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Christmas Books

The holiday season brings with it a timeless collection of classic Christmas books that have captivated readers for generations. These beloved stories transcend their seasonal setting to offer enjoyment and inspiration year-round. Whether you curl up by the fire in December or seek a dose of holiday spirit in the middle of summer, these Christmas books provide a perfect escape into the magic of Christmas. They remind us of the joy and wonder that the season brings.

Christmas books on table with red and white ribbon

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens  (1843)

No list of classic Christmas books would be complete without mentioning Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Although traditionally associated with the holiday season, this timeless tale of redemption, compassion, and the true meaning of Christmas can be appreciated any time of the year. It’s a mandatory read for anyone needing inspiration to embody the generous and joyful spirit of the season. It tells the story of elderly miser Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformative journey guided by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

Fun Fact: Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in just six weeks when Dickens was desperate for money.

Christmas book A Christmas Carol with cup of coffee and scarf

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote (1956)

This semi-autobiographical story encapsulates Capote’s childhood memories of an elderly cousin. They became best friends and holiday companions, making fruitcakes and homemade gifts despite their lack of money. The nostalgic story captures the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child.

Fun Fact:  This short story was originally published in Mademoiselle magazine in December 1956.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (1905)

O. Henry’s classic short story, The Gift of the Magi, is a poignant exploration of love and sacrifice. A young married couple’s thoughtful gifts for each other reveal the true spirit of giving.  While often associated with Christmas, its themes are universal and can be appreciated throughout the year.

Fun Fact: The author served five years in prison for embezzling $5,000 from a bank where he worked.

The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern (1943)

This short story is about George Pratt, a man deeply disheartened and contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. When an angel named Clarence appears, George expresses a wish that he had never been born. Clarence grants his wish, and George sees how the lives of his family, friends, and community would have been negatively affected without him. Realizing his own worth and the positive impact he has had on others, George pleads for to his former life. Clarence grants him his wish and he returns home with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude.

Fun Fact: This short story inspired the classic 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. Despite the film’s initial lukewarm reception, it has since become one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time.

One of the Christmas books with decorative coffee mug in front of Christmas tree

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie (1938)

Belgium’s iconic detective, Hercule Poirot, gets snowed in with a contentious family on Christmas Eve. When a wealthy patriarch mysteriously dies in his locked room, the detective must solve the case.

Fun Fact: The detective Hercule Poirot appeared in 33 novels, 2 plays, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975.

Fun Fact: Christie wrote the story under the glow of her home’s Christmas tree each night.

Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien (1976)

Between the 1920s and 1940s, the Lord of the Rings author wrote annual illustrated letters to his children from Father Christmas detailing the happenings at the North Pole. This compilation published after his death contains the complete collection of letters and illustrations about funny mishaps with North Pole animals, special gifts, and more.

Fun Fact: Tolkien wrote and illustrated these letters annually for his children, creating a lovely tradition that continued for many years.

Statue of Santa Claus holding a bear

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen (1845)

This tragic tale depicts the plight of an impoverished young girl trying to sell matches on New Year’s Eve. While heartbreaking, it delivers a powerful message about charity and social injustice.

Fun Fact: Andersen got the idea to write the story after seeing a print by Johan Thomas Lundbye of a little girl selling matches. 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

While not exclusively a Christmas tale, this famous coming-of-age novel set during and after the Civil War, follows the lives of March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as they navigate the struggles of adolescence. The heartwarming and memorable Christmas scene is iconic in American literature. The March sisters, despite their financial struggles, decide to spend their small allowance on gifts for their mother and give their Christmas breakfast to a poor family. The act demonstrates their selflessness and compassion. It’s a scene that beautifully captures the spirit of generosity, family, and making the most of what one has. This is one of the most iconic Christmas books in literature.

Fun Fact: Alcott drew inspiration for the March family’s festive celebrations from her own holiday memories with her real-life sisters.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1816)

The Nutcracker, immortalized in Tchaikovsky’s ballet, originated from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s fairy tale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This classic story combines magic, adventure, and the spirit of Christmas in a captivating narrative. Young Marie’s beloved Christmas nutcracker comes alive as a handsome prince after battling the evil Mouse King. The story transports readers to the enchanting world of Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Fun Fact:  In German folklore, it is believed that nutcrackers protect your family and bring your home good luck.

Red and gold Christmas balls hanging on a tree

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies (1947)

The story follows Kris Kringle, an elderly man who fills in as Santa Claus at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Kringle surprises everyone by claiming to be the real Santa Claus. His genuine belief in his identity and his subsequent commitment to spreading Christmas cheer lead to a courtroom battle to prove his authenticity. Through the characters’ journey, the story emphasizes faith, the spirit of Christmas, and the power of believing in the extraordinary.

Fun Fact: The best selling novella, Miracle on 34th Street, was published simultaneously with the release of the famous 1947 film adaptation, which starred Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and won three Academy Awards.

These classic Christmas books hold a special place in literature, offering timeless stories that resonate with readers of all ages. They have transcended their holiday roots to become cherished reads at any time of year. Their enduring appeal lies in their ability to remind us of the joy and wonder the season brings.  They make perfect companions not just for the holidays, but for moments when we need a touch of holiday spirit and inspiration.

Wooden carving of the word joy with plaid ribbons

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