Megan Powell, Hannah Spruce, Yagmur Dur, Lucy Carr, Serena Kerrigan-Noble and Magali Prel
Finally, the festive season is here, and I am sure many of us cannot wait to curl up on the couch with a warm cup of hot chocolate, some cookies and those all-time Christmas favourites that we are binge-watching for the 1,000th time (and yes, I am pointing at you Love Actually fans). So, this year, why don’t you trade that Christmas movie for a classic festive book instead?
Read what our classics experts recommend for that cosy and heart-warming Christmastime feeling.
Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens
Nothing instils a sense of Christmas spirit more than reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. However, Dickens’ other Christmas stories often attract relatively little attention by comparison, despite their shared spookiness and indictment of social injustice. A Christmas Carol was the first of a series of five Christmas stories, as the festive season continually provided Dickens with a source of affectionate fascination, as well as a point from which to examine the exploitation and misery of the Victorian social system. In Dickens’ haunting tale The Chimes, we follow Trotty Veck as his series of encounters with the victims of growing social inequality reverberate through his consciousness like the solemn chime of the church bells. Spectral visitors also appear in Dickens’ The Haunted Man, in which the reclusive protagonist is visited by the ghosts of painful memories which he longs to forget. By making a bargain to forget his painful past, however, he learns that it is this propensity to turn away from the darker shades of reality that is the root cause of human suffering.
Village Christmas by Laurie Lee
This modern classic is sure to give you the Christmassy feels this winter. Laurie Lee’s collection Village Christmas retells the author's experience of Christmas at his home in the Cotswolds. The descriptions create a heart-warming and emotional read as Lee intertwines the historical aspect of wartime and the death of Winston Churchill with the events of the story. The novel is equally as powerful as it is Christmassy and Lee successfully transports the reader to his childhood experiences, bringing to life many traditions such as singing on Christmas Eve.
Christmas on Exeter Street by Diana Hendry and John Lawrence
Christmas on Exeter Street is a quintessentially British story about a family welcoming their many relatives and friends into their home for Christmas day. The story has a humorous quality, with many characters being placed in ridiculous places to sleep – including the bath, sink and kitchen shelves. Accompanied by gorgeous illustrations, the story encapsulates the Christmas spirit and the joy of family. The book is a perfect gift for younger children and its central moral of the importance of sharing, tolerance and acceptance gives the story a nostalgic quality, which still holds up years after its initial release. The various quirky and vibrant characters animate the simple story, and the intricate illustrations allow for many re-readings. The reader can quickly recognise and relate to the scenarios of the story, making it incredibly engaging. This is the perfect stocking filler for any children in the family, and it's a book which can be kept for many years to come.
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
A Christmas Memory is a largely autobiographical short story written by Capote (1956) in which he gives us a snapshot of his life as a young boy in rural Alabama. The story is narrated by an unnamed seven-year-old, referred to as “Buddy” by his cousin, who comes from a poor, stern family, but who is still unable to contain his excitement at the prospect of experiencing Christmas traditions with his eccentric older cousin. Their relationship is the focal point of the narrative and, although the story touches on the melancholic side of nostalgia and some of the stark realities of living in the midst of the Great Depression, it is equally full of humour, warmth and heart: a perfect read to evoke Christmassy sentiments.
The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Anderson
The Fir Tree is a classic winter fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a fir tree who is so anxious and focused on the future that he forgets to appreciate the beauty of the present moment. The protagonist, a fir tree, grows up in a beautiful forest but fails to notice the forest’s splendour. It is only when he is cut down to be put in a house for Christmas that he realises he will never be able to see and experience the magnificent forest again. Once Christmas is over, he is chopped into small pieces and burned, along with his hopes for a better future. This may be a children’s story, but it conveys an important message we can all learn from: the only moment that matters is now.