I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season.
Christmas is a time of year held together by traditions large and small. One of my small ways to mark the holiday may at first (and, to be honest, probably at second) seem odd: every Christmas Eve, I read the same 7886 words – year in, year out. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle is the only explicitly festive of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, taking place on December 27th and featuring a Victorian winter and a Christmas goose. It is a singularly comedic Holmes story: the great detective shows off a bit, the villain is a bit hopeless, and there’s a pretty happy ending. The plot is not particularly complex, and the solution to the mystery almost handed to us; but in that happy ending lies the story’s particular joy.
Even in the preceding pages, Holmes takes several opportunities to prove what his readers already know about him: he can be cold and unforgiving, aloof and arrogant. He belittles working people, shows modish distaste for urban living, and insults his best friend’s intelligence. Yet, in choosing to let the petty criminal go at the close of the case, he gives in to the good feeling of the season: “This fellow will not go wrong again. Send him to gaol now, and you make him a gaol-bird for life.” There’s a humanity there, a liberality even, which leaves an indulgent smile on the face of any Holmes reader.
And a Holmes reader I am, although in recent years one reduced to this annual visit to an old friend – perhaps that’s one reason I’ve upheld the tradition. Next year, though, I’d like to read one of the 56 Holmes stories a week, and see where it takes me. I’ll post about them here in a bid to keep me honest.
In the meatime, whatever your Christmas traditions, I hope you enjoy each and every one of them. As we said below, we wish you all the very best of the season.