Main Contents & Search
Young Readers


Sarah Orne Jewett

     The letter came on Monday of Christmas week, just after lunch. Patty was sitting alone in the parlor working fast to finish a little white hood for Aunt Annie, who was expected on Wednesday to spend a week. She loved her Aunt Annie dearly, and every few minutes for the last few days she had remembered how soon she should see her. Then the most contented, happy feeling would come and Patty would smile joyfully. The postman rang and Mr. Redington, who happened to be in the hall, took the letters and brought Patty's in to her. "I think this is from your Aunt Janet," said he. "I wonder why she has written to you."

     The letter was in a very old-fashioned handwriting, and written in the most precise manner, with a wide even margin on the left-hand side of the page. This is what Patty read: --


     "Your Aunt Katharine and I would like very much to have you pass Christmas Day with us, and stay as much longer as your parents will give you permission. You must not look for a gay visit, for we are dull old women and have fallen sadly behind the fashions. It is a long time since we have seen you, -- more than a year; and though we hope you will not break any agreeable engagements to accept this invitation, I can assure you that your acceptance would afford us much pleasure. With kind remembrances from both of us to your father and mother as well as yourself, believe me
                   Your affectionate grand-aunt

                                         "JANET REDINGTON."

     "Oh, dear me!" said Patty; and she looked up at her father with her eyes full of tears, as she gave him the letter. "Aunt Annie is coming, you know, papa, and only for one little week; and it is vacation, and I meant to do so many things here at home, and we girls have planned half a dozen good times. Now they are all spoiled. It is so poky there, and I never have been without you or mamma, any way" --

     "But a girl as old as you are must begin to make visits by herself," said papa, kindly. "However, you needn't go, my dear. I wish you to do just as you please, and I always wish you to be happy on Christmas Day. Perhaps the aunts will like it just as well if you write a nice letter and ask if you may come a little later, since your Aunt Annie is to be here and you do not like to break some plans you have made. But don't forget, little girl, that, whether you go or stay, the surest way to make the day pleasant for yourself is to try to make other people happy. I should send my letter this afternoon, for your aunt will wish to know. Mind, I wish you to do just as you please, and I shall not blame you if you stay here. I shall like it, for my own sake."

     Then Mr. Redington went into the library, and Patty knew he was not to be disturbed unless somebody had a very good reason.

     "Quarter past two," said Patty to herself, looking up at the clock. "I must make up my mind soon. Oh, dear! what made them ask me?" And then she thought of the reasons why she should stay at home. She had never been away in her life at this time, and papa and mamma would miss her. And then, wouldn't it be impolite to leave Aunt Annie during so much of her visit. And then she thought of the contrast between the day in Boston and with her Aunt Janet. Patty had been homesick there when she was a child, and she had not entirely forgotten it. They would like it just as well if she went by and by, as papa had suggested. She took up the hood and crocheted energetically, while she thought what she should say to Aunt Janet. Presently she took up the letter again and read it over. She had been so grieved at first that she had not noticed how kind it was, and that Aunt Janet's hand trembled a good deal. She wondered if they would be much disappointed. Wouldn't it be kinder to go? They lived such a quiet life now, though they used to go about a great deal when they were young. They must have cared to see her to have taken this trouble. She had had a great many jolly times at Christmas, and she could have walks and frolics with her cronies nearly all the year round. And, after all, wouldn't dear Aunt Annie and mamma and papa be glad if she were unselfish about it, even if they missed her? It wasn't so very much matter if she did have one dull Christmas Day.

     And Patty ran upstairs and wrote this note, though she had taken longer to decide than I have taken to tell you: --


     "I think you and Aunt Katharine are very kind to ask me to spend Christmas with you, and I should like it very much."

     She hesitated a minute after she had written this, for perhaps it was not quite true. Then she said: "I do wish to go, and I am going to try to be just as nice as I possibly can."

