Book Review: "Christmas Days" by Jeanette Winterson

Every year, British author Jeanette Winterson sits down to pen a new Christmas story, one of many traditions that she observes for a holiday so dear to her. Her book, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days, compiles these into a delightful collection of short stories just in time for the holiday season. For those who observe the Christian holiday tradition, and even those who just celebrate the holiday for the fun of it, Winterson’s book offers an incredible mix of traditional and unexpected holiday themes.

Winterson’s tales are sexy, spooky, and unexpected, but are still laced with Christmas magic. The stories, while they still feel classic and familiar, resound with Winterson’s voice: comedic, blunt, and shockingly imaginative.

Although the book is written to be read over the course of 12 days, I couldn’t resist finishing it in four. I found myself enthralled by fantasies of the Snowmama, trapped souls, and malevolent kings. But I also became grounded by the reality of workplace romances, secret trees, those who don’t feel the joy of the holidays with the rest of us. And what would a Christmas story be without rescued orphans? Nothing. So there are plenty of those, too.

Nestled between these stories are recipes from the Christmas and New Year traditions of her family and friends, accompanied by personal accounts and anecdotes of years past. Winterson also shares a few of her fondest seasonal recipes for readers to join in her cooking tradition. The recipes, which include Mrs. Winterson’s mince pies and Shakespeare and Company’s Chinese Dumplings, complement the tales wonderfully, bringing with them a peek into Winterson’s own Christmas experiences.

I know Christmas can be a cynical retail hijack but it is up to us all, individually and collectively, to object to that. Christmas is celebrated across the world by people of all religions and none. It is a joining together, a putting aside of differences.

– Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days

Christmas Days, punctuated with Winterson’s reflections on the meaning of this time of year, reminds us of the tendency of Christmas to bring mystery and the unexpected, things that we try to plan against but cannot avoid. It is a precious gem to enjoy this holiday season.