History of the Christmas Stories

St. Paul writer Roger Barr wrote “The Last Christmas” in late 1996 as a one-off short story about a remarkable nativity scene and its impact on a father-son relationship.

The story was published in December 1997 in the Villager, the Twin Cities’ oldest and most respected community newspaper. In 1999, a sequel “The Orphans’ Christmas” was published by the Villager, inaugurating what has become an annual holiday tradition. With the publication of a 2019 story, there are now twenty-two stories in the Villager series.  The Bartholomew Christmas stories remain the only fiction the Villager has ever published in its nearly 70-year history.

Each story was written to stand alone.  When read in chronological order, however, they loosely tell a longer story about the faith journey of the central character, Matt Bartholomew.  The series includes a host of reoccurring characters including Matt’s family, “Handyman,” (an African American social worker by day and operator of an independent food shelf nights and weekends out of his double garage) and Officer Carter, an African American police officer.  Besides faith issues, the series has delved into family relationships and social issues including poverty, racism, homelessness and immigration.

In 2003, a food shelf was incorporated into the plot and hunger issues have been addressed directly or indirectly in every story since then.  In 2004, he organized the first of what became an annual holiday reading to benefit a local food shelf.  Since 2004, hunger relief has been addressed in every story, and Roger has organized a benefit reading each year to support an area food shelf.

From Stories to Books

In 2010, the first 13 stories published between 1997 and 2010 were collected in the book Getting Ready for Christmas & Other Stories. That book has sold out its press run. In 2019, The Christmas Promise: More Holiday Stories By Roger Barr collected nine stories written and published from 2011 to 2019. It is described in detail under the section “About these Books” on this website

As of 2020, sales and readings associated with these two books have raised more than $60,000 for food shelves in the Twin Cities.