     "I will be there Wednesday afternoon. Please don't mind if this letter is very short, for I am in a hurry to finish something I am making. Thank you both for wishing I would come.

"Your loving            PATTY."

     Patty directed her letter and put on the stamp, and then took it herself to the box on the lamp-post at the corner of the street. When it was fairly in, she longed with all her heart to take it out again; but that wish went away directly.

     Mr. Redington opened the library door earlier than usual, and Patty went in to have a talk with him in the twilight, as she often did.

     "I've written Aunt Janet that I'm coming," said she, with a little shake in her voice. What if papa should be sorry, because he had wished she would stay at home? But he put down the armful of books which he was replacing on the shelves and came across the room to her.

     "Why, my dear, unselfish little girl!" said he. "I think this is very good of you. I have been hoping you would go, for something about that letter made me sure they cared a great deal about seeing you. I know you will give them a real pleasure. I wished you to do just as you pleased; but I am so glad you pleased to do this."

     Papa was always kind, but he rarely praised Patty as much as this, and she thought it made up for her sacrifice. Mrs. Redington was glad, too, when she came home early in the evening; though she said they would all be lonely without Patty, and she could not help saying there had never seemed to be so many reasons for her being at home. But she was very glad to have her go to Aunt Janet and Aunt Katharine, and Patty thought her mother and father had never been so kind to her before. It was lucky Aunt Annie would not come until just after she had gone, for it would have been so hard if she had seen her only a little while and then said good-by.

     Wednesday at twelve o'clock the train started out of the station carrying one sad little passenger, at least, among all the crowd of happy people who were going away or going home for Christmas. Almost everybody had baskets and bundles, and soon Patty grew interested in watching the faces around her, and some of the people watched her. Our friend was a trig-looking traveler; and I know if you had been sitting in the opposite seat you would have wished you knew her and wondered who she was. She had on her sealskin cap and jacket, and a brown dress, and her favorite little Roman cravat; and the bits of scarlet and blue in this looked so bright and pretty against the dark browns. She had a new book to read, if she chose; and her mother's Christmas presents had been a new traveling-bag and a silk umbrella, of which Patty was conscious, and which she placed beside her, in preference to having them put in the rack overhead, where some one might possibly think they belonged to the people in front. Though she felt dismal enough during the first half hour, she did not look cross, only sorry. I know you would like Patty, her eyes are so sweet and look straight into yours.

     The car was so full that every seat was taken. Patty's companion was a lady dressed in black, with a heavy veil, so that one could hardly see her face. After a while she pushed it back; and by and by Patty turned away from the window and happened to look at her. The lady did not notice her. She was looking down and her eyes were full of tears. "Why, she must be going to have a worse time this Christmas than I," thought Patty, to whom things were looking darker than usual just then. And presently she looked round again. This time the lady looked up at her, with the kindest smile.

     "I don't seem merry, do I, my dear?" said she. "And I think you are sad about something, too. We mustn't forget that to-morrow is Christmas Day." And she reached her hand over for Patty's and held it close. And then Patty said she had felt a little lonely because her Aunt Annie had come by that time, and she was not there to see her.

     "Tell me about it, dear," said the new friend. And somehow Patty did not mind at all, though she was apt to be a little shy and reserved with strangers. At the end she said: --

     "Please don't think I wish to be selfish, or that my aunts are not just as kind as they can be; but Aunt Annie is younger and I do love her best. I know her so much better. And all the girls were so sorry, for there are to be such jolly times this vacation, and they said they should miss me. But I am so glad I came away. I am, truly."

     "So am I, dear child," said the lady. "It was very good of you; but I think you don't care to be praised for doing right. The best thing is to know it in one's own heart. I am sure you will have a happy Christmas. Why is it you care so much for your Aunt Annie?" This was asked softly. And Patty answered, drawing a little closer: --

     "I think it is because she helps me to be good. But everybody loves Aunt Annie."

