Earlier this year I, like the fool I am, did a random eBay search for something like "Christmas magazine annual", just to see what I would find. Up popped listings for "Christmas: An American Annual of American Literature and Art". A little research told me that this was an annual publication from the Augsburg Publishing House, beginning in 1931 and produced annually for over 50 years. My collector tendencies kicked in and I bought a few editions online. The publication is an absolutely amazing labor of Christmas love. Each edition contains beautiful artwork, stories, songs, poems, essays, and, each and every year, a retelling of the Christmas story through the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, enhanced by a new selection of artwork. I was thrilled to be able to enjoy these journals, many from the 1940s and 1950s. (Alas, I don't think I'll ever be able to collect the entire run - the earliest editions from the 1930s are either not listed online or very expensive).
Sometimes these old periodicals tell their own unique stories of the holidays. They are given as gifts, or are used as a scrapbook to hold precious memories. One such edition arrived to me in it's original paper wrap, telling me its story as a gift from Edna Anderson to Esther Knutsen back in 1968.
Several came to me that had been owned by a Mrs. Selma Hanson. Mrs. Hanson had written her name in the upper right corner of the masthead page, claiming the edition as her own, but careful not to mar the page, Several of Mrs. Hanson's now grace my own collection of "Christmas" editions. One of Mrs. Hanson's included a page from a December 1956 Chicago Daily Drover's Journal newspaper, folded and pressed between the pages. There were Christmas-related news items and columns, and certainly something that Ms. Hanson held precious. Maybe the fruitcake recipe submitted by a reader. Maybe she knew someone who had their Christmas item printed. Maybe for the "Bible Thought for Today", or maybe for the news that Jackie Robinson had been traded from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the New York Giants. Though we'll never know the reason, we can take a little trip to the past and imagine why she held this page dear enough to preserve.
One edition, though, tells a very special Christmas story that warms your heart. It's Christmas through and through. The 1966 edition of "Christmas" is in excellent condition, graced with a painting of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus, with cherubs looking on, a beautiful piece of artwork.
Paging through the book, I discovered an envelope tucked away inside, addressed to Mrs. Hanson.
Inside the envelope was a lovely card.
The card, from Mr. and Mrs. Roth, thanking Mrs. Hanson for her work with Thomas.
The story began to unfold in my imagination. Mrs. Hanson must have been a teacher, and young Thomas her student, one with whom she had spent extra time, maybe for some extra help when needed, maybe time just to spur on his love of math, or science, or art. Maybe Mrs. Hanson was Thomas' favorite teacher, and Thomas wanted to do something special for her at Christmas. He picked out the edition of "Christmas" at a local store, and wrote his personal message to her inside. Thomas' parents were equally grateful for her work with him, and made sure to enclose their note of gratitude.
Can you imagine Thomas' smile when Mrs. Hanson received this Christmas gift? Can you imagine Mrs. Hansen's delight when Thomas gave her the book? A thoughtful present from a bright young boy, making her day just as much as his.
This is the story I find in this book and the mementos that traveled along with it - one of the Christmas spirit and the blessings of the season. A story of gratitude, a selfless story of wishing to make another happy. A story of Christmas itself.