Louisa May Alcott was one of my favorite authors growing up and she still is. My two favorite novels in particular are Little Women and an Old Fashioned Girl. I loved how relatable her characters are and also how they strive to do what’s right even when it might go against their nature or peer pressure. I also love adaptations of her works and just watched the 1994 feature film of Little Women again for Christmas. The beginning of that novel has one of the best Christmas scenes I’ve ever read and it is happily included in this collection of Christmas short stories. I also loved to read biographies on her life, but I sadly haven’t read any biographies of Louisa May Alcott as an adult.
The Christmas Treasury by Louisa May Alcott is a collection of short stories that one wants to curl up with next to a fire. They tell stories of the true meaning of Christmas and of helping out your fellow man at the holidays and all year round. Interspersed in the stories is also an Introduction that contains biographical detail on Louisa May Alcott as well as interesting points in editor’s notes after some of the stories. I was a bit disappointed that these points weren’t after all of the stories. The end also contained a section on the virtues of Louisa May Alcott’s characters.
A Christmas Treasury reminded me that Louisa’s father, Bronson Alcott was a man of high ideals that didn’t believe in demeaning himself with physical work to support his family. Instead, Louisa’s mother, Abba became the first paid social worker in America and supported the family. Louisa made it her life’s goal to become a paid author and to support her family with her earnings. After the success of Little Women, Louisa was able to pull her family out of poverty for good and also was able to pay back family friend Ralph Waldo Emerson who supported the family during times of trouble. These acts of charity by friends to help the family stayed with Louisa as she became an adult and are often seen in her Christmas stories. I could also see the influence of Charles Dickens in the works and indeed that author as well as A Christmas Carol were referenced in a couple of stories.
My favorite stories in the collection included:
The Quiet Little Woman - Patty is a young orphan who is adopted by a family to be a servant girl. The family overlooks her and doesn’t take them with her to visit their Aunt for Christmas. Their Aunt reminds them about Patty being a person with feelings and shows them all of the letters she has received from Patty through the year. This story did a great job of making the reader think about people you might take for granted and how everyone has feelings.
A Hospital Christmas – This story is set in a hospital during the Civil War. Louisa May Alcott was a nurse during the Civil War and I found this story to be heartwarming and also a good look at the Civil War hardships. The story takes an unflinching look at both the negatives and positives of life in the hospital at that time and how thinking positive, and sharing what little treasures you have can make Christmas happy for all involved.
Rosa’s Tale – Rosa is a horse and on Christmas Eve she is granted the ability to speak and tell young Belinda about her fantastical life. It reminded me a bit of Black Beauty.
Mrs. Podgers’ Teapot – A heartwarming love story between two middle aged people who have loved one another for a long time and are finally brought together.
A Christmas Turkey – A family of four children is having a hard time as father spends all of his money on drink rather than feeding his family. The four children think of ways to earn money to be able to purchase a turkey for Christmas. Their ingenuity and the charity of others help them to gather a feast for Christmas and may even bring a Christmas miracle for the family.
Bertie’s Box – A young boy hears his rich mother read a letter requesting charity from a poor woman. While the mother and Aunt Jane are jaded, young Bertie builds a box with all of his best things in it and gets his family to really think about the true meaning of Christmas. They send the box off and make Christmas wonderful for a poor family in Iowa. This was a touching story about the true meaning of giving.
A New Way to Spend Christmas – A story of a lady of charity who visits the poor children on Randalls Island in New York City. It describes the sad conditions that the children are living in at different facilities and the cheer they bring with their small offerings. It brought a tear to my eye all of these years later and made me wish I could help out.
One question not answered in the text was why were most of the stories “adapted by Stephen W. Hines?” What was changed in the stories? I am curious.
A couple of my favorite quotes were as follows:
“Heroes are always expected to be young and comely, also fierce, melancholy, or at least what novel readers call ‘interesting’; but I am forced to admit that Mrs. Podger was none of these. Half the real beauty, virtue, and romance of the world gets put into humble souls, hidden in plain bodies.” (Mrs. Podger’s Teapot)
“’He can give you one thing, Tilly,’ her mother said. ‘He can give you the pleasure of doing good. That is one of the sweetest things in life, and it can be enjoyed by the poor as well as the rich.’” (Tilly’s Christmas)
Overall, this was a wonderful collection of heartwarming stories about the true meaning of Christmas. The characters are vintage Louisa May Alcott and often display qualities that she thought were important through her own life experiences. It’s been over ten years since I first read this collection, and it’s reminded me that it is a good book to read every few years for Christmas.
Book Source: This was a Christmas gift to me from my Mother over ten years ago. Thank-you!