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An abridged Hans Brinker Christmastide countdown


Traditionally our St. Nicholas celebrations have included fat loaves of grattiman (also known as grittibanz in some parts of Switzerland) and when the children were little the writing of letters to Santa to be picked up as he made his St. Nicholas rounds across the planet. But  even when there's no time or inclinations for such activities, there's still a part of St. Nicholas festivities that can fit in whatever the demands of the day--the commencement of a seasonal read of one our favorite tales, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge.  Though we sometimes read the book page by page, we generally skip the the lengthy armchair tour and travelogue, and invest our hours (which pass altogether too quickly, by the way) in the story of the Brinker family and their trials and triumphs.

This depiction of a Dutch girl by nineteenth century artist Therese Schwartze seems an ideal image of Gretel Brinker, who Dodge described as "lithe and quick; Gretel's eyes had a dancing light in them, and while you looked at her cheek the color paled and deepened just as it does upon a bed of pink and white blossoms when the wind is blowing."
We've designed this abridged reading to begin today in celebration of St. Nicholas Day and end on the twentieth, the day of the the long awaited race for the silver skates, but it can be expanded or contracted at will.  (We usually can't wait and gobble the book up in a few evenings.)  There are two chapters per day and all are chronological with the exception of today's reading which jumps ahead to begin with the St. Nicholas celebrations at the home of kindly Hilda van Gleck and then moves back to introduce Hans and Gretel Brinker.  One caution, however, concerning the St. Nicholas chapter, there may be some hints about Santa that the reading parent may want to skip in behalf of any starry-eyed tots in the family.

December 6

The Festival of Saint Nicholas
Hans and Gretel
December 7
The Silver Skates
Hans and Gretel Find a Friend
December 8
Shadows in the Home
December  9
Hans Has His Way
Introducing Jacob Poot and His Cousin
December 10
A Catastrophe
December 11
Homeward Bound
December 12
Boys and Girls
The Crisis
December 13
Gretel and Hilda
The Awakening
December 14
Bones and Tongues
A New Alarm
December 15
The Father's Return
The Thousand Guilders
December 16
Looking For Work
December 17
The Fairy Godmother
The Mysterious Watch
December 18
A Discovery
The Race
December 19 
 Joy in the Cottage
Mysterious Disappearance of Thomas Higgs
December 20 
Broad Sunshine

Our favorite edition is the 1918 Hans Brinker (pictured above) because of the delightful illustrations by Maginel Enwright--used copies of which are still easy to find from online sources.  

For more ideas about creating a Hans Brinker Christmas, see Vol 4 No 1 of The Storybook Home Journal.

Tags: 2011, Christmas, Recommended reading

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