‘Christmas with the March sisters’
an extract from Little Women (which was the subject of a previous post ) Louisa M Alcott
Little Women opens with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy regreting the prospective lack of Christmas presents. Mr March is away at war, which is naturally hard for the family left behind who miss him a great deal. Money is also scarce in the March household but Mrs March (Marmee) has assured the girls that there will be one special gift under each of their pillows:
‘Jo was the first to wake in the grey dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was so crammed with goodies. Then she remembered her mother’s promise, and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson covered book.’
The book was John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and each sister received a copy that Christmas morning. Marmee had reminded the girls how much they had enjoyed playing at pilgrims when they were younger, taking bundles on their backs and travelling from the City of Destruction (the cellar) up to the Celestial City (the attic).
Marmee says to her daughters that they should ‘begin again not in play, but in earnest, and see how far you can get before father comes
home‘. In fact, the March girls begin their progress that very day by giving up their Christmas breakfast to a desperately poor family, the Hummels, living nearby.
The true spirit of Christmas in action…
Note: The Pilgrim’s Progress was first published in England in 1678. The illustration above is taken from a 1778 edition (thanks to Wikipedia).
Photograph: Chris Mills