Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

From the New York Times bestselling author of "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" comes an enchanting collection of stories for the holiday season.For years Jeanette Winterson has loved writing a new story at Christmas time and here she brings together twelve of her brilliantly imaginative, funny and bold tales. For the Twelve Days of Christmas—a time of celebration,...

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Title:Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days
Author:Jeanette Winterson
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days Reviews

  • Amalia Gavea

    It's Jeanette Winterson, people. I could read her shopping list and still be a happy reader. In

    we have her impeccable style and stories about Christmas. What could go wrong? If you just replied ''nothing'', you are correct.

    Jeanette Winterson offers us 12 stories and 12 recipes for the 12 days of Christmas. The stories are examples of different genres, each one written in a distinctive voice, each one with its own theme. The feature that makes this collection special are the recip

    It's Jeanette Winterson, people. I could read her shopping list and still be a happy reader. In

    we have her impeccable style and stories about Christmas. What could go wrong? If you just replied ''nothing'', you are correct.

    Jeanette Winterson offers us 12 stories and 12 recipes for the 12 days of Christmas. The stories are examples of different genres, each one written in a distinctive voice, each one with its own theme. The feature that makes this collection special are the recipies that we find scattered among the stories. Not to mention the lovely black and white illustrations that reminded me of those old-school Christmas pictures my mother used to collect when she was young.

    - One of the best introductions I've ever read.

    - An enstranged couple comes across a strange encounter, involving a woman and a baby...

    - Recipe alert!

    - One of the most magical stories. If you wish to feel the spirit of Christmas (yes, I know. It sounds old-fashioned, but that's the sentimental me now) then, this will melt your heart. Pun intended.

    - A wonderful account of the friendship between Jeanette Winterson and Ruth Rendell. And a second recipe to inspire your festive table.

    - No Christmas collection is complete without a ghost story.This one is haunting and heart-breaking.

    - We have Kathy Acker, Jeanette Winterson and references to Dylan Thomas. And New York.

    - Christmas is supposed to be a time for miracles. Here, we have the miracle of love when one least expects it. It happens...

    - Recipe- My mother wanted to try this one, but she was threatened with exile from my Christmas table and a written commitment she wouldn't do it again.

    - A true Gothic story, with hints to

    and the Bluebird myth. Fantastic!

    - Jeanette Winterson gives us a glimpse of her private life. In beautiful prose, she describes the first steps of her relationship with her wife, Susie Orbach.

    '- Wishes exist for Christmas'Eve after all.

    - Another eerie, haunting story. The ghosts of old friendships and of old wrong-doings.

    - Who hasn't spent hours browsing photos of one of the most famous bookshops in the world? Those of us who had the chance to visit it, feel a special warmth in our heart just by mentioning the name.

    - Stray dogs wants us to be careful what we wish for...

    - Few things say ''Christmas'' better than mulled wine and gingerbread houses.

    '- A wintery ghost story in the ski resort of Mürren in Switzerland.

    - A rather delicious recipe.

    - A child's story with Dickensian flair and a heart-warming message.

    - New Year's Eve reflections, memories and delicious crispies.

    - A beautiful tale in the voice of the donkey that carried the Virgin Mary and the Holy Child to Bethlehem.

    - Another glimpse of Jeanette Winterson's relationship with her mother, and a recipe I'm definitely going to try.

    - Arguably, the most moving story in the collection. The beauty of love, the pain of loss and the ability to start again.

    - The last story is dedicated to the Twelfth Night, a time I personally hate. Taking down the decorations and returning to the routine always make me gloomy. I hate fish as well, but that's a different story.

    You need to read this book. Not only as a Christmas collection, but as a beautiful example of Literature. All the joys and the aches that accompany each one of us are included in short, but so layered pieces of text, written in the engaging, immediate way of Jeanette Winterson. One of the best books I've ever read.

  • Emer

    This was an impulse buy. I was standing at the counter in my local bookshop ready to pay for my other purchases when I saw this beautiful looking book. I had to pick it up. The cover was just so tactile; a beautiful woven cloth hardback with gorgeous silver pickups. How could I resist???

    I love all things Christmas. Every year I read countless fluffy Christmassy-themed chick-lits and YA novels... But none of them ever seem to capture that true essence of Christmas.

    This book, however, did! The mi

    This was an impulse buy. I was standing at the counter in my local bookshop ready to pay for my other purchases when I saw this beautiful looking book. I had to pick it up. The cover was just so tactile; a beautiful woven cloth hardback with gorgeous silver pickups. How could I resist???

    I love all things Christmas. Every year I read countless fluffy Christmassy-themed chick-lits and YA novels... But none of them ever seem to capture that true essence of Christmas.

