“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
A Christmas Carol was written in 1843 by Charles Dickens. Short on time and obligated to produce a piece for his editor, Dickens wrote this story using many details from his own life. In the story, he tells the tale of an old, bitter man named Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is visited by three ghosts who take him on a journey through Christmases past, present, and future.
“I hope you will like the little things I have sent you. You seem to be most interested in Railways just now, so I am sending you mostly things of that sort. I send as much love as ever, in fact more. We have both, the old Polar Bear and I, enjoyed having so many nice letters from you and your pets. If you think we have not read them you are wrong; but if you find that not many of the things you asked for have come, and not perhaps quite as many as sometimes, remember that this Christmas all over the world there are a terrible number of poor and starving people. I (and also my Green Brother) have had to do some collecting of food and clothes, and toys too, for the children whose fathers and mothers and friends cannot give them anything, sometimes not even dinner. I know yours won’t forget you. So, my dears, I hope you will be happy this Christmas and not quarrel, and will have some good games with your Railway all together. Don’t forget old Father Christmas, when you light your tree.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
Every December, J.R.R. Tolkien’s children would receive a letter from ‘Father Christmas’. These letters shared Father Christmas’s experiences that year — from an accident-prone polar bear to goblin wars in caves beneath the house — and are riddled with life lessons. In Letters from Father Christmas, Tolkien has compiled all these short stories into one book for you to enjoy with your children.
“The village people didn’t know it, but there was a reason for his gloom, a reason for his grumbling, a reason he walked hunched over, as if he were carrying a great weight on his shoulders…” -Susan Wojciechowski
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a story about loss, love, and healing. It’s a gentle reminder to love all, even those who appear unwelcoming, because you may not know their struggle.
“The magi, as you know, were wise men — wonderfully wise men — who brought gifts to the newborn Christ-child. They were the first to give Christmas gifts. Being wise, their gifts were doubtless wise ones. And here I have told you the story of two children who were not wise. Each sold the most valuable thing he owned in order to buy a gift for the other. But let me speak a last word to the wise of these days: Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise. Everywhere they are the wise ones. They are the magi.” -O. Henry
A Gift of the Magi is a beautiful short story about the personal sacrifices we are willing to make for the ones we love.
“My, how foolish I am! You know what I’ve always thought? I’ve always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don’t know it’s getting dark. And it’s been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I’ll wager it never happens. I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are, just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.” ―Truman Capote
A Christmas Memory is a collection of autobiographical stories by Truman Capote. Originally published in 1956, it’s become a Christmas classic riddled with gems like the quote above.
“Kind reader, or listener, whatever may be your name, whether Frank, Robert, Henry, — Anna or Maria, I beg you to call to mind the table covered with your last Christmas gifts, as in their newest gloss they first appeared to your delighted vision. You will then “be able to imagine the astonishment of the children, as they stood with sparkling eyes, unable to utter a word, for joy at the sight before them.” -E.T.A. Hoffmann
The Nutcracker and The Mouse King is a novel written in 1816 by the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann. Although we highly recommend the book, if reading ain’t your style, then check out The Nutcracker Ballet or Disney’s short film (my personal favorite).
“On both sides in 1915 there would be more dead on any single day than yards gained in the entire year. And there would be nearly four more years of attrition — not to determine who was right, but who was left.”―Stanley Weintraub
In 1914 during World War 1, a Christmas truce spontaneously broke out in the trenches. In Silent Night, Stanley Weintraub provides an in-depth analysis of this forgotten Christmas story.
8 The Battered Bastards of Bastogne: The 101st Airborne and the Battle of the Bulge by George Koskimaki
“December 22nd 1944
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands. There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note. If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours’ term. All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the wellknown American humanity.
The German Commander.”
“December 22, 1944
To the German Commander,
N U T S !
The American Commander”
Although not strictly a ‘Christmas story’, this book covers the Battle of the Bulge, which took place during WWII from December 19, 1944, to January 17, 1945. It was the bloodiest battle of the war, and as many of the soldiers lacked basic cold gear, it was also one of the most physically testing. The Battered Bastards of Bastogne is comprised of 530 soldiers’ accounts of the battle. It’s definitely not a light read.
