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Christmas Stories Remind Readers of the Joys of Giving and Family

While many Christmas tales feature glittering winter wonderlands and sentimental happy endings, others strike a more somber or pensive tone in order to examine the deeper meaning of the holiday season.

One such tale is Will Allen Drumgoole's "Christmas Eve at the Corner Grocery"—from Drumgoole's The Heart of Old Hickory and Other Stories of Tennessee collection. In this story, Drumgoole, a Tennessee native, reminds her readers both of the religious significance of Christmas and the beauty of selfless giving. Drumgoole's tale tells the story of the store clerk Riley, a widower and single father, who, despite his own desperate circumstances, gives generously to the store's needy customers. At the beginning of the story, Riley is balancing the store's ledger books. As the action progresses—and more and more needy patrons present themselves—Riley's debt to his employer increases as he supplements the customers' orders and charges his own account for the excess. That night, Riley is very anxious about his debts, and in his dreams he has a vision of Christ and of the store ledger. But instead of only his long list of unpaid charges, there was written "'Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these, ye did it unto me.' And full across the page, as plain as if it had been in blood, ran the long red lines that showed the sheet was balanced" (p. 208).

Paul Hamilton Hayne's poem "The Silken Shoe" offers a similar inspiring message. As in most of Hayne's poems, the central theme of this poem is love, in this case the love of a father for his daughters. The poem tells a story of a silky shoe, hung as a shiny ornament on the Christmas tree. When the narrator's children inquire about its origins, he tells them of the death their sickly sister, whose last request was that he hang her Christmas shoes on the tree where she could see them. In telling the story, the narrator hopes to convey to all children that they are beloved, for he concludes, "Ah children, you understand me;/ Your eyes are brimmed with dew,/ As they watch on the Christmas holly/ The sheen of a silken shoe" (p. 363).

Drumgoole's story and Hayne's poem are both part of the "Library of Southern Literature" collection, which includes the most important Southern literary works from the colonial period to the beginning of the twentieth century. This collection presents the varied and rich foundation of Southern writing.

Jennifer L. Larson