     The lady drew Patty's hand nearer and held it in both her own.

     "I am so glad, dear. I am trying to be good too. It is very nice that we found each other. I grew sad a few minutes ago, for I was thinking of last Christmas, and how merry somebody made it for me who has died since then."

     "I'm so sorry," said Patty, earnestly. "I wish I could help you." And her new friend smiled again, and thanked her.

     "You do help me, and we can ask our Father to help us. Can't we, dearie?" said she. "And I think we shall both have a happy Christmas, if not a merry one."

     "I was just thinking," said Patty, "of what mamma said to me while we waited at the station: that she was sure I should be glad I went to Aunt Janet's, if I only remember that I am to help the others enjoy Christmas, and not think whether I am having a good time. And she wrote two little verses on a scrap of paper. Here they are: 'Serve the Lord with gladness;' and 'Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily.' She said I must think what 'gladness' and 'heartily,' means. 'Pleased,' and 'with love,' and 'earnestly,' and 'with all my heart.' I think that's what she said."

     "Now you have helped me very much," said the lady. "And I am sure we shall think of each other to-morrow. We will try to make it sunshiny and bright for everybody; and we can both show our 'good-will' by being cheerful, at any rate. I think your aunts will be satisfied if you only seem happy and pleased because you are with them; but, besides that, I am sure you will find a great many thoughtful things to do and kind things to say."

     I can't stop to tell you more about this afternoon. The friends had a lunch together out of the basket of candy and grapes which Mr. Redington had given Patty just before she started. And Mrs. Thorniford was so bright and entertaining, and reminded Patty of Aunt Annie more and more. So it was a pleasant journey, and much shorter than our friend expected. Mrs. Thorniford promised to let her know when she came to Boston; and it was so nice that she visited very near Patty's own home and had often met Mrs. Redington. When they reached Patty's station, she said: --

     "Oh, I wish you were going with me."

     And Mrs. Thorniford said: "And I wish you were going with me, dear child!" And then she kissed her twice and said "God bless her!" and that she had given her a great pleasure that afternoon.

     Jacob, the aunts' man, was waiting for Patty, and tucked her up with so many soft carriage-rugs and fur robes that she wondered how she should ever get out. He sat on the front seat of the sleigh, with the little trunk, and talked most of the time to the horses and sometimes to Patty, replying to her question whether they were all well with an emphatic "Yes, Miss. And they're dreadful pleased you're coming."

     It was a three-mile drive, so that it was dark when they reached the house that short December day. And Patty felt a little tired and homesick as the sleigh stopped at the door. But the two verses came into her mind, and she thought of "gladness" and "heartily," and the homesick feeling was not so bad, after all. Hannah opened the door[.] Patty saw Aunt Janet coming along the hall, and in a minute she had jumped out and was giving Aunt Janet a kiss and a hug, -- just such a hug as she always gave Aunt Annie. Then she shook hands with Hannah and Statira, for both Jacob and they seemed to belong to the family as much as the aunts themselves.

     "We will have tea half an hour earlier than usual, for Miss Patty will be hungry after her journey," said Aunt Janet. "Now, my dear, come right into the parlor, for your Aunt Katharine is in a hurry to see you. I suppose you have no snow on your feet?" and Patty dutifully went back to the hall mat and gave her boots a good rubbing, though they had not touched anything but the stone steps coming in.

     Aunt Katharine sat by the fire, in her easy-chair, exactly as she did when Patty saw her last. She was deaf, and she had had rheumatism terribly, so that she could scarcely move. Patty thought, as she crossed the room: "Poor thing! She has been here every day; and only think how many good times I have had." And this made her more glad to see her Aunt Katharine than she had ever been before. What was making them give her such a welcome, she wondered, and smile at each other delightedly? Only because you were so glad to see them, Patty.

