Hey! Unto you a child is born!
With the holidays upon us, I thought I’d revisit one of my favorite Christmas books.
The Herdmans are the worst kids ever. There are six of them, spread over six years (so they never fail class, because what teacher wants two Herdmans simultaneously), and they terrorize the town as their working mother leaves them to fend for themselves while she works double shifts the local shoe factory. The Herdmans smoke, cuss, lie, fight, steal… pretty much everything a kid’s not supposed to do. And somehow they end up smack in the middle of the church’s Christmas pageant, and everyone, including the horrified townspeople, learn the true meaning of Christmas.
I’m not a religious person at all, and this book is fairly religious with its message, but I still greatly enjoy it. For one thing, it’s hilarious. I love the idea of picturing these six punk kids terrorizing a local church by taking over the annual boring pageant. It’s also interesting seeing the Christmas story from an ignorant pair of eyes (six of them). The Christmas story, when looked at objectively, becomes a story of a horrible innkeeper who shoved a hugely pregnant woman into a smelly barn, while a tyrant sent his minions out to spy on the child so that he could kill him (to be honest, this is where I first learned of the Three Wise Men’s original purpose; the annual Christmas cartoons don’t really point out this part of the story). The Herdmans, showing they are not completely evil, actually get offended by this story and want King Herod added to the pageant so they can beat the stuffing out of him (which also make me laugh, picturing Mary with a broom, viciously guarding her baby).
In the end, the Herdmans put on their own special version of the Christmas story, much to the surprise of the jaded audience, who attended in record numbers to see what disaster would happen. A touchingly delightful book, perfect for igniting the Christmas spirit.
Merry Christmas everyone!