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Christmas Classics

By Megan Powell, Magali Prel, Natasha Smith and Mia Walby


As the run-up to Christmas gets nearer and nearer, the Classics team have revisited a holiday favourite feature of selecting our recommended Christmas classics for 2023. The festive period allows for some glorious and idyllic descriptions of seasonal landscapes and whimsical plots or brave tales between heroic characters on a festive quest. This feature explores some of our beloved Christmas classics that feature a plethora of holiday magic and cheer to accompany the winter nights as Christmas draws closer.


Christmas Holiday by W. Somerset Maugham


Christmas Holiday is a novel by the English writer W. Somerset Maugham, published in 1939. The story follows the tale of Charley Mason, a young man studying at Cambridge University whose life takes a turn when he decides to spend his Christmas holiday in Paris. He meets Simon and his wife who invite Charley to their home to soon find out that Simon is involved in a web of crime and violence.


The novel explores themes of morality, deception and the consequences of one’s choices, as Charley finds himself caught up in a series of events that challenge his perspective on love, loyalty and the complexity of human relationships. If you wish to read something a bit darker this Christmas, this is the novel for you. Christmas Holiday is renowned for its exploration of psychological and moral themes as well as its examination of the impact of personal choices on individual lives. This coming-of-age novel combines elements of suspense and psychological drama, showcasing Maugham’s ability to produce thought-provoking narratives.


The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg


The Polar Express is the ultimate Christmas classic, authored by Chris Van Allsburg, in which a boy boards a mysterious train that is travelling through his town on Christmas Eve night, only to discover it is headed for the North Pole. The novel arouses a nostalgic warmth of the excitement of Father Christmas where the dream of visiting him finally comes true. The unnamed boy encounters other children on the train where they must travel across frozen waters and mountainous terrain to reach the magic of Christmas.


The steam train arrives just in time where the elves are preparing the sleigh and the boy is able to choose the first gift of Christmas, in which he humbly asks for a bell from a reindeer. The magic of Christmas remains forever but only for those who believe, where the beautiful sound of the bell’s ring no longer is heard by his friends or family over time. This Christmas classic will rekindle nostalgic wonders of the excitement of Christmas Eve, a heart-warming tale about the magic of believing.


A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas


In A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Thomas offers Christmas remembrances seeped in wistful nostalgia. “I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six,” Thomas’ narrator reflects as he begins his story, encapsulating how when you are young the fond memories of past Christmases coalesce and blur together in a nostalgic haze, the specifics buried in the snow of sentimental recollections.


As Thomas describes running with “snowballs in . . . arms,” and recollects how he “made a snowman and [his] brother knocked it down and [he] knocked [his] brother down,” although he may not remember whether he was six or twelve when it happened, other details are nevertheless evoked with searing clarity and tremendous warmth. It is as if it was not “years and years ago, when [he] was a boy,” but as if it was just yesterday. Thomas’ story is perfect for summoning the memories of all the fond Christmases of youth, blanketing you in the cosy nostalgia of the cold season.


If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino


Written in 1979 by modern classic favourite Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler is structurally complex, yet thought-provoking in classic Calvino fashion. The Italian author’s penchant for deep, intellectual analysis is not lost in this postmodern narrative. Through the frame story, Calvino weaves the intricacies of reading a novel by setting up the conventions in alternate chapters with the interspersed chapters bringing the experience to us as the reader. This style allows Calvino to fully immerse the reader into his analysis as he interweaves your experience with his characters alternating between second-person narration.


Calvino’s story is widely inventive and will certainly keep you entertained as you await the countdown to Christmas. Hidden between the chapter’s titles are the clues to unearth Calvino’s titular fragmented sentence. Have fun uncovering this and allow Calvino’s innovative story to really garner your attention. It is unlike anything else that has been written and is a classic recommendation. 

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