Merry Christmas by Stephen Leacock, 1914
The magic trick:
Delivering a message that is specific to the readership of its time, but also dealing in universal themes
This story represents a neat way of being very much of its time while also being timeless. Clearly it was written for an audience contending with the agony wrought by World War I. Father Christmas has some kind of terrifying post traumatic stress disorder in the story. But it also hits home with today’s reader because the themes of love, resilience, and optimism are universal. And that’s quite a trick on Leacock’s part.
Old Christmas seated himself beside the fire, his hands outstretched towards the flames. Something of his old-time cheeriness seemed to flicker across his features as he warmed himself at the blaze.
“That’s better,” he murmured. “I was cold, sir, cold, chilled to the bone. Of old I never felt it so; no matter what the wind, the world seemed warm about me. Why is it not so now?”
“You see,” said Time, speaking low in a whisper for my ear alone, “how sunk and broken he is? Will you not help?”
“Gladly,” I answered, “if I can.”
“All can,” said Father Time, “every one of us.”