The Little Women Rules

The Christmas season means a lot of things, but besides the family and friends and magic and joy and love it means in my life, it also means Little Women. As I’ve written before, I’ve read Little Women every Christmas since I was twelve. It’s been a part of my life for just over ten years now and I love this book deeply. You can argue with me all you want, but I will never agree that another book is more perfect than Little Women. I don’t read it for underlying feminist themes, or to recapture a bygone era. I read it because it is life. It has love, sorrow, hardship, courage, laughter, tears, determination, independence and faith, and has given me much good advice over the years. The reason I wear a ship on my necklace comes from this book (See Chapter 44), the reason my children will refer to my mother as Marmee comes from this book, and my personal motto of “Hope and keep busy” was given to me by this book. Louisa May Alcott is a genius, and when I finally visited her house in 2011, I was moved to tears, and proceeded to touch everything I could, even though we were told it was forbidden. Alcott may have thought her text dull and unimportant, but I, and countless other girls, find it continually inspiring and heartwarming.

Because  it’s my personal Christmas tradition, I’ve developed my own ritual over the years. The following are the rules I adhere to when reading Little Women. If I don’t follow them exactly, I’m convinced that Aunt March and her parrot would come scream at me and call me impertinent.

The Little Women Rules

  • The book should be begun no sooner than December 22, and no later than December 24, and should be finished by the time I return to school.
  • Can only be read in the living room, next to the Christmas tree.
  • Can only read in silence or music, not while watching movies or other such distracting media.
  • At least one chapter should be read per day.
  • No food or drink shall be consumed while reading, to preserve the pages, except if said food or drink is kept an arm’s length away from the book.
  • Endnotes should not be read, because this is not an academic text and I don’t need Pilgrim’s Progress and Shylock references explained to me and DEAR SWEET LORD IS NOTHING SACRED!?
  • Crying is totally allowed.
  • So is sighing and saying, “It’s just so wonderful.”
  • It is perfectly appropriate to be indignant at Amy for burning Jo’s story, but only until the end of the chapter, because Amy can’t help herself, she and Jo are more alike than they think.
  • Professor Bhaer is always to be defended against naysayers, because you can’t understand until you read Little Men and Jo’s Boys just how wonderful he is and how he and Jo are perfect together.
  • No chapters can be skipped, however depressing or boring they may seem, because reading Little Women is like life—it’s not always exciting, but it’s always worthwhile.

So, there you have it. My Little Women rules. Is there a book you read every Christmas? I’d love to know. Maybe I’ll find time to read it Christmas 2013—when I’m not living in Concord with the March family, that is. Happy reading!

Me in front of Orchard House in Concord, where Alcott wrote and set Little Women. You can't tell, but I'm shaking with joy.

Me in front of Orchard House in Concord, where Alcott wrote and set Little Women. You can’t tell, but I’m shaking with joy.

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