    This book, however, did! The mix of short stories and recipes for Christmas treats truly worked! The short stories ranged from sweet to magical to creepy; stories of love, orphans and Christmas ghosts. The stories very much originated in that traditional sense of all things Christmas yet were incredibly contemporary. How the author managed to pull off such a thing is most impressive but then Jeanette Winterson is indeed a very accomplished writer.

    But I think what makes this Christmas collection work are the recipes! Okay, hear me out. This isn't a cookbook and I probably won't ever bake any of the recipes but it wasn't really the actual recipes that were the point of the 'feasts' sections of the book. It was the stories that accompanied the recipes; the author's actual memories, her family, her friends, her loves, her losses... It was everything that Christmas truly means.

    Christmas is a bittersweet time of year. We look back on the happy memories of Christmases past when we shared our lives with those who are no longer with us. We live in the happiness of Christmas present; of calming the world around us for a day, just being still in the moment. And we look to the future; the possibilities of all that is to come. It really is that most magical time of year.

    This is a book to be read by the light of your Christmas tree curled up on your comfiest of armchairs or it is a book that you can read aloud from to others...what is it about telling ghost stories at Christmas? Simple pleasures...

    Highly recommended to those who want a little Christmas sparkle in their life

  • Diane S ☔

    This may well be the only Christmas book I read this season, and of so I am glad I chose this one. I loved every single story, though of course I had a few favorites.

    The Snowmama, a magical heartwarming story with a wonderful message.

    The Mistletoe Bride, a gothic tale of well deserved revenge.

    Christmas Cracker, a wonderful tale that ends with the true meaning of Christmas.

    The Silver Frog, a loose presentation of a Scrooge type story.

    The Lion, The Unicorn and me, a humorous telling of the birth

    This may well be the only Christmas book I read this season, and of so I am glad I chose this one. I loved every single story, though of course I had a few favorites.

    The Snowmama, a magical heartwarming story with a wonderful message.

    The Mistletoe Bride, a gothic tale of well deserved revenge.

    Christmas Cracker, a wonderful tale that ends with the true meaning of Christmas.

    The Silver Frog, a loose presentation of a Scrooge type story.

    The Lion, The Unicorn and me, a humorous telling of the birth of Jesus, narrated by the donkey who carried Mary.

    In between each story is a recipe and I also loved the stories that went with them. Here Winterson lets the reader into her life, her hardships, her wife, Suzy Ormond and trying to keep her traditions, Winterson loves Christmas, with a Jew who does not celebrate Christmas. Her times at Shakespeare and Company, some tidbits of her family life growing up and her wonderful friendship with the late Ruth Rendell. Personal and interesting stuff here, one gets a sense of who this author is and what she considers important.

    Beautiful book packaging as well, a win, win.

  • Diane Barnes

    I am not generally a Christmas book reader, or Christmas special watcher, mainly because I find the majority of these are a little too sappy for my tastes. But I saw a couple of nice reviews of this one, I've heard a lot of good things about Winterson's writing, and my library had it on the shelf, so the fates decreed I give it a try.

    I'm really glad I did, because all of these stories are magnificent. Not a sappy, sweet minute in this collection; all of these tales are one-of-a-kind, original, a

    I am not generally a Christmas book reader, or Christmas special watcher, mainly because I find the majority of these are a little too sappy for my tastes. But I saw a couple of nice reviews of this one, I've heard a lot of good things about Winterson's writing, and my library had it on the shelf, so the fates decreed I give it a try.

    I'm really glad I did, because all of these stories are magnificent. Not a sappy, sweet minute in this collection; all of these tales are one-of-a-kind, original, and surprising. Three or four of them were true ghost stories that gave me goosebumps. The rest have a fairy tale quality that pulls you in. My favorites were "Snowmama" and "The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me", a fable about why the ass got the job of taking Mary into Bethlehem.

    Each story is followed with a recipe and a true story to go along with it.

    Now it's time for me to get a little sappy. Each one of these stories opened up my heart a little. I am a Jeanette Winterson fan for sure, and will be reading more of her books in the coming year.

  • Laysee

    is just about the most perfect read for this time of year. To Jeanette Winterson, “Christmas has a special delight - as though the season is cheering you on.” Her enjoyment of Christmas is communicated through 12 recipes, each of which held special memories of times spent with good friends, and 12 exquisite stories that fire the imagination, celebrate the magical in ordinary events, and leave the heart snugly warm. In it too are her thoughts ab

    is just about the most perfect read for this time of year. To Jeanette Winterson, “Christmas has a special delight - as though the season is cheering you on.” Her enjoyment of Christmas is communicated through 12 recipes, each of which held special memories of times spent with good friends, and 12 exquisite stories that fire the imagination, celebrate the magical in ordinary events, and leave the heart snugly warm. In it too are her thoughts about memories (the “old present”) and the beauty of friendship, family, and love.

