Is Christmas ‘a sad season’? John Cheever had the answer

The line at the annual Christmas Bureau giveaway of food and toys in Syracuse, NY.

The line Monday morning at the annual Christmas Bureau giveaway of food and toys in Syracuse, NY — an hour before the doors opened.

Every December I re-read John Cheever’s short story, “Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor.”

And every year I share a link to it on Facebook. I don’t think many people bother to read it — even when I preface it by saying it’s really a very uplifting story of human kindness and redemption.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results, but here we go. Here’s the link to the story, which appeared in the New Yorker, Dec. 24, 1949.

Cheever’s story is quaint, dated and a little over the top. But it’s a wonderful piece of fiction that reinforces the notion that there might just be some hope for us as a species.

You’ll feel damn good at the end, and — I hope — inspired to emulate the actions of the protagonist, Charlie the elevator operator.

The story isn’t that long. I read it again last night, and it took 10 minutes.

Every time I read “Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor,” the eyes well up and I start to lose it a little bit.

So be it. I think it does wonders for the soul. Can you spare 10 minutes?


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in books, communication, hunger, Irish Investigations, language, poverty, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Is Christmas ‘a sad season’? John Cheever had the answer

  1. What a powerful gift, to give the gift of giving to others. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful story. I’ve never read it before…thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. chmjr2 says:

    Just wanted to say Merry Christmas and of course Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. markbialczak says:

    Merry Christmas to you, MG, and Your Three Sons, Jim. I will spare a Dime of My Time tomorrow and click back to read my Cheever’s tale. Today got away from me. Too much bloggery of my own.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A beautiful story Jim. Thank you for sharing it. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lorrie Fitzgibbons says:

    Thanks Jim. I’ve not read this before

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  7. cat9984 says:

    It is a beautiful story. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Friday Pick 134 | talktodiana

  9. I’m one of those visitors from Diana and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed Charlie’s story! I hope your Christmas was filled with joy as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jim … It Cheever’s story is wonderful as it illustrates that we feel much better when we can spread the cheer. Merry Christmas. (Diana sent me, but you know me from Syracuse. I’m Dave Berman’s wife.)


  11. ermigal says:

    An interesting story, Jim…but is there more than meets the eye? I got the feeling Cheever was also poking fun at the one day of the year habit of giving to those who are needier than you, but only on that one day. It would be a good story to discuss. Thanks for offering it to us! Happy New Year! 🙂


    • Jim McKeever says:

      You are definitely onto something there, Ermi. Yes, I think Cheever was poking at the fleeting holiday spirit with the wretched excess of the lavish meals, and when I read it again next year I will keep that perspective in mind. Each time I finish it, though, the message that resonates with me is to share the kindness, and with the urgency of “she couldn’t rest, she couldn’t rest.” I just love that ending! And as 2014 ends, Happy New Year to you as well!


  12. Daniel Gonzalez says:

    very nice


  13. Reblogged this on Martha Keim-St. Louis' blog and commented:
    1Jan14 thanks


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