The weird thing (well, one of the weirdest…) with me as a child was that Christmas wasn’t my favourite time of the year. I loved the lights all around me, helping my mum with decorating and baking all those delicious creations of hers, but the noise and frenzy that accompany Christmas never suited me. Easter was my time of year. It still is. I never travel outside Athens during Christmas, I just can’t stand the fuss. However, during the last five years, I have come to understand and appreciate the magic around us, even if it sounds a bit clichéd. When you work with children, you cannot help it. The Christmas spirit is suddenly upon you and you start feeling as excited as your little elves.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is my fascination for the British tradition to associate Christmas with dark, haunting reads. Since I was an adolescent, I’ve made a habit of reserving the darkest books in my collection for this happy time of the year, because too much happiness brings me a headache. These are some of my top choices for the ones who want something different in their array of Christmas reads.
”Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie
Probably the most famous Hercule Poirot mystery and perfect for the cold Christmas days, when we want to curl up with a cozy blanket, a hot cup of chocolate and the finest of mysteries.
”Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
The darkest of love stories. The epitome of the bleak, haunting book. The kind of writing that shutters souls and freezes hearts.
”The Toymakers” by Robert Dinsdale
The newest addition to my most beloved Christmas reads. A world made of magic, hope,pain and despair. A universe controlled by sibling rivarly and a woman’s struggle to make the seams of family creations hold in the midst of war and anger.
”Christmas Days:12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days” by Jeanette Winterson
My favourite Christmas read by one of my favourite writers. 12 marvelous stories, moving, tender, sad but above all humane. Winterson inserts her personal touch by referring to memories of Christmas past and friends of old. A true gem…
”The Mistletoe Bride and Other Winter Tales” by Kate Mosse
I read this book during my Easter holidays last year and I fell in love. I had already read Mosse’s ”The Taxidermist’s Daughter” and I had found her writing fascinating. This collection pays tribute to the tradition of the scary tales and its pages are filled with traditions for Britain and France. Gothic, dark, a collection where spectres beyond this world meet the ghosts that lurk in our souls.
”The Old Magic of Christmas” by Linda Raedish
Our journey takes us to Scandinavia, to the Nordic lands, full of mystery and fascinating traditions deriving from the exciting Viking culture. We move on to the beautiful countries of the Baltic Sea, we visit Poland, the Czech Republic, we make a stop to Germany- a Christmas destination out of a fairytale- and the Netherlands. We pass through France, heading South, to Spain and Portugal and then, to Italy where we are expecting our presents from Befana, and we are ready to face the Kalikantzaroi of my homeland, Greece. We learn the dark origins of many well- known and well-loved Christmas traditions, customs that will never look the same to me after reading this book. And all the time, I couldn’t help but wonder on the similarities between cultures that are so far away and so different from each other.
”Chilling Christmas Tales” by Joan Aiken
Christmas festivities are not complete without ghost stories. In this collection, we find some of the most nightmarish – borderline horror – children’s stories to be read by the fire, in a room lit only by the lights of the Christmas tree. The first time I read this book, I was thirteen. It was the Greek edition, with a foreboding front cover, a gift by my late grandmother, the first person in my life who understood my deep fascination for the supernatural and the dark from an early age.
”Winter’s Tales” by Lari Don
In this collection created by Lari Don, we have stories about the most haunting, mystical and dark time of the year, the winter. Myths and legends from all over the world dedicated to the ice, the snow, the cold and the relief of spring.
Christmas is the brightest time of the year. A time of joy and celebration before the coldest and darkest days begin. However, haunting reads make for the best company in the bleak of winter. Next time we meet, a few suggestions for cold mornings and long nights will be waiting…
Happy Holidays to one and all!