    Here are my favorite stories and recipes.

    This is an enchanting story about a snowman that made Christmas warmer and more hopeful for a teenage girl (Jerry) and her overworked single mother. Jerry’s father left them a year ago and home was never the same again. Little did Jerry expect that a huge SnowMama to which she had given bright green jewels for eyes would come alive! It was lovely for Jerry and for me as well to be immersed for a few magical moments in the mystery of the SnowPeople. Snowmen become real when children love them. Every winter, the SnowPeople return because according to the SnowMama, “Love always comes back.”

    In this recipe, Winterson let on that mince pies go all the way back to the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). I have often wondered why mince pies had fruit in them. It seems that “fruit and spices were used to disguise the inevitable ‘off’ flavour of meat without refrigeration.” Interesting fact.

    This is a wonderful story about a mysterious Christmas-Tree Fairy. The narrator loathed Christmas. It meant sadness to him. As a child, he never had a Christmas gift. He lived alone in a furnished apartment. Returning home from a party, he found a Christmas tree in his apartment. What did he do? He called the police. The next night, the tree was lit when he returned home. He was as unhappy as Scrooge. But this fairy did not just bring gifts, she offered a perspective that made this Christmas more joyful than any the narrator had ever known.

    I love reading how Winterson typically spent Christmas Eve and the rituals she observes. I especially like what she said about rituals: “The point of ritual is that the sameness of it concentrates and then clears the mind... Ritual is a way of altering time. By which I mean a way of pausing the endless intrusion of busy life.” Winterson suggested making a small meal for yourself “because ritual has an anticipatory relevance - we prepare for it, practically and psychologically; that’s part of the benefit. It’s about making your own raft of time. Your doorway into Christmas.”

    Of this story, Winterson said, “I wrote it straight through one night, too unhappy to sleep. Its hero is a runty little donkey who gets a golden nose. I am the donkey.” She was in a bad state in the summer of 2007 reeling from the loss of a partner who left her suddenly. She coped by writing. Out of her pain came an ethereal re-telling of the story of the baby born in a manger. The donkey told this story and it was wholly wondrous.

    The tone of this collection of stories and recipes is sincere, authentic, and sensible. There is lived wisdom in some of her observations. I particularly like this one: “I think we can all reclaim the spirit of Christmas - less shopping, more giving, less spending, more time for friends, including the joyfulness of cooking and eating together, and sharing what we have with others.”

    Have a very merry Christmas, my dear GR friends.

  • Maria Roxana

    ”Suntem oameni, nu mașini. Avem și noi zile proaste. Suntem inspirați, și totuși dăm greș. Nu suntem unidimensionali. Avem inimi ce se frâng și suflete cu care nu știm ce să facem. Ucidem și distrugem, dar și construim și facem lucruri posibile. Am fost pe lună și am inventat computerele. Am delegat majoritatea lucrurilor, dar tot trebuie să trăim cu noi înșine. Suntem niște pesimiști care cred că este prea târziu, așa că ce mai contează? Suntem puștii care-au revenit în ring, care adoră să prim

    ”Suntem oameni, nu mașini. Avem și noi zile proaste. Suntem inspirați, și totuși dăm greș. Nu suntem unidimensionali. Avem inimi ce se frâng și suflete cu care nu știm ce să facem. Ucidem și distrugem, dar și construim și facem lucruri posibile. Am fost pe lună și am inventat computerele. Am delegat majoritatea lucrurilor, dar tot trebuie să trăim cu noi înșine. Suntem niște pesimiști care cred că este prea târziu, așa că ce mai contează? Suntem puștii care-au revenit în ring, care adoră să primească o nouă șansă. Și fiecare Nou An e o altă șansă.”

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This book has a little bit of everything and was the perfect read for the calm afternoon of Christmas. Jeanette Winterson is completely herself in this book, and I do wonder how it would come across if you were not already familiar with her writing. For me, I am a huge fan, so it worked. Each of the 12 sections include one story and one narrative recipe of some kind. The "story" ranges from memoir to ghost story to love story. The "recipe" ranges from a method loosely described to a specific rec

    This book has a little bit of everything and was the perfect read for the calm afternoon of Christmas. Jeanette Winterson is completely herself in this book, and I do wonder how it would come across if you were not already familiar with her writing. For me, I am a huge fan, so it worked. Each of the 12 sections include one story and one narrative recipe of some kind. The "story" ranges from memoir to ghost story to love story. The "recipe" ranges from a method loosely described to a specific recipe with measurements. Some come from her family, some from friends, but all have a very traditional feel (even Kamila Shamsie's "turkey biryani.")

