian teacake cookies on a baking sheet
Photo courtesy of David Humphreys.

Russian Teacakes are like butter bombs of happiness. The original recipe in this classic cookbook is the hands-down, best-ever holiday cookie. If you’ve never tried these fluffy white puffs of joy, now is the time. {more}

 

Welcome Yule

a red cardinal sitting on a snowy tree branch
Photo courtesy of Ray Hennessy/Unsplash.

The shortest day, the longest night, the transition to deep midwinter — the winter solstice is a powerful date on the calendar. The poem The Shortest Day by British author Susan Cooper captures its magic. Welcome, Yule! {more}

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2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas - Marie-Helene Bertino

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas
> Marie-Helene Bertino

Two days away from being ten, our heroine Madeleine is an ambitious, trash-talking, cigarette-smoking torch singer who’s trapped in the body of a precocious 9-year old. Her mother has died, and her father is so wrapped up in his own grief, he has nothing left for Madeleine. But her mom gave her a gift before she died: a box of index cards inscribed with life advice like Never show up to someone’s home empty-handed and How to make a fist.

The legacy of the love notes, along with her inherited ability to sing like an angel, gives Madeleine purpose. She ditches her elementary school classes at Saint Anthony of the Immaculate Heart, then sets out on a mission to find Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club, The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her singing debut. Friendship, love, cocktails, and destiny collide on Christmas Eve Eve. {more}

Madeleine prefers to spend this and every recess alone, singing scales under her breath, walking laps up and down the parking lot. Madeleine has no friends: Not because she contains a tender grace that fifth-graders detect and loathe. Not because she has a natural ability that points her starward, though she does. Madeleine has no friends because she is a jerk. — Marie-Helene Bertino

The Inn at Lake Devine - Elinor Lipman

The Inn at Lake Devine
> Elinor Lipman

Our heroine Natalie Marx is a firecracker. Her personal hero is Anne Frank, and she shares the diarist’s stubbornness and innate sense of self and justice. Natalie is equal parts fight and vulnerability, two traits that we continue to see as the story follows her from her teenage years in 1962 to adulthood in the ’80s.

While the catalyst of the action is the gently-worded, oh-so-polite anti-Semitism of the 1960s, this story is really a love story. With light humor and a few moments of devastating heartbreak, it’s all about family, forgiveness, and the grace inherent in every kind of love. It begins in the summer, but a pivotal scene takes place on Christmas in snowy Vermont, and the story is infused with the spirit of the holiday season. {more}

It was not complicated, and, as my mother pointed out, not even personal: They had a hotel; they didn’t want Jews; we were Jews. — Elinor Lipman

Krampusnacht - Kate Wolford

Krampusnacht
> Kate Wolford

You better watch out; you just might cry. Krampus is coming to town. Half-goat, half-demon, with scruffy dark hair, fangs, curled horns, and an uncomfortably long tongue, Krampus is armed with chains and a bundle of birch sticks, all the better to lash out at naughty children before dragging them down to the underworld. Krampus is the antihero of Christmas in Central European folklore. In this story collection, the furry monster inspires tales with ironic twists, affecting family dynamics, dire consequences, and offbeat Christmas spirit.

Elizabeth Twist’s story ‘Prodigious’ was inspired by a collection of vintage Krampus postcards. It’s the tale of an unusual toy story and a beleaguered employee forced to wear a stinky Krampus costume at the company Christmas party. Darkly funny with a diabolical twist at the end. Other stories feature a town with a Christmas amusement park, an extraordinary doll, a Santa who desperately needs therapy, and a retired cop who faces his dark past with a little help from Krampus. {more}

‘Krampus is not a man. Krampus is a beast. He is a beast with tangled black fur, horns like a goat, and a pointed tongue as long as my arm. He walks on two cloven feet. He carries a great basket on his back and a birch rod in his hand. Do you know what those are for?’

The children shook their heads, their eyes as large as dinner plates. ‘The birch rod is for whipping naughty children.’ — Lissa Sloan, ‘A Visit’

The Hunting Party - Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party
> Lucy Foley

This is a New Year’s Eve tale, but the story of a cold-and-snowy, party-gone-wrong is always seasonally appropriate.

This suspenseful, delicious snarky novel features a group of nine thirty-something friends from Oxford travel. Every December 31, they travel to an exotic location to ring in the new year together. This time, they’re vacationing at an isolated hunting lodge in Scotland — and their celebration goes horribly, fabulously wrong.

The trip begins, as a thrilling adventure should, on a train from London to Scotland. There’s a decided party atmosphere on board as the old friends drink bubbly and get caught up on each others’ lives. But by the time they reach the snow-bound lodge of Loch Corrin, it’s painfully evident to all of them that something is off among their formerly tight-knit crew. As the year slowly winds down, tensions ratchet up until eventually, one of them is dead — and another one of them did it. {more}

New Year’s Eve. The loneliest night of the year, even if you’re with people. Even before my life fell apart. — Lucy Foley

Top image courtesy of Marina Khrapova/Unsplash.

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The island nation of Iceland has much to recommend it: breathtaking scenery, the creamiest yogurt, friendly inhabitants, amazing seafood, and a charming holiday tradition: the Christmas Book Flood called Jólabókaflóðið.
Holiday choice: A charming coming-of-age story in snowy Philadelphia, or eerie stories starring Krampus, the Christmas-y demon who drags bad children to the underworld. Or both! 'Cause what good is nice without naughty?!
This weekend, we recommend a getaway to a lake-side resort in Vermont... where you'll find yourself right smack in the middle of a romantic comedy with real, messy people who make real, messy mistakes.
Russian Teacakes are like butter bombs of happiness. The original recipe in this classic cookbook is the hands-down, best-ever holiday cookie. If you've never tried these fluffy white puffs of joy, now is the time.
The shortest day, the longest night, the transition to deep midwinter — the winter solstice is a powerful date on the calendar. This moving poem by British author Susan Cooper captures its magic. Welcome, Yule!
It's just four days until Christmas, and it's Manny's last night working at the Red Lobster that's the center of his life. This quiet story is vast in its emotional scope and sense of place — sweet, sad, and dignified.

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