I’ve always enjoyed listening to stories and poetry read by talented vocal performers as I read along with the texts. In this regard, there’s a textual feast available to us during Christmastime.
A few decades ago, I spent Christmas Eve with my friend Alex and his family. One of their delightful family traditions was to sit together and listen to Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” I am happy to find a recording of the author’s reading here:
Of course, the most dramatic reading and listening for Christmas time comes with Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol. Full Story audio provides an enjoyable reading with just the right accent for my tastes. (Alas, if only Christopher Plummer would do the audiobook for The Man Who Invented Christmas!)
C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a different kind of Christmas story (Lewis disliked the commercialization of Christmas, and one finds that Father Christmas is actually equipping the Pevensie for warfare against the forces of evil.) Michael York’s dramatic reading of the story has brought me many years of enjoyment as I reread and relisten to the story.
This year I’m enjoying, for the first time, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letters From Father Christmas. Derek Jacobi provides excellent vocals for the letters that Tolkien wrote to his children as if he were Father Christmas. You really need both the book (Kindle or print) and the audio for full appreciation: The book includes Tolkien’s handwritten letters and drawings.
Before the pandemic, I had time to use Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to lighten the thematic mood for my high school senior English courses. With a somewhat irreverent celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas in the background, the comedy focuses on how the main character Viola lands in enemy territory, disguises herself as a young man, and bumbles her way into restoring peace between warring countries and characters. The gift of peace and reconciliation sneaks its way into making the play more about the true spirit of Christmas than one might realize. Here’s a full-cast BBC production of Twelfth Night for your listening enjoyment in case you have some time over the next twelve days.
Enjoy Christmastime as you take up and read and listen!