     "Sit down, my dear, and warm yourself," said Aunt Janet. "You can put your wrappings on the sofa until you go upstairs." So our friend pulled off the fur cap and jacket, carefully putting her gloves in the pocket, and then drew a footstool close beside Aunt Katharine's easy-chair. There was a bright wood fire in the wide fire-place, with its framing of Dutch tiles, and these all looked so familiar. There was the Good Samaritan, and the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, and the droll birds with the green heads; and Patty looked at herself in the brass andirons and laughed. Just now she felt Aunt Katharine's stiff fingers smoothing her hair, and Aunt Janet drew a chair for herself to the opposite side of the fire-place. Somehow our friend had never felt better contented in her life.

     "And you are quite a young lady now, my dear. Dear me! how she has grown since we saw her before!" said Aunt Katharine, bending her head forward to see if Patty had anything to say in reply.

     "You would be surer I have grown if you saw my last winter's dresses," said Patty. "They are so short and so funny-looking. I'm so glad to see you, Aunty!"

     "Thank you, dear," said Aunt Katharine, and she put her arm round her niece's shoulders. "We were almost sorry we asked you, after the letter had gone, for fear you would not care about coming; but we wanted to see our little girl. Didn't we, Janet? But it is a pleasant surprise to find you so glad to come." Aunt Janet was patting her foot very fast on the rug, and Patty remembered that she only did that when she was pleased. She had always been well, so she had taken care of Aunt Katharine and been the mistress of the house, taking all the responsibility upon herself. She was active and decided and very particular about everything's being done just right -- a good woman, but perhaps a little severe; while Miss Katharine's illness and quiet life had made her gentle and quite dependent upon Miss Janet in most things. They both seemed much more interesting to Patty than ever before. Perhaps it was because she had grown older and could understand and appreciate them better. She wondered why Aunt Janet should ever have been a terror to her, and why Aunt Katharine should have seemed tiresome. She told them the messages her father and mother had sent, and the bits of home news, and what she had been doing for Christmas, and what presents she had had before she came away, besides some that were yet unopened in her trunk. Before anybody had an idea of such a thing, Statira came to say that tea was ready, and to push Miss Katharine's chair out into the dining-room. It was such a good supper, and the aunts were so amused and pleased with their hungry niece, with her bright eyes and red cheeks. They were so interested in everything she had to say, and sat a long time at the table, and felt hungrier than usual themselves, because Patty thought everything was delicious. When they went back to the parlor, and Miss Katharine began to read the paper aloud to Miss Janet, Patty went out into the kitchen, to have a talk with Hannah and Statira, while they washed the china.

     "Haven't you a new dress? Why, it's just the color of mine." And Hannah said: "There! to think of your noticing that! Yes, I s'pose it is new," and she pulled aside her great apron. "The dress-maker tried all ways to make me have an overskirt; but I wouldn't. I'm too old to foller the fashions, I tell 'em; Statiry, she's younger. She didn't get time to dress up to-night; but her dress is trimmed consider'ble. Miss Janet gave them to us Thanksgiving time." Then Patty asked about Statira's new gown, and heard the particulars with great interest.

     "There!" said Hannah, when Patty said she must go back to the parlor, "I'm real pleased to see you, dear, myself. And you're growing to be just such a dear woman as your mother. I do' know but you will blame me when I tell you that perhaps I was the means of fetching of you down to spend Christmas. I thought perhaps you'd rather be with your mates, when I thought about it afterward; but I heard your aunts speaking about you kind of wistful a spell ago, and how you didn't come along o' your mother in the summer, and sayin' it wasn't natural you should care about coming to stay with two old women. And I spoke right out. Perhaps you would like it better if they asked you special. And I says, says I, 'why don't you ask her to come down and keep Christmas with ye?'"

     "I am ever so glad you did, Hannah, truly. I didn't know they cared so much about seeing me. I could have come with papa any time, but I never thought of it."

