Tonight is Christmas Eve. The meaning of Christmas is a theme echoed again. It is of course a celebration of Jesus’ birth. Yet, Christmas is far more. To some, Christmas is simply a time of giving or receiving gifts. For some, Christmas is about family and community. Many view Christmas as a party: a frenzy of shopping, lights, and commercialism. And, of course, Christmas is also the start of winter, the breath at the end of one year, and the hope flowing into a new period.
While all of the above is true, there’s yet another Christmas often overlooked.
Christmas, more than any other single day, is a celebration of the power of fiction. To be clear, I am not speaking about the origin stories of the holiday in any way. Yet, Christmas today has been shaped by countless popular stories.
Clement Clarke Moore’s poem A Visit From St Nicholas (Twas the Night Before Christmas) helped define the holiday and the concept of Santa. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol solidified Christmas as a major, commercial holiday to be celebrated by entire cities, and his characters went on to become part of the Christmas tradition. The book has never been out of print, since the 1840s! Another example came when Dr. Seuss wrote The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, a children’s book that continued a series he’d started about tiny beings called Whos. His book became so popular independently, it’s hard to imagine Christmas without the Whos and their singing, the toys and their noise, and the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes that day.
These stories and countless others haven’t just sold well. They’ve helped redefine culture itself. I’d argue that more people are familiar with Moore or Seuss’s verses than anything related to Christmas in the Bible. Fiction, and storytelling in general, has the power to shape and inspire entire civilizations.
As this stressful year of hardships comes to an end, I find myself feeling very inspired. In August, I signed a new literary agent – Steve Fraser of the DeChiara Literary Agency – to represent my works. This is the first holiday I’ve headed into with an agent, who is at once a coach, advocate, and cheerleader for me.
I was also informed last week that one of my youngest beta readers, a girl of nine, absolutely loved my newest project. I’d sent her a book and she became frustrated at her mom’s slow reading so eagerly read the rest of the manuscript on her own. Her mom went on to inform me that the girl has now started writing her own story, trying to imitate my style. There is no greater flattery possible. If I have inspired a nine-year-old to write and excited a child that much, what future inspirations lie in store? Will I someday write fiction that shapes entire cultures? Did Suess guess his impact when he started planning the Grinch? Did Dickens, whose book initially made no money, imagine what it would go on to become?
A New Year is a time of limitless possibility. While 2020 has been grueling, and the pandemic rages on, particularly in America. I look to the future with optimism and hope. I will celebrate Christmas as a time of giving and family. Yet also as a testament to the power of fiction.