Can you helpme understand The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The Christmas Box is a story written by Richard Paul Evans for his children, of whom the eldest daughter is named Jenna. The story is autobiographical in nature and tells about one eventful time when Paul and his wife Keri and baby Jenna move into a mansion to share the house with the owner, an elderly woman who wants help with household chores like making supper. When Paul and his brother-in-law are moving the Evans' belongings into the fully furnished mansion and storing them in the attic, Paul comes across an elegant and ornate box that contains mementos of family life past and has a Nativity scene painted on it.

The lady of the house explains one night that she owns a French antique Bible that exhibits "a unique art form" by which the edges of its pages are decorated with a watercolor Nativity scene that is only visible when the pages are fanned back:

In the front parlor is a French Bible with what they call fore-edge painting. If you fan the pages back there is a watercolor or the Nativity.

She goes on to say that her deceased husband bought a "Bible box" to house it in but that she thinks "the book is so beautiful that" she leaves it out. Paul immediately recognizes the Bible box as the box in the attic that he has dubbed the Christmas box because of its Nativity scene. The story moves forward upon this basis while symbolically equating life with all the boxes we live with and through from the rectangular bassinet and coffin boxes to the

cigar box, ... the cash box, ... to jewelry boxes more ornate than the treasure they hold .... The human life cycle no less that evolves around the box; ... the box is our past and our present.

The story also moves forward through a parallel symbolism that equates the Christmas box--the emblem of the Infant born in the Nativity painted on it--with the heart of a family and the love that binds and holds a family together, a love drawn, as Evans paints the symbols, from the love of Christ born in the Nativity.

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