     Patty was enjoying the visit more and more. When she went back to the parlor, the tall carcel lamp was lighted and the newspaper was lying on the table. Everything in that room looked just as it did when Patty was a child. Even the dull-colored old Turkey rugs were no nearer being worn out than when she could first remember. She looked up at the portraits, and especially at her Grand-aunt Patty's, who had been a beautiful girl and had died long ago. The eyes in the picture looked down with a smile at her namesake, and Patty smiled back again.

     Miss Katharine was pleased because she could hear Patty speak so easily; and she did not scream at her, as most people did, either. They had a long talk, and after a while they spoke of its being Christmas Eve; and Aunt Katharine said how pleasant it was to think how many happy people there were in the world that night.

     "Ask her if she will not read the 'Christmas Hymn' now," said Aunt Janet. "That is, if you like to hear it. We have read it a great many years on Christmas Eve."

     And Patty said she should like to hear it. Papa had read it to her, and she thought some of the verses were beautiful. Papa said she would like it more and more. So Miss Janet brought the book, and Miss Katharine, who had not lost her gift of reading aloud finely, began --

                    "It was the winter wild;"

and by the time she heard --

                    "No war, nor battle-sound," --

Patty found she did like it better than before, and it was so grand to hear it on Christmas Eve. It made her think of the great organ in church and the solemn, sweet notes that make one shiver a little.

     The wind had risen out-of-doors and it wailed a little in the chimney. The cinnamon rose-bushes clicked against the windows, and one could hear the noise of the great elms blowing about; but indoors the firelight flickered round the room, the old pussy had come in and sat on the rug close to the fender, and it was not in the least lonely or even "poky."

     After the reading, and when they had all been quiet a little while, Patty happened to see the piano, and asked her aunts if she might play for them. She had learned some new tunes lately. I do not think Patty had ever offered to play for any one before. She was shy about it, though very good-natured if she were asked. The aunts were more pleased than ever; and Aunt Janet whispered that she was so glad, for it was one of Aunt Katharine's greatest trials to give up her music. She could hear the piano perfectly. Patty played some of her tunes; but, somehow, she was not exactly in the mood for the nocturnes and songs without words, and she stopped and thought a minute, and then struck some chords and sang the hymn her father liked so much: "While Shepherds watched their Flocks by Night."

     "We always used to sing that on Christmas Eve. Do you remember, Janet?" said Miss Katharine.

     "Yes; and all we boys and girls knew every word of it. Mother and father took great pride in our singing," said Miss Janet; and they both thanked Patty, and said it was delightful that she could play without notes. She played wonderfully well.

     "Sing something else, my dear," said Aunt Janet. "An other hymn, if you choose; though we like any sweet music. Then we must send you to bed, or you will be too tired to enjoy to-morrow; though I am afraid there will be little to enjoy. It's dull enough for you in this quiet old house."

     "Why, I'm just as happy as can be, aunty," said Patty, without a thought of the Christmas party to which she had been invited in Boston. And then she sang "Abide with me," which proved to be a great favorite of the old ladies. Then Miss Janet rang for Statira to bring the candles, and Patty said good-night and went upstairs, while the aunts said kind things about her and talked about their Sister Patty and thought her namesake was growing like her. And this made them think of Christmas Eves long before, when they were young.

     Patty found herself sleepy enough by the time she was undressed and had mounted into the great bed, with its curtained canopy. One of the things she had dreaded most was sleeping alone in the large guest-chamber; but it was not bad, after all. The door was to be open into the hall, and she could hear the old ladies' voices down-stairs. How pleasant and old-fashioned everything was. And she thought of her friend in the cars, and wondered what they were doing at home, and if Aunt Annie missed her. But by the time Statira came in to put out the lights she was fast asleep. And Aunt Janet came in softly by and by. Patty's curly hair was shaken out over the pillow, and she had fallen asleep smiling.

     "Dear little soul," said the old lady, with a sudden feeling of great tenderness.

