I had a hard time choosing a favorite Christmas story to write about. I read the cover off my copy of Jack Kent’s Twelve Days of Christmas and I loved The Christmas Pageant by Tomie dePaola. I think I discovered Nine Days to Christmas at the library, and its combination of the familiar and the strange really captured my imagination. But the story I am most likely to go back and read now that I am an adult is The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter.
I should explain that Beatrix Potter is very important in my family. My grampa, in particular, loved those books. Somewhere between three children and four grandchildren he learned The Tale of Peter Rabbit by heart. Even when my brother and I were past the usual Peter Rabbit stage, we would cuddle with him and listen to him read Beatrix Potter.
In the story, a poor and hardworking tailor has cut out the pieces for an elegant coat and waistcoat before going home for the night. The trouble starts when he sends his cat to buy groceries and the “cherry-coloured silk” he needs to finish the buttonholes. I don’t want to give too much away, because the details really make this story– even unfamiliar words like “waistcoats” and “pipkins” feed your imagination rather than getting in the way.
This is the story where I fist encountered the belief that animals can talk on Christmas Eve. It seemed right to me that animals would talk and no one could hear them, sort of the way Santa would come and no one would see him. We tease my parents’ cat about this when we put him to bed at Christmas (he prefers the garage unless it’s truly cold; like Simpkin, he is fond of mice).