    Available in Hoopla if your library uses this service!

  • Cecily

    This is a physically beautiful collection of a dozen (for the twelve days of Christmas) new short stories, alternating with a dozen pieces about food (each ending with a recipe), all with a Christmas or winter theme, topped and tailed with an introduction and a Christmas message. I use, but don’t read cookery books, and to my surprise, the musings on food, festivities, and ritual (4*) were far better than most of the stories (2* - 3*), some of which felt more suited to Halloween. Many of the sto

    This is a physically beautiful collection of a dozen (for the twelve days of Christmas) new short stories, alternating with a dozen pieces about food (each ending with a recipe), all with a Christmas or winter theme, topped and tailed with an introduction and a Christmas message. I use, but don’t read cookery books, and to my surprise, the musings on food, festivities, and ritual (4*) were far better than most of the stories (2* - 3*), some of which felt more suited to Halloween. Many of the stories would be fine for family reading; the food passages would be of less interest to children.

    The more Winterson I read, the more I realise the importance of knowing her life story and how that relates to her recurring themes.

    Here, she mentions key aspects as she goes, but it helps to know more. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit was a fictionalised account that brought her to fame (my brief review

    ). Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal? is her more recent autobiography that brings her story up-to-date, and explains more deeply, the importance of literature and storytelling, especially in relation to abandonment (my review

    ).

    Winterson writes about the power of imagery, especially in pre-literate times, the cult of Mary, and other things we treat as sacred, even those of us who are broadly secular. She may not believe in the Christian faith she was raised in, but she values aspects of it. She loves the traditions of Christmas and dislikes its commercialisation, though acknowledges wryly that the story starts with a demand for money (tax) and ends with gifts (a child, then gold, frankincense, and myrrh).

    She moves from the profundity and beauty of "

    " to satirical regret that cooking has become like cycling (requiring unnecessary and expensive equipment, and being too competitive), rather than being appreciated as "

    ". That sort of segue is typical of this book.

    "

    "

    But it’s the spirit of Dickens that chimes in this poignant contemporary story of a ghostly abandoned child who claims to be The Spirit of Christmas.

    There is delightful period detail (a Spong, greasing tins with the butter wrapper), and the abusive Mrs Winterson seems almost benign in the festive glow. Nevertheless, “

    The recipes here are to be read for the writing more than to be followed. In poignant terms, she explores poverty, loss, and the meaning of giving, instructs you to “

    .” and drily suggests filling mince pies "

    ". “

    ” Delightful.

    A story of childlike faith in magic, and hope for better things, coupled with practical action. There’s a bit of playing with gender expectations (male and female snowpeople, and human children whose names leave you unsure at first) and puns on “snow” that soften the deprivation of one of the main characters.

    The (nearly) lost alchemy of pickling.

    She is quoting herself a decade ago, in Lighthousekeeping (my review

    ).

    Friends plan to meet up at a remote cottage for Christmas. A traditional spooky-house story, clichés and all, but with many echoes of madonna and child, and lost children.

    This book is peppered with intriguing history of Christmas and its traditions. I didn’t know that Bird’s instant custard was invented by a man whose wife was allergic to eggs. Far more surprisingly, apparently Dylan Thomas invented “Night Custard”, intended for eating, hair creme, and vaginal lubricant! Just as well I read that only

    making my custard, which is very similar to Acker’s.

    The narrator lives alone in a sombre apartment, which he bought furnished and has never added to. He dislikes Christmas because as a boy, he was barely allowed to celebrate it. When he left for college, his mother returned a gift he’d once given her. “

    He keeps bumping into a colleague who tries to encourage him to admit a little festive cheer into his life, and to follow his dreams. There is an air of enchantment, but things are not always what they seem.

    .”

    The prelude to the “recipe” is the heart of the book, confirming what all the rest says.

    • “

    • “

    • “

    • “

    Set long ago, in an unknown place, a young girl travels to marry an older man she barely knows on Christmas Eve, as is the tradition in those parts. Others are darker. Hide and seek can have unexpected consequences.

    And then there’s something about fish.

    A seasonal transformation. Changing outward appearance isn’t necessarily trivial: it affects how others treat us, which in turn, affects our self-image.

    Her father was “a celebratory war baby they soon forgot to celebrate”, rather as Mrs Winterson rapidly lost any joy in the daughter she so hopefully adopted.

