Christmas Around the Fire: Stories, Essays, & Poems for the Season of Christ's Birth

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Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Jesus with family and friends, to gather together in sacred and jovial celebration of the Incarnation. Yet in our fast-paced, hyper-digitized lives, we are losing the sense of a good story enjoyed among good friends around a good fire.

In Christmas Around the Fire, Ryan Topping invites us to turn off the television set, put down our devices, quiet ourselves, and gather our loved ones to share some of the best writing (in a variety of forms) about Christmas. Whether or not your family has an actual fireplace around which to gather is not so important, but it helps!

Included within are entries from legendary novelists and poets such as Leo Tolstoy, G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Willa Cather, and more. Also included are profound thoughts from great religious figures such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Pope Saint John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

For those who love the true spirit of the “most wonderful time of the year” and love reading in almost equal measure, Christmas Around the Fire will quickly become a family tradition and the first piece excitedly pulled out of storage every year. This is one of those rarest of books—one around which family memories are made.

Ryan N. S. Topping
TAN Books
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2 Reviews

  • 5

    Posted by Steven McEvoy on Dec 26th 2023

    First, I must state that the physical edition of this book is wonderfully made. I really am an eBooks guy, and I enjoyed this enough that I have picked up the eBook edition as well. But the physical book is one I will keep on my favorites shelf. The physical book sis cloth bound and lettered in gold. Heavy weight cream colored pages with black print and read titles and embellishments. It is what some would call a coffee table book or display book. In my family it might have become a bathroom reader. The volume is edited by Ryan N.S. Topping, whom I had not heard of before, but in researching this review have already added three of his other works to my Wishlist. This volume contains 13 stories and 23 essays and poems. The pieces are: Introduction Part I: Stories Leo Tolstoy, Papa Panov’s Special Christmas G. K. Chesterton, The Modern Scrooge Charles Dickens, The Spirit of Christmas Past Henry Van Dyke, The First Christmas Tree Stephen Leacock, Merry Christmas The Hegge Cycle, The Annunciation Willa Cather, The Burglar’s Christmas Harrison S. Morris, A Christmas Miracle Oscar Wilde, The Selfish Giant Ruth Sawyer, This Was the Christmas Catherine Doherty, The Christmas Gift Henry Van Dycke, The Other Wise Man Ryan N. S. Topping, A Canadian Christmas Part II: Essays & Poems Pope Benedict XVI, Advent Calls Us to Silence George MacDonald, That Holy Thing Pope St. John Paul II, Rejoice, The Lord Is Near G. M. Hopkins, Moonless Darkness Stands Between St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Great Is the Lord’s Love for Us Ben Jonson, A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour Joseph Pearce, Keeping Christmas Local Robert Southwell, The Burning Babe G. K. Chesterton, The Rituals of Christmas Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit From St. Nicholas Hillaire Belloc, A Remaining Christmas G. K. Chesterton, The House of Christmas St. Augustine, A Christmas Sermon Christina Rossetti, The Shepherds Had an Angel Charles Lamb, A Few Words on Christmas Thomas Hardy, The Oxen Charles Dickens, What Christmas Is as We Grow Older John Neale, Good King Wenceslas Charles Dudley Warner, The Burden of Christmas Sara Teasdale, A Christmas Carol Cardinal Newman, Why Do We Need Epiphany? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Three Kings Pope Benedict XVI, Epiphany in a Secular Age This is one of those books that can be consumed from beginning to end. Or from end to beginning. Or randomly flipping open and reading one of the sections in any order you want. The first time I read it I read it through in order. I have already started reading it a second time through. Some of the pieces I was familiar with, others were new to me. It is a wonderful collection to read during the advent or Christmas season. Either alone, or out loud to the family. We are told that the selections in this volume grew from a list the Toppings would use for reading once the children were down. The adults would enjoy the quiet time, and take turns reading to one another. Topping states: “In looking through this volume, you’ll find stories, essays, and poems. Some tales are short, others long, some from America, Canada, or England, others from faraway countries and times; some reflections, like the ones by St Augustine and Benedict XVI, provoke deep thought, while others, like those by Tolstoy and G. K. Chesterton, are more whimsical. What unites these selections is that each, in its own way, points us back to the miracle of the Babe in Bethlehem. Just as his birth needed Mary, Joseph, Angels, and also an ox, an ass, and lowly shepherds, so also does the Holy Child’s message need our voices—the voices of poets, priests, parents, philosophers, and storytellers to carry his love into our hearts.” And that is what I love about the collection. It points the way but does so in many different ways in forms. It is one of those book I will revisit yearly, and as my children get older have them join in for both reading and listening to the stories collected. I am sure this book will bless all who read it. And I encourage you to pick it up and make it part of your Christmas traditions.

  • 4
    I purchased this for next Christmas season

    Posted by KATHLEEN C. on Jan 11th 2023

    I heard a story from this book on a radio station. I enjoyed it, and purchased this for next Christmas. I do not have a review for you. .