“As soon as it was midnight, there came in two little naked dwarfs; and they sat themselves upon the shoemaker’s bench, took up all the work that was cut out, and began to ply with their little fingers, stitching and rapping and tapping away at such a rate, that the shoemaker was all wonder, and could not take his eyes off them. And on they went, till the job was quite done, and the shoes stood ready for use upon the table.”
The Elves and the Shoemaker is a classic fairy tale by the Grimm brothers. One morning, a shoemaker comes into his shop to find a beautiful pair of shoes has been made for him to sell. Astonished, he determines to find out who he should thank for the service.
“There were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers. They were all brothers, born of the same old tin spoon. They shouldered their muskets and looked straight ahead of them, splendid in their uniforms, all red and blue…. All the soldiers looked exactly alike except one. He looked a little different as he had been cast last of all. The tin was short, so he had only one leg. But there he stood, as steady on one leg as any of the other soldiers on their two. But just you see, he’ll be the remarkable one.” -Hans Christian Andersen
In The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Hans Christian Andersen tells the tale of a tin soldier’s many adventures.
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there”
Although commonly referred to as ’Twas The Night Before Christmas,’ this children’s Christmas poem is actually titled A visit from St. Nicholas. Like many of you I’m sure, reading this on Christmas Eve is a family tradition.
“I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me…I can read your and your baby sister’s jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters — I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself — and kissed both of you, too…But…there were…one or two small orders which I could not fill because we ran out of stock…”
Similar to Tolkien’s Letters From Father Christmas, Mark Twain’s A Letter from Santa Claus is a letter that was sent from ‘Santa Claus’ to Twain’s 3-year old daughter.
“‘Rejoice in thy youth,’ said the sunbeam; ‘rejoice in thy fresh growth and in the young life that is in thee.’”
-Hans Christian Andersen
The Fir Tree is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It tells the story of a young tree that wants nothing more than to grow up. In focusing so much on the future, the tree forgets to truly appreciate the present.
“Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and everyone around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.”-Charles Dickens
In this essay, Charles Dickens discusses what we need to remember about Christmas time as we grow older.
“It is possible for any man, by good deeds, to enshrine himself as a Saint in the hearts of the people.”
― L. Frank Baum
Two years after publishing Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum wrote this story about the life of Santa Claus. Baum follows Santa as he learns to make toys, picks out his reindeer, and visits every child in one night.
“He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods — the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.” -Robert Frost
Christmas Trees is a poem by Robert Frost that “encapsulates the wisdom of a Vermont farmer and the beauty of his country.”
“Ah, that was the true joy of life, the ability to love. Love was still alive in him, it still was.
It occurred to him suddenly that it was alive because long ago it had been born in him when he knew his father loved him. That was it: Love alone could awaken love. And he could give the gift again and again.” -Pearl S. Buck
A boy surprises his father be getting up very early in the morning to take care of the work on the farm. A cute short story about love and family.
“The matches glowed with a light that was brighter than the noon-day, and her grandmother had never appeared so large or so beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and they both flew upwards in brightness and joy far above the earth, where there was neither cold nor hunger nor pain, for they were with God.” -Hans Christian Andersen
Another story from Hans Christian Andersen. In The Little Match Girl, a young girl spends her New Year’s Eve on the streets trying to sell matches. She is poorly dressed for the cold and no one is interested in the matches, but she’s afraid to return home having not sold anything. She seeks shelter in an alley where she imagines herself in Heaven with her grandmother.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
had a very shiny nose
and if you ever saw him
you would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.” -Johnny Marks, songwriter
Robert L. May wrote Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer at the request of the department store company Montgomery Ward. The story was given out for free to over 2 million children who visited the stores during Christmas time of 1939. Robert’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, saw the popularity of the story and wrote the song we all know and love. From there, the story took off and now we can’t imagine Christmas without our best bud, Rudolph.