    Winterson’s last Christmas with her father didn't rewire the past, but it it “rewrote our ending”.

    Nothing to do with Shakespeare’s will, but an apparently formulaic ghost story - until the grand reveal, which was a total surprise, though perhaps shouldn’t have been, as it touches on issues Winterson cares about.

    Winterson has been to the famous place many times. In 2007, it literally saved her life.

    There is something of Willy Wonka’s winners here, except I found this rather stupid. Talking dogs don’t do it for me, except in picture books.

    More ghosts, this time in a ski resort, with thoughts of empire and how the British made downhill skiing a competitive sport, “

    ”.

    A nice variant on Boxing Day turkey curry.

    Christmas at an orphanage that is not as pleasant as benefactors believe. Echoes of Dahl, again, making humour from the grim.

    I hate the taste and texture of cooked cheese, but Winterson’s attitude to the change of year is inspirational.

    Unlike the dog in an earlier story, the narrating animal in this retelling of the nativity worked for me. Jesus’ birth was a beginning and an ending:

    Resolve to do things

    , not necessarily better. Then make steak sandwiches and “

    ”!

    Learning to live after bereavement is not a betrayal of the loved one lost, but a fulfilment of what they would wish for you.

    Epiphany is about opposites and reversal: Lord of Misrule, pantomime, and the birth of a child heralding the death of the existing order. Oh, and capitalism is bad.

    Winterson shares her final thoughts on the personal and historical baggage of Christmas, miracles, and memories.

    Religious festivals are “

    ” and teach us to look out for miracles, which are unexpected and often inconvenient intrusions in space-time, seasoned with fate and chance.

    • Dickens’ Christmas Carol is “a story so powerful it can survive The Muppets” - though in fairness to those gaudy characters, their version is pretty accurate in terms of plot.

    • For Mrs Winterson, “Life was a pre-death experience”.

    • “Time is a boomerang not an arrow.”

    • “My mother returned, in what seemed to be a hailstorm, though maybe that was her personal weather. She carried a goose, half-in, half-out of her shopping bag, its slack head hung sideways like a dream nobody can remember.”

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  • JanB

    This was a Traveling Sister read with Norma, Berit, Dana, Nikki,and Holly. The Traveling Sister review of this book and others can be found on their blog at:

    I have mixed feelings about this book. As is often the case with short stories, I enjoyed a few but others weren't to my taste. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone looking for a sweet, heartwarming Christmas collection. A few were actually creepy/scary and seemed to be more fitting for Hallowee

    This was a Traveling Sister read with Norma, Berit, Dana, Nikki,and Holly. The Traveling Sister review of this book and others can be found on their blog at:

    I have mixed feelings about this book. As is often the case with short stories, I enjoyed a few but others weren't to my taste. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone looking for a sweet, heartwarming Christmas collection. A few were actually creepy/scary and seemed to be more fitting for Halloween than Christmas.

    While I didn't enjoy all of the stories, I did enjoy the information on the historical context of Christmas and the traditions that surround the holiday. However, she does seem to contradict herself regarding her religious beliefs, suggesting the stories were written during different times in her life. 

Not that it matters what her beliefs are, I'm just noting that I found it confusing.

    As an added bonus, there are recipes included in between each chapter. I enjoyed the commentary and history that went along with them. There's very few I'd actually make, but they were fun to read.

    The writing was beautiful. Even in a story I didn't particularly enjoy, I highlighted many quotes that spoke to me, really beautiful thoughts that gave me pause. Here are a few:

    "Why had we learned to hurry through every day when every day was all we had?"

    "Why are the real things, the important things, so easily mislaid underneath the things that hardly matter at all?"

    "I have learned, painfully, over the years that the things I regret in my life are not errors in judgment but failures of feeling." 

    "the loneliness that so many people experience now at Christmas is a consequence of our loss of community..."

    I'm paraphrasing here but I was touched when she wrote how grateful she was for the last Christmas with her dad, not because it re-wrote their past, but because it re-wrote their ending. Their story, for all it's pain, ends with forgiveness.

    "Sometimes the thing we long for, the thing we need, the miracle we want, is right there in front of us, and we can't see it, or we run the other way, or saddest of all, we just don't know what to do with it. Think how many people get the success they want, the partner they want, the money they want, et cetera, and turn it into dust and ashes - like the fairy gold no one can spend."

    I loved how the book ended on a positive note, lighting a candle to:

    -miracles

    - the living, friendship, and family

    - to the future, that it not be swallowed up by darkness.

    - And lastly, light a candle to love. 

    Amen to that.

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