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.
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.