     Christmas morning was bright and sunshiny. When Patty waked, she heard her aunts talking together; so she hurried out of bed and ran in to say "Merry Christmas!" They were both dressed, but they were meaning to let her sleep until the last minute.

     "I don't know when I have felt as well as I do to-day, dearie," said Aunt Katharine. "I think it must be your coming."

     And then Patty went back to dress herself and ask God to help her to be good that day. Soon she followed the old ladies down to the breakfast-room, with her arms full of presents, which, of course, had to be given before anything else could be thought of for a minute. There was a soft, pretty shawl for Aunt Katharine to throw round her shoulders, which was exactly what she had been wishing for; and for Aunt Janet, who scorned a shawl, there were two caps, or head-dresses, as she liked best to call them. She had [a] fancy for caps, and was very critical; but these were exactly what she wanted. Then there were some little things, -- some delicious candy in a remarkable box, and a new photograph of Patty herself in a Russian frame, -- these were her own presents to them. The others were from Mrs. Redington, and Mr Redington had sent some books. There were some kid mittens, with fur wristers, for Hannah and Statira, -- one pair black and one brown, so they would know them apart, -- and some pocket-handkerchiefs for Jacob. Everybody was so pleased, and they brought Patty their own gifts to her, which were unexpected. Statira had made her a needle-book, and Hannah had baked a round Christmas cake. Such a plum-cake, with such a frosting! -- one of her very best, which our friend felt to be a great honor. Jacob offered a basket of superior walnuts, and said she must eat as many as she could and take the rest home. Patty thanked them over and over again, and they thanked her. The aunts smiled more and more and said she was very thoughtful. So, altogether, it was a merry Christmas morning. Beside Patty's plate, on the breakfast-table, was a little box, and in it a beautiful emerald ring, from Miss Katharine. Patty had longed for such a ring, and she hardly knew what to say. She knew, too, that Aunt Katharine had worn it many years, and, as she said, that made it all the dearer. "I've given up rings of late years, dear, since my illness; and I cannot think of any one whom I would rather should wear this," said the kind old lady. "It was your Aunt Patty's, too. She gave it to me."

     "I am going to give you money for my present," said Aunt Janet; "and you can choose something for yourself, when you go home, to remind you of your old aunt." And Patty said: "Oh, not all this for me!" And she kissed them both two or three times. She could hear Statira and Hannah laughing in the kitchen, which was unusual, for they were not apt to be hilarious. What a shame it would have been if Patty had stayed at home!

     After breakfast she ran down the garden on the crust, to cut some branches of evergreen, and came back with a great armful of little boughs. Mamma had sent down a bunch of real English holly, and in half an hour the south parlor looked as Christmas-like as possible. Soon afterward it was time to go to church, and she and Aunt Janet went together, with Jacob to drive. It was such a pleasant service. The church was a contrast to the one where Patty went in Boston, and she had never been in any but her own church on this day before. It seemed odd not to be nodding to the people around and watching for her own cronies to come in. Patty's thoughts were pleasanter than ever before. She seemed to understand better what Christmas meant; and she and Aunt Janet stood side by side and sang "Glory be to God on high, on earth peace, good-will to men!" with all their hearts. Patty was beginning to know the blessedness of trying to do good and to be good -- the blessedness which is so much better than any fun or happiness which comes from other things.

     The clergyman said in his sermon that we must not shut Christ out of our hearts and say "no room," as the people did at the inn; that we must not let in other thoughts and other friends, and keep no place for Him. Patty was so glad to think that she was trying to make her heart a home for the Best Friend, and that He had never seemed so dear or so near before as He did that morning.

