Top 5 Christmas Stories
(other than the original and the stories contained in my book “Christmas Wishes”)
This is a short list of stories containing a Christmas theme that have become annual favorites of mine. Some are stand-alone stories; others are excerpts from longer works. Some you have heard of, some you have not. Some you may agree with their being placed in the “Top 5,” others you may not – Feel free to add your own Top Christmas stories via the comments.
5. Christmas Eve by Washington Irving. Irving’s 1812 publication The Sketch Book contains five entries regarding a traditional Christmas celebration at a country manor house in England. Because of these chapters, the Sketch Book is often credited with revitalizing the celebration of the Christmas Holidays in the United States as well as England, both of whom had been indifferent to what was then considered a minor holy day by most Christian faiths. Indeed, in most areas of Puritan New England the celebration of Christmas was illegal, probably due to its past history as a time of unbridled revelry and debauchery by the lower classes. Irving presents the reader with a polished, calm, fictionalized account of a ‘traditional,’ Old World Christmas, complete with blankets of pure, white snow, mistletoe and holly, merriment and gatherings of family and friends.
4. Gifts of the Magi by O. Henry. As the pen name of William Sidney Porter, O. Henry became synonymous with the ironic or ‘twist’ ending. This is on full display in what is his best-known short story, “Gifts of the Magi.” In this 1906 short story – allegedly written at Pete’s Tavern in New York City – an economically disadvantaged young married couple each give up their most precious possession in order to buy the other a special Christmas gift. Often re-written and/or parodied, the original story has never been improved upon.
3.A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. A boyhood memory of young Buddy (Truman Capote) and his elderly distant cousin in which she engages Buddy in the annual hunt for special ingredients with which to make her Christmas fruitcakes as gifts for friends and family. You do not have to be a fruitcake fan (and let’s be honest – most aren’t) in order to be warmed by this recollection of the holiday during simpler times, prior to unrestrained commercialization, when the love that went into making a gift and the time spent in receiving it were often of greater value than the gift itself.
2. Christmas Fare by Rip Rense. In a chapter from his fictionalized autobiography, “The Oaks,” writer Rip Rense recounts (how’s that for alliteration?) a treasured Christmas memory. Young Charlie Bogle, getting off the bus en route to visit his mother for Christmas, finds himself in a strange town and discovers he has lost all his money. It’s a Christmas only Santa himself can save.
1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It seems so obvious for this book to be on the list that I debated its inclusion for quite awhile. But, as I write in the beginning of my book “Christmas Wishes,” while most folks are familiar with the title of this Dickens book and much of its iconography, it turns out very few have actually read it, and that is a shame of tragic proportions. Everyone owes it to himself or herself to read the story of Scrooge and his dark night of the soul and his eventual redemption by the grace of Christmas, in its original version and at least three times during their life. A diligent reader can plow through the novella on a Christmas Eve, and the lazy ones can start the book during Thanksgiving weekend and easily finish by Christmas. The humor and humanity of the story will give the modern reader pause for reflection regarding what the Holiday Season has become, who exactly is really ‘at war with Christmas,’ and inspiration to create something more meaningful, within their own family at the very least.