I found this just a few days ago - it's from the Chris Beetles Art Gallery in London. I fell in love with it - don't you think it's got a particularly giggly, delicious quality to it? Those shepherds keeping watch (or chewin' the fat, looks more like to me) - they're just so ... um ... well, so shepherdy.
Then there's this one:
It's called "Christmas Thieves" - look closely - see them?
One thing that is a distinct difference between American Christmas and Euro or Brit Christmas is that crazy sense of the slightly off-kilter - the magical in the same sense that faeries and wood sprites and ogres are magical. There's a keen sense, especially in all the British literature, of the things just beyond the boundaries of ordinary human sight, and at Christmas time they break through and bother us.
Charles Dickens' is well known for his ghost story A Christmas Carol, and we shop-n-smile 'mericans are generally okay with what could appear to be a morality tale about not being selfish at Christmas time. (Shopping's good if you're doing it for things you're going to give to other people, right?) But did you know our Mr. Dickens also wrote a whole book of other Ghost Stories for Christmas?
The Publishers Notes on this newest edition say: Utilizing fascinating and often little known facts about each story, Peter Haining also argues that it was Dickens who inextricably linked Christmas with the supernatural, together with perpetrating the idea of a White Christmas.
Maybe. But he sure didn't invent the idea of the supernatural sneaking or breaking or popping into the safe, natural, "known" world. Dickens didn't do that. God did that. And there's something particularly British in the understanding and story-telling about things at Christmastide that come out of the darkness ... and then walk right up to you and tweak you on the nose.