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” ―Dr. Seuss
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! is a children’s story that, even as adults, we enjoy reading every year. Dr. Seuss is great at sneaking deep life lessons into his stories, and in this tale, he demonstrates that Christmas is a spiritual experience, not a material one.
“Caleb was no sorcerer, but in the only magic art that still remains to us, the magic of devoted, deathless love, Nature had been the mistress of his study; and from her teaching, all the wonder came.” ―Charles Dickens
This is the third book in Charles Dickens’s series of five Christmas novels. The story is about a cricket who serves as a guardian angel to a young family.
“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.” ―Arthur Conan Doyle
For you Sherlock Holmes fans out there, here is a Christmas mystery.
“I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snows I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day… and it was on that day I made the Snowman.” -Raymond Briggs
This is another one of those books that we read every Christmas when we were little. A little boy makes a snowman and it magically comes to life. Then the snowman takes the boy on a great adventure to the North Pole.
“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” -Chris Van Allsburg
In the middle of the night, a young boy is woken by a train pulling up outside his house. The train is full of children and it takes them to the North Pole where he gets to meet Santa Claus. This book was turned into a fantastic film that we also recommend checking out.
“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s old broken-down toolhouse.” ―Barbara Robinson
This is a hilarious Christmas story about how the Herdman children learn the Christmas story in their own… uh, unique… way. If you are looking for some laughs, definitely give this one a read.
“It seems as if we can’t go right, or do right, or be righted,’ said Toby. ‘I hadn’t much schooling, myself, when I was young; and I can’t make out whether we have any business on the face of the earth, or not. Sometimes I think we must have a little; and sometimes I think we must be intruding. I get so puzzled sometimes that I am not even able to make up my mind whether there is any good at all in us, or whether we are born bad. We seem to do dreadful things; we seem to give a deal of trouble; we are always being complained of and guarded against. One way or another, we fill the papers. Talk of a New Year!’ said Toby, mournfully.” ―Charles Dickens
The Chimes is Dickens’s second Christmas short story. The story is about a discouraged elderly messenger who has lost faith in humanity. He is drawn to the belltower of a church where he finds the spirits of the bells and goblin attendants. Through a series of visions, he learns why he must not give up hope in man’s ability to improve.
“Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers, look heavenward and speak the word aloud. Peace.” -Maya Angelou
In this deeply inspiring poem, Maya Angelou calls on us to embrace one another despite differing beliefs, seek peace, and enjoy life.
“Change me back,” George pleaded. “Change me back — please. Not just for my sake but for others too. You don’t know what a mess this town is in. You don’t understand. I’ve got to get back. They need me here.”
“I understand right enough,” the stranger said slowly. “I just wanted to make sure you did. You had the greatest gift of all conferred upon you — the gift of life, of being a part of this world and taking a part in it. Yet you denied that gift.”
-Philip Van Doren Stern
The Greatest Gift is a short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1943. A suicidal man named George Pratt stands on a bridge on Christmas Eve, ready to jump. Before he can, an odd man approaches him and strikes up a conversation. George admits to the man that he wishes he had never been born. The man tells George that his wish has been granted, and upon returning to his town, George finds that no one recognizes him. After the initial shock, he realizes just how much he values his life and learns that to throw it all away would be a waste.
Fun Fact: This story became the basis for the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life (my all time favorite movie).
“Do you know what the imagination is, Susan?”
The child nodded sagely. “That’s when you see things that aren’t really there.”
“Well, not exactly,” said Kris with a smile. “No — to me the imagination is a place all by itself. A very wonderful country. You’ve heard of the British Nation and the French Nation?”
Susan nodded again.
“Well, this is the Imagination. And once you get there you can do almost anything you want.”
This is the best-selling book adaptation of the famous movie.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is A Charlie Brown Christmas. A memorable scene from this film is when Linus tells Charlie Brown what ‘Christmas is all about.’ He then recites the following passage from The Bible:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding
in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the
heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men.
— Book 42, Luke (002:08–14)
The Bible, King James Version
Struggling to find your Christmas spirit? Well, what better place to look than in The Bible itself?