chritsmas_dinner

The Long Christmas Dinner

Wilder’s tone is dry, fond; if God were to dabble in anthropology, and the recording angels to write with wry humor and infinite tolerance of human folly, this is how the holy books would read.

– Jeremy McCarter, The New York Times

Of all my plays it is the one that has found the widest variety of receptions. At some performances it has been played to constant laughter; some listeners are deeply moved and shaken by it; some find it cruel and cynical (“What? The dead are forgotten so soon?”)

– Thornton Wilder in a letter written April 11, 1960 to Gertrude Hindemith,
whose husband, the composer Paul Hindemith, wrote an opera based on the play

A Christmas Comedy
5 Men and 7 Women

 

The Long Christmas Dinner–nine decades long–showcases the lives of several generations of the Bayard family, and some of their Christmas dinners. Wilder breaks the boundaries of time as we measure it, and invites us to partake of “one long, happy Christmas dinner”-past, present and future. As generations appear, have children, wither and depart, only the audience appreciates what changes and what remains the same. “Every last twig is wrapped around with ice. You almost never see that,” young Genevieve marvels, not realizing that her mother has made this observation years earlier nor that her daughter-in-law will one day do the same.

 

The Long Christmas Dinner was first produced November 25, 1931 in a joint performance by the Yale Dramatic Association and the Vassar Philalethesis at the Yale University theater in New Haven, Connecticut, along with Love and How to Cure It, Such Things Only Happen in Books, and The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden.

A note on publication:

 

The Long Christmas Dinner was one of the six one-act plays published in The Long Christmas Dinner and Other Plays in One Act (New York: Coward-McCann, 1931). It was reprinted in The Collected Short Plays of Thornton Wilder, published by TCG, edited by Donald Gallup and Tappan Wilder; and in Collected Plays & Writings on Theater edited by J. D. McClatchy, published by The Library of America in 2007.