How Mrs. Clause Saved Christmas by Jeff Guinn is my third read for the Spirit of Christmas Challenge. I highly recommend this one if you are looking for a "Meaning of Christmas" read rather just a story set during the holiday.
This is the story of Mrs. Claus, Layla, and how she met her husband Nicholas as the desire to bestow gifts on poor families brought them together. They are joined by other famous companions, but this is more quick backstory. The real focus is on England in the 1600's when the Puritans are rising to power and having difficulties with King Charles I. The Puritans felt that celebrating Christmas was actually sinful, as the December 25th actually corresponds with a pagan holiday, and that people used it as an excuse for bad behaviour, that it was actually offensive to God. There was a lot of interesting history presented here that I was not aware of, and will be interested to find out more about. Mrs. Claus feels called to stay in England during the troubles and try to save the holiday that was the only highlight for many of the people during the year.
The main theme of the story is gift-giving. Not the lavish presents we often bestow on our family and yes, let's face it, ourselves, but the kind of giving that embodies the true spirit of Christmas, food and clothing for those in need, and yes, maybe a toy or some candy. The kind of giving that comes from the desire to make someone else's life just a little bit easier and happier. I practiced my own version of this during my reading of the book, as I donated a batch of toys to Toys for Tots yesterday, embarrassingly getting quite emotional as I handed them over to the retired marines manning the bins. I had a lot of fun shopping for these gifts with my Mom and my husband, (who wouldn't, I mean, toys, come on!) as I imagined a child opening them on Christmas Day. And Mom, if you're reading this post, no I really don't need a blue Barbie horse of my own, I promise! ;)
It's a wonderful yet poignant feeling to freely give gifts to someone in need, especially because we never know when the tables might be turned and we're the ones in need of help. I was amazed to find out how many people are at poverty level in my own county, I honestly had no idea as we're joked about being rather affluent in this area. So if you feel the need to make a difference, there are many opportunities. You can contact places like Harvesters, and the Salvation Army, or look for some local charities in your area, we have several here, they are constantly in need of volunteers and funds, and many make it easy to donate to them even through online websites. It may feel "too easy" to just make an online donation, but trust me, these places have become masters at stretching a dollar, so anything you can give will help them. I hope someday to step up my own "giving" into some volunteer time as well, but until I'm ready for that kind of commitment, I'll continue donate here and there as I buy my groceries, and buy toys at Christmas, little things here and there. Because if everyone is doing little things, they add up to big things!
I did not really see any official website for Jeff Guinn as an author, but here is a link to an article where he is talking about the Christmas Chronicles, of which the Mrs. Claus book is a part: Jeff Guinn Interview
ETA: I stand corrected, I did not think at first this site was for the correct Jeff Guinn, but it does appear to be, as he does mention a book about Bonnie and Clyde in the interview, so here is the Official Jeff Guinn Publisher Page.