It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! With the festive season fast approaching, what better way to avoid the cold weather than to spend some time reading a really good book?
Classics are a great choice for your Christmas reading list, because, just like the holiday itself, they provide a sense of magic each year with the familiarity of their stories. Anticipating Christmas is, for many people, just as exciting as the day itself, and classics such as A Christmas Carol have become emblematic of the festive season, and an essential part of many people’s Christmas traditions. In a year of such uncertainty, we hope that these Christmas classics offer some comfort and joy. So, whether you’re looking for escapism, the perfect stocking filler, or a festive read to help get you into the Christmas spirit, we have the perfect suggestions for you.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This 1843 Christmas novella, published by Charles Dickens, is one of the most iconic, festive stories to date. With countless retellings the popularity continues to grow and find its way into more family traditions. The story follows Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by three ghosts. The ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come all strive to didactically transform Scrooge from a miserable capitalist to a generous and festive man. By revisiting his past, taking an insight into his present and hints at the future, allow a full redemptive development to the ‘Bah Humbug’ Scrooge.
The purpose of Dickens writing this timeless classic was to assert Christmas traditions in a Victorian society, paving the way for much that we follow today. It allowed the introduction of Christmas trees with Queen Victoria, Christmas carols and feasts! Cleverly, Dickens has allegorically achieved portrayal of Christmas through the structure of the book. Like a Christmas carol, the book’s chapters are instead divided into Staves, allowing a memorable story to be told and retold. A favourite Victorian tradition was to tell ghost stories at Christmas and with this brilliant novella, it appears the tradition has carried on.
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann
When we talk about The Nutcracker, it is normally in reference to Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet, which premiered in Saint Petersburg in 1892. But in a year where live ballet performances are more or less off the table, this Christmas is the perfect time to discover (or rediscover) the story behind the classic ballet: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E. T. A. Hoffmann. In this original tale, Hoffmann follows a young girl named Marie Stahlbaum and the magical nutcracker as they fight alongside toy soldiers in the battle against the frightening, seven-headed Mouse King. Within this main narrative, Hoffmann embeds a magical secondary tale about Princess Pirlipat and the Queen of the Mice, which is conveyed to Marie in the form of a fairytale by her godfather, Drosselmeyer. Marie’s and Pirlipat’s narratives are intertwined, and ultimately the story confronts readers with a moral lesson about not judging a person by their appearance.
Hoffmann’s original story has inspired countless retellings and adaptations, perhaps the most famous being Alexandre Dumas’ version, which sees the Marie character rechristened as Clara. It was Dumas’ take on the story which Tchaikovsky adapted into the famous ballet so many of us are now familiar with.
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R Tolkien
Although it is not what he is primarily known for, Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas is a wonderful Christmassy read and the perfect classic for this time of year. Written between 1920 and 1943, this magical book is a collection of letters written by Tolkien for his children from the point of view of Father Christmas or one of his helpers. It was originally published as The Father Christmas Letters and released after Tolkien’s death.
The letters tell of the adventures of Father Christmas, his helpers and the North Polar Bear. The stories are full of whimsical descriptions of the fireworks that create the northern lights, and of battles with goblins. A seasonal gift of imagination, Letters from Father Christmas also gives an insight into some of the ideas that Tolkien later developed into The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Letters from Father Christmas is a wonderful introduction to Tolkien’s recognisable fantasy and style, as well as being a classic of children’s literature. Since its first publication, the book continues to be produced in varied and beautiful formats, and it remains the perfect read at Christmas time.