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The Golden Ring: A Christmas Story    by John Snyder order for
Golden Ring
by John Snyder
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2001 (1999)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Golden Ring is an old-fashioned story, mixing the simple joys of Christmas past, with Christian beliefs and spirituality, a touch of magic, and an emphasis on family and the true meaning of the holiday. The tale is based on a story told to the author by his eighty-nine year-old grandmother, Anna Snyder, from memories of her childhood and the Christmas gift of a golden ring.

Anna Beal is nine years old in 1918 Meyersdale, 'nestled in the snow-covered mountains of western Pennsylvania's coal country'. There she lives with her parents, Joseph and Elda and five siblings. It is four days before Christmas and the household bustles with preparations. Anna, a loving little girl, adores her hard-working father, who works as a railroad engineer. While Joseph tolerates the family's enjoyment of the trappings of the holiday, he 'did not believe that Christmas should be anything other than a celebration of the birth of Christ, plain and simple.'

However, he begins to have visions of an angel and a ring, and these prompt him to give in to the urgings of his family and join them on their expedition to bring home a Christmas tree, making it 'extra special' for Anna. Joseph and Anna both dream about a ring, and Anna almost loses a treasured one that her parents gave her as a birthday gift. Then Anna befriends a little girl her own age, crying in the park, and has a difficult decision to make.

She does what she feels is the right thing, but her father is cross, and then saddened that he expressed anger to a daughter who simply followed the urgings of her heart and acted according to what he himself taught her. While waiting for a return train in a nearby town, he tries to buy a ring, hears a tragic story, and is snowed in while his family await his return on Christmas Eve. When he rejoins them, his gift to Anna is a powerful lesson about 'the goodness that comes from giving.'

The Golden Ring reminded me somewhat of Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving, dwelling on the same sorts of details of a family holiday. It's a heartwarming tale with an ending that is surprising, yet provides a sense of symmetry. Add it to your collection of Christmas classics to be read aloud to younger members of the family or quietly to yourself, as a lesson to the kids and a reminder to the rest of us of what the holiday should be all about.

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