     I cannot stop to tell you all about the Christmas dinner, or the two funny old friends of Miss Janet's who drove home with them to spend the rest of the day; or how, while all the old ladies took their afternoon naps, Patty wrote a long letter home, and afterward went to drive with Jacob who had given the horses such a holiday dinner of oats that they were actually quite frisky; or how she sang and played half the evening; or how the rest of the company told entertaining stories about old times. And after this day was over she proposed to stay until Monday, and asked if she might come down again in her next vacation, of her own accord. At last they were all so sorry to say good-by. And Aunt Katharine could hardly let her go at all, and said she should miss her terribly. But Patty's promise of writing every week has not been broken. When she reached home she found that Aunt Annie was to stay another week; and Mr. and Mrs. Redington were so glad about the visit. And a letter came from Aunt Janet saying that the child had brightened them all up wonderfully, and that she could not thank her enough for her kindness to Miss Katharine, who had so few pleasures nowadays.

     "We are both tiresome old women," said Miss Janet; "but we were as young and gay as anybody once upon a time. Though we came near forgetting that before Patty came."

     The evening after Patty got home she was in her own room, sitting in her Aunt Annie's lap. She was so glad Aunt Annie did not think her too tall!

     "I never enjoyed a visit so much, Aunty," said she. "But you don't know how I hated to go away and leave you; and then there was Bessie's party Christmas Eve, and we had planned so many good times. It was ever so hard at first. If I had only known how nice it was going to be, I should have felt differently."

     "Dear little girlie," said Aunt Annie, "do you know that you might have had just the lonely, stupid visit you dreaded if you had not cared to be helpful and loving and had not tried to please your old aunties? It was all because you served the Lord with gladness, and so you carried pleasure with you. We are hindered or helped by whatever happens. It all depends upon which we choose. You might so easily have made it a dull Christmas for yourself and all the rest."

     "And now it is so nice to have you here," said Patty. And after this they were both quiet in the firelight for a long time.


"Patty's Dull Christmas" first appeared in The Independent (27:25-27) on December 23, 1875 and was collected in Play Days from which this text is taken. If you find errors or items needing annotation, please contact the site manager.
    [ Back ]

'Serve the Lord with gladness;' and 'Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily': See Psalms 100:2 and Colossians 3:23.
    [ Back ]

'good-will": See Luke 2:10-14.
    [ Back ]

the good Samaritan, ... the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea: See Luke 10 for the parable of the good Samaritan and Exodus 14 for the account of the crossing of the Red Sea.
    [ Back ]

carcel lamp: a lamp in which the oil is fed to the flame by clockwork, so that it burns very brightly.
    [ Back ]

The Christmas Hymn ... "It was the winter wild;" ... "No war, nor battle-sound": This is John Milton's (1608-1674) "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" (1629). The hymn begins after a four-stanza introduction:

     It was the winter wild,
     While the Heav'n-born child,
       All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
     Nature in awe to him
     Had doffed her gaudy trim,
       With her great Master so to sympathize:
     It was no season then for her
     To wanton with the Sun, her lusty paramour.

And stanza 4 begins,

     No War, or Battle's sound
     Was heard the World around: ...
    [ Back ]

cinnamon rose-bushes: a species of rose (R. cinnamonea). Biographer Francis Matthiessen reports that as a child, Jewett would make a coddle of cinnamon rose petals with cinnamon and brown sugar. See Chapter 1.
    [ Back ]

"While Shepherds watched their Flocks by Night": A Christmas hymn based on the announcement of the birth of Christ in Luke 2:10-14. Lyrics by Nahum Tate (1652-1715) and melody by George F. Handel (1685-1759)..
    [ Back ]

"Abide With Me": There are at least two well-known hymns with this title, but perhaps the more familiar is the 1847 verse by Henry F. Lyte, which begins:

     Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
     The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
     When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
     Help of the helpless, O abide with me!
    [ Back ]

"Glory be to God on high, on earth peace, good-will to men!": See Luke 2:10-14.
    [ Back ]

"no room," as the people did at the inn: See Luke 2:7.
    [ Back ]

Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College

Main Contents & Search