Features stories from New York, Boston, Chicago, Savannah, the Great Lakes, and Canton, Ohio.
Christmas Gifts celebrates the season with ten compelling true stories, including the World War I Christmas truce, President Lincoln’s Civil War gift from General Sherman in 1864, the hidden history behind Charles Dickens writing his manuscript to A Christmas Carol, as well as the factual accounts behind three historical persons: Good King Wenceslas, Saint Nicholas, and the Great Depression Samaritan who secretly assisted families during Christmas 1933. Several selections from classic holiday literature are included in the text: “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus,” excerpts from A Christmas Carol, an original copy of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” written in Clement C. Moore’s own hand in 1862, scriptures from the Gospel of Luke, and lyrics from the carol “Good King Wenceslas.” The hardcover, coffeetable book (216 pages; $20.95) is illustrated with authentic photographs and vintage artwork dating back a thousand years. A summary of each story as it appears in the book, along with the chapter page and introduction, are below.
Pennington’s title was chosen by the Milwaukee Journal’s “Dream Book 2011” as a “Best Book” to give as a holiday gift.
Pennington was invited to return to the West Bend Community Memorial Library in November 2011 to present her newest program, “Christmas Gifts: Ten of the Greatest Ever Given,” to patrons. She previously presented “Believe in Yourself,” “An Old-Fashioned Christmas,” and “The Endurance.”
I was inspired to ponder gifts, and to research some of history’s most memorable. The value of these gifts varied. Some could be held in the hand, while unseen others could be held only in the heart: mercy, compassion, life, brotherhood, peace, and freedom. Each was a treasure measured in terms of something that had nothing to do with money. Shepherds gathered on a Bethlehem hillside once upon a midnight clear as they listened to an angelic message of “goodwill toward men,” and 2,000 years later the strength of humanity stills lies in our willingness to leave the walls of our own lives and connect with those of others.
The spirit of Christmas is found in the singing, In the bright Christmas trees and the bells that are ringing. The spirit is found in the lights everywhere, But the meaning is found in the love people share.
A short summary of each of the stories included in Christmas Gifts appears below.