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Little Christmas Eve and The Festival of Christmas by Mary Hinderlie, Edna Hong and Floy Dalton: Mid Century Advent

The Festival of Christmas: Cover
The Festival of Christmas: A Book of Days by Mary Hinderlie and Edna Hong. Illustrated by Floy Dalton. 1954.

When I was 7 or 8, our next door neighbor, Mrs. Firth, gave me a booklet called The Festival of Christmas: A Book of Days, written by Mary Hinderlie and Edna Hong and illustrated by Floy Dalton in 1954.  Every year I would get it out at the beginning of advent to follow day by day, with activities and drawings.  I was intrigued by the illustration of The Ecclesiastical Year, with the liturgical colors arranged in a wheel.  I went to a Moravian church, and didn’t recall seeing such a wheel before; Mrs. Firth went to an Anglican church, which likely had more in the way of liturgy and symbolism.

In my usual librarian way, I wanted to know more about the authors, and was surprised by what I found.  Mary Hinderlie( 1914-2003) was a Lutheran lay theologian and missionary who spent 3 years in a Japanese POW camp during WWII, with her husband and baby daughter.  Mary and her husband Carroll organized theological and political discussions among their fellow inmates to keep spirits up.  Edna Hong, was also Lutheran, and she and her husband Howard Hong, were passionate about the works of Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard(someone who I was also drawn to), and became the foremost translators of his work into English.  Floy Ann Dalton is a cipher though, with only a reference to her as an “Illustrator for Hire” which sounds much too utilitarian for someone who did these lively drawings.

The Festival of Christmas: The Ecclesiastical Year
The Festival of Christmas: A Book of Days. Illustrations by Floy Dalton. The Ecclesiastical Year

I enjoyed the illustrations with their quick lines, and the pages in pale green and the type in dark green or red. It’s where I first heard of Little Christmas Eve.  The writers explain that on this night in Norway, you invite your oldest friends to sample the baking and see the “shining house of Christmas” but ask also if there is a stranger at the gates, who needs the heart warmth of the coffee and the candlelight of friendship, and being at home in the family of God.  So let us look for those who need light in the darkness of winter and of a season that can bring a deluge of loneliness and grief for those missing someone they love.

The Festival of Christmas: December 23, Little Christmas Eve
Little Christmas Eve, December 23rd. From The Festival of Christmas: A Book of Days by Mary Hinderlie and Edna Hong. Illustrated by Floy Dalton. 1954.

4 comments

  1. I know the children of Carroll and Mary Hinderlie. I probably met the couple years ago, but don’t remember. Their son, Johann, has been the director of a camp that my family has been attending for years. I’ve heard his colleagues speak of that time in prison. I know the little girl who was a baby then, Maren, and have done some of her storytelling classes. They’re a remarkable family. She tells of how they celebrated her first birthday in prison camp. I didn’t know about this little book, but how fun to see those familiar names on your blog today.

      • Maren Hinderlie says:

        Thank you for this story. Mary is my mother and Edna the mother of my former husband. I love this book and use it every year. You are right to ask for more info about Floy. She is a fine artist living on Lopez Island. She will be delighted to know this illustrating by her is still enjoyed! There are other books like this but I’ve never found one I like better. You describe it well.The book was reprinted and sold at Holden Village a retreat center in the Cascade Mountains on Lake Chelan.

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