'This Is A Year To Lift People’s Spirits': Bernadette Nason's New Book Chronicles Her Holiday Struggles
Writer and actor Bernadette Nason has long had a complicated relationship with the holiday season.
“I’ve been known to say I hate Christmas, particularly when I’ve got a martini under my belt,” she writes in her new book Stealing Baby Jesus. “But it’s not true … I don’t hate it. I struggle with it. And to be honest, I'm obsessed with it too.”
Nason claims to have had dozens of bad Christmases, but also says that Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is her favorite book. In fact, she’s been performing a one-woman version of that classic story off and on (mostly on) for years now. She’s even performing a pandemic-friendly, livestreamed version of that show this holiday season.
Some – but not all – of Nason’s yearly struggles with Christmas are chronicled in the new memoir.
“There are 24 chapters in this book, and I could easily have put 50 chapters [in], each one of them [detailing] one disastrous Christmas from my life,” she says, laughing. “But I narrowed it down to 24 because I didn’t want to depress people too much. Actually, most of them end up being funny rather than depressing.”
The stories in the book cover all parts of Nason’s life, from her childhood in her native England to her time spent working in Dubai to her current life as an actor in Austin. There are stories about holiday cooking attempts gone horribly wrong, Christmas day battles with the flu, and of course, the story alluded to in the book's title, in which a very young Bernadette Nason makes the poor decision to steal a small plastic baby Jesus figurine from a local store.
The idea to collect these stories of holiday disaster goes back almost a decade, she says. “[In] 2011, my sister sent me a newspaper – The Guardian, from England – which said that my home town of Winchester was trying to … win the title of 'The Most Christmassy Town in Britain.' And I thought that was the funniest thing I had ever read.”
Nason and her sister agreed that they could think of no happy Christmas memories from growing up in Winchester, and that realization spurred Nason to create a one-woman show (also called Stealing Baby Jesus) for the 2013 holiday season. In the show, she recounted four disastrous Christmas memories, and was surprised by how relatable her audience found those stories. That reaction encouraged her to dig deeper into her holiday memories and she spent the next few years jotting down more stories.
Then 2020 came around and Nason found herself temporarily unable to perform for crowds; the time on her hands had to be spent on something so she spent it turning Stealing Baby Jesus from a stage show into a book.
“I needed to do something, however strange it might’ve been writing about Christmas in spring,” she says. “So I actually forced myself into that writing discipline – get up in the morning, go for your walk, eat your breakfast, drink your tea, and get to your computer and write.”
Spending so much of the year consumed by Christmas has — somewhat to her surprise — not burned Nason out on the holiday.
“The strange thing is that even though I’ve been in it since April, I’m actually looking forward to [Christmas] more this year,” she says. “I’m actually considering decorating my yard, which is something that I’ve never done. It seems to me that this is a year to lift people’s spirits as much as you possibly can. I think this year will be a time where we’re going to be working at that more than ever. Mostly about being kind to each other and loving your neighbor whoever they are.”