Irving, Washington. "Christmas Eve".
The story is introduced by a poem by Cartwright which prays for the blessing of the house.
The first person narrator and his companion Bracebridge arrive at the mansion of the companion's father. It is Christmas Eve.
The father, referred to as "The Squire", is an old English country gentleman, a highly respectable man. He is very hospitable and charitable, as he provides even his servants with a nice Christmas celebration. Bracebridge explains the attitudes of the Squire: he turns out to be very conservative, keen in preserving old English traditions, and always emphasizing the value of home.
When entering the mansion, the both men are urged to join the party immediately. Traditional food is served. The hall where the party is held is described in some detail: the ancient hall is restored to its original condition as much as possible. The traditions are clung to: the Yule clog burns in the fireplace (= a large piece of wood which should burn all night, if it goes out, it is considered an ill omen). Also the people are described: an eccentric bachelor, a young officer wounded at Waterloo, the Squire's young lady ward, etc. There is dancing and singing.
The company retires with the kind-hearted old custom of shaking hands. In his room the narrator hears some distant music and concludes that it is the Waits from some neighbouring village who pass the house playing. He listens to them for a while, and as the sounds become more and more remote, he falls asleep.
- a calm and peaceful story paying tribute to the value of tradition
- presents an ideal celebration of the Christmas Eve according to the customs of the place
- emphasizes atmosphere rather than action (the meal, the design of the rooms, the Yule clog, etc.)
AuthorIrving, Washington. (1783 - 1859).
Full Title"Christmas Eve".
First PublishedIn: The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. NY: C. S. Van Winkle, 1820.
Irving, Washington. "Christmas Eve". (1820). In: The Chief American Prose Writers. Ed. Norman Forster. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1916.