Christmas Books: Yule Log & Family Xmas

 Christmas Book Scenes are back!  During December I like to post entries which are more Christmas in Books than Clothes in Books, and kind readers say it puts them in a seasonal mood.

If you have a favourite Christmas book or scene not featured yet – please let me know

Piper in the Wind by Anne Hepple

published 1939


[excerpt] The house was decorated from top to bottom with holly and mistletoe… Perry, Paulie and Penny made an expedition on their own to Bowchester woods and brought back a Christmas-tree and great logs to burn on Christmas Eve. The tree was decorated and stood ready to be lit up in a corner of the drawing room. Secret presents were prepared for the family.

On Christmas Eve the largest log was to burn while they sat and told ghost stories in the firelight and drank mild punch.

The girls were all in party clothes, even if they were their second best, and made a gay bunch as they conducted their visitors up the stairs to see their rooms, with the glowing fires, and over the house to admire the decorations.

Then they all sat down to supper of a huge pigeon pie, its pastry decorated in Hagar’s best style, mashed potatoes and turnips, followed by jellies and sweets and creams of a plainer make than the morrow’s extravagances, since Hagar had said they mustn’t have too much rich food the night before Christmas.

Later they turned up the light, poked the fire, and sang Christmas carols still the clock struck, and clear in the moonlit air came the voices of the real carold singers, who stood outside in the garden, their lanterns glowing orange and yellow on the pure blue-white of the snow.

“Hark the Herald angels sing”


comments: I’ve explained a lot about this book in two earlier entries back in 2020 – read them here and here.

It’s a family saga set in around 1910 in a small town in Scotland in the Borders. Hagar the new housekeeper is going to help make the family happy, sort out their lives and their problems, and maybe there is a happy future for her too.

She arrives just before Christmas, at the beginning of the book, and there is then a very extended description of the season – it is a sentimental and idealized version: everything happens, everything goes well. Ghost stories round the fire, wonderful food, excellent presents, party games. Obviously, there is snow and attendant activities. Everything is perfect.

But it is a charming read, and helps establish all the characters whose lives we are going to follow for another 300 pages.

Children by the Christmas Tree by Leopold von Kalckreuth

Pictures from proofs of  illustrations by LB Humphrey for a story called The Yule Log, from the NYPL collection.

Family Christmas, same source, illustrator not credited.  


  1. Perhaps very sentimental, Moira, and perhaps too idealistic, but I do love the visual imagery. I always respect an author who can place me in a setting like that.

    1. Yes indeed Margot - and sometimes we are just in the mood for that kind of book.

  2. Having 'plainer' creams because they're afraid of having too much rich food on Christmas Eve reminds me of a scene in Noel Streatfield's Vicarage Family. It's Vicky's birthday on Christmas Eve, but because it's Christmas the next day her mother has ordered a plain pudding. But in defiance of her instructions, the cook makes meringues and cream, and tells Vicky's mother that it's not fair - she makes special puddings for the other children on their birthdays so why not Vicky? The family are stunned and silenced. Vicky assures her father that she won't be ill because there's a play to do on Boxing Day. There's some other nice Christmas details in the book - lonely parishioners with nowhere else to go being invited in for Christmas, and the girls always making spare Christmas presents so there's something to give everyone.

    1. I really must read Vicarage Family again, that's a charming story. I read it when I was at school, and I think I was disappointed that it wasn't more like Ballet Shoes. But I bet I would love it now. Looks like it will make a great entry for next year's Christmas book scenes!


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