Keeping Holiday. Starr Meade. Illustrated by Justin Gerard. 2008. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: The car, already barely moving, came to a complete stop. Dylan looked out his window at the car in the next lane, then at the car on the other side. Neither of them moved either. "Guess we'll be sitting here for a while," Dad said, but he wasn't complaining. "It's just like last year and the year before that," Mom said, and she she wasn't complaining either.
Premise/plot: Dylan loves, loves, loves to go to Holiday with his family. But as he gets older, he begins to wonder is there a way to keep holiday all year long?! He won't find answers quickly--no, it will take several Holiday vacations before he even begins his four-day-quest to discover the real Holiday. (The Holiday he's been visiting with his family year after year, he learns, is merely the Visitor's Center of Holiday.) His parents send him on his journey, hoping for the best, but knowing that he must do this all on his own. But he won't be on his journey alone, Clare, his cousin, joins him. And he will find hindrances along the way. Namely a Mr. Smith who seems determined to keep him from discovering the real Holiday and becoming an authorized guest.
If there's a resounding theme (or echo) to this Christmas-themed allegory it's this: You can't find the Founder; he finds you. He's not just the Founder, he's the Finder too.
My thoughts: The book is strange. I won't lie. You have to accept the strangeness, almost welcome and celebrate the strangeness, the foreignness. It requires you to completely suspend your disbelief and accept the way things work in a fictional world. Yes, this is required in speculative fiction too, but, even more so in allegory or parable.
Keeping Holiday is an allegory about salvation. Dylan and Clare are "seeking" salvation and discovering that they wouldn't even be seeking if God wasn't the Seeker. The two discover that God is the author of salvation from start to finish. Of course, this being an allegory, readers never hear talk of God or Christ or Jesus or Christmas or Easter or the cross or the resurrection. One learns about an Emperor and a Founder and a King.
I do like the fact that the book acknowledges there is a difference between celebrating Christmas and celebrating the CHRIST of Christmas. That one can only really genuinely celebrate Christmas when you know the Savior. Knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, trusting Jesus, worshipping Jesus enhance Christmas celebrations. There is a very specific reason for the season--and it isn't an excuse to eat cookies or buy yourself stuff. So I liked aspects of this one very much. But other elements just didn't quite work for me--as allegories.
For example, in real life, the gospel should be presented clearly, openly, unashamedly, all year long. No games, no waiting games, no teasing, no follow the clues and hints, and maybe just maybe I'll tell you more. The gospel should not be presented in a scavenger-hunt way. The gospel should not be presented vaguely or smugly or 'you'll see for yourself later after you follow this long and hard trail.' That's not to say that the gospel isn't personal. It is. You cannot have faith for another person. You cannot have trust for another person. You can't pass out faith like you pass out tracts. It doesn't work like that. So, yes, it is something that a believer has to experience on their own. And they do have a 'faith journey' in a way. But the gospel is something simple and clear and factual.
This was my fifth time to read Starr Meade's Keeping Holiday.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible