I originally ran this post for Christmas 2013 – I was looking at the books and scenes I have featured over the years, and this is one of the very best, and bears repeating
Mr Ives' Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos
Each time he entered a sanctuary, Ives himself nearly wept, especially at Christmas, when the image of one particular church on Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn, whose choir was very good and the worshippers devout, came back to him, its interior smelling mightily of evergreen boughs, candle wax, and pots of red and white blossoms set against the columns. Dignified Irishmen, with greatly slicked heads of hair, dockworkers for the most part, turned up in ties and jackets, their wives and children by their sides. And there were bootleggers and policemen and carpenters and street sweepers in attendance as well. And a blind man whom Ives sometimes helped down the marble stairs; a few Negroes, as they were called in those days, all, Ives was convinced, believing in the majesty of the child. The old Italian ladies, their heads wrapped in black scarves and their violet lips kissing their scapular medals, and crucifixes and rosaries, kneeling, nearly weeping before the altar and the statues of Christ and His mother; and at Christmas, the beginning of His story, sweetly invoked by the rustic and somehow ancient-looking crèche.
A Happy Christmas to all readers
of the blog
Mr Ives’ Christmas is a beautiful meditation on what religion and faith mean, and how we can cope with loss. Author Oscar Hijuelos died in 2013.
You can read more about this marvellous book here.
The Nativity scene is from the Claricia Psalter, dating back to the 12th or 13th century, when it was made for Benedictine nuns in Germany. It is kindly made available by the wonderful Walters Museum in Baltimore, who allow generous access to their images.