I’m not really a grinch. My occasional forays into humbug-land notwithstanding, I love Christmas. The season creates in me both a sense of nostalgia and hope for the future. I look back on the past with a conveniently fuzzy memory and long for the way things “used to be” while looking forward to the coming year with hope for the way things might be. I also admit to indulging in my fair share of schmaltz and sentimentality. I’m streaming Christmas carols on Spotify as I type this. I break out the Lenox Christmas china and the Christmas-themed guest towels and ooh and aah over Facebook posts featuring puppies, kittens, and other small animals sporting bows and Santa hats.
I also watch Christmas movies. At least, I used to. I’ve been disappointed recent holiday cinematic offerings. Too many “find a fiance by Christmas” flicks and too few “save the orphanage/feed the hungry, homeless man/save the neighborhood from a greedy developer/bring joy to my elderly, neglected neighbor” flicks. Of course, I can re-watch the classics. I own DVD copies of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” But I wanted something I hadn’t seen before that didn’t involve Christmas kisses, dates, or weddings. Netflix let me down. Not being one to give up hope—it’s Christmas, after all—I decided to search for some classic (translation: written before the 21st century) Christmas stories to read. Here’s a sample of what I found.
“The Little Match Girl.” Hans Christian Andersen’s story turns up on a lot of lists. (Yes, there are lists. I’m not the only one fallen victim to the nostalgia fairy.) I’ve read this one before and it’s a fine story but—spoiler alert—tragic tales of impoverished pre-teens who freeze to death alone at night out of doors are not quite what I had in mind for the festival season.
“The Gift of the Magi.” O. Henry’s tale of love and sacrifice fits the bill of Christmas classic but I’ve read it (I had very good high school English classes) so the twist at the end isn’t so much of a twist anymore.
“A Christmas Carol.” Read Dickens’ classic, too. I actually prefer to listen to Patrick Stewart narrate it, which I did the other day.
“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” I’ve read Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story, too, but it was so long ago I forgot “who done it.” This one goes on the reading list.
“The Elves and the Shoemaker.” One of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales. Lots of fairy tales, especially Andersen’s, show up on Christmas reading lists: “The Fir Tree,” “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” the aforementioned “Little Match Girl.” I love fairy tales, I grew up with them, even studied them in college. That’s when I realized how dark they are, especially the original, not-watered down versions. Better suited to Halloween reading lists.
“At Christmas Time” by Anton Chekov and “Papa Panov’s Special Christmas” by Leo Tolstoy. I knew Chekov and Tolstoy wrote capital-I important, college reading list works. I didn’t know they wrote Christmas stories. On the list.
“A Kidnapped Santa Claus.” Possibly dark. Santa’ kidnapped by demons. But I’m reading it because L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz books, wrote it. And because it sounds like it could be the plot of a Macauly Culkin movie.
“The Holy Night.” Swedish author Selma Lagerlof was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Cold-hearted man meets mysterious beings and learns the true meaning of Christmas. Yeah, I know, sounds kind of like “A Christmas Carol.” But I like “A Christmas Carol.” But “A Christmas Carol” is a holiday classic for a reason—we all want to believe faith and some holiday magic can turn mean spirits into open hearts.
Online Star Registry’s blog (https://osr.org/blog/tips-gifts/20-famous-christmas-stories/) and American Literature’s website (https://americanliterature.com/christmas) contain links to the stories I mentioned as well as several others.
What are some new-to-you (or not-so-new but worth reading again) Christmas classics you want to try?