A Great Holiday Read: A West Coast Christmas

This year, as I do every year, I struggle to find a really good “Christmas read,” adult-level reading with a seasonal theme. This year, I’m returning to the tried-and-true. I’ve gone back to a book I read several years ago, and loved: A West Coast Christmas: Celebrating the Season on the Edge of the Pacific, edited by Anne Templeman-Kluit (paid link) (check your local bookstore, it will probably need to be special ordered).

This book is a collection of vignettes, essays, stories and recipes. All are accounts of the Christmas activities of inhabitants of the West Coast of North America, from Southeast Alaska to Oregon. They all come from older sources, mostly around the turn of the last century. Some involve famous people—at least famous to people on the west coast: the artist, Emily Carr, Reverend William Duncan of the Metlakatla Mission, and others. Most are the adventures of little-known pioneers along the coast, most of them living remotely, making a life with all its attendant holidays, from the wilderness. Do you see why this book would appeal to me?

The stories range from simple journal entries marking the events falling on Christmas to some incredible adventures and mishaps. My favorites include a mystery box delivered to a mining supervisor’s family that turns out to have deadly contents, and an almost unbelievable account of a young man’s spur-of-the-moment trip to Vancouver on Christmas Eve that requires a 25-mile trip home in a rowing dinghy. His opportunity to play Santa Claus at a remote neighbor’s Christmas party is magical. Perhaps my favorite is a few paragraphs that describe a special hideaway cabin that a couple made for their boys as a Christmas present—the sort of thing that would be a dream-come-true for me, growing up.

I found this book at the Haines library the first Christmas we spent on the homestead. It inspired us! We have it so much easier than these people did. The writing style is odd by today’s standards, but that adds to the charm for me, especially at this nostalgic season.

I remember seeing this book in bookstores and gift shops throughout the region, but it seems to have become rather rare. If you happen to see a copy, and if you love Christmas like we do, grab it!

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