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Classic & Famous Christmas Literature: Stories & Authors

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Need a read to put you in the holiday spirit? In this lesson, we'll explore some classic and famous Christmas literature choices by beloved and timeless authors guaranteed to put a jingle in your step.

Holly Jolly Reading

Think about the last holiday movie or television show you watched. Were you transported back to Christmas Past with Ebenezer Scrooge? Did you doubt, like Virginia, whether there was a Santa Claus? Maybe you watched a nutcracker come to life after defeating the evil Mouse King.

Whatever it was, it's likely your favorite Christmas story has its roots in literature. That's right! Many of the best-loved Christmas classics you see grace the television and silver screen are based on beloved Christmas stories or books by a variety of well-known, time-honored authors. If you are making a list of classic and famous Christmas stories, this lesson will serve as a good springboard for building a merry list of holiday tales.

Classic and Famous Christmas Lit Choices

Christmas wouldn't be complete without a few favorites involving gifts, letters and visits from Santa himself. Here are some holiday choices you may want to consider:

At Christmas Time by Anton Chekhov

Originally published in 1900, this non-traditional Christmastime tale is a short story told in two parts. It recounts the story of a mother who cannot read, hiring a man to write a letter in an attempt to reconnect with a long-lost daughter.

A Letter from Santa Claus by Mark Twain

Not so much a story as a peek into Twain's personal life, this letter was penned by the famed author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to his daughter. Twain wrote the letter from Santa Claus, and it's a charming read for the holiday season.

A Country Christmas by Louisa May Alcott

You know her best for Little Women, but Alcott's Christmas tale here tells the story of a city girl experiencing an old-fashioned Christmas in the country. Alcott penned several stories and poems about the holidays.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

What would happen if you sold your most prized possession to buy a gift for your significant other and, surprise, he or she did the same? That's the basic premise of O. Henry's tale, and a great reminder that it's still better to give than receive.

Stories by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow is known for several Christmas contributions, including the works Christmas Bells and The Three Kings. The first was written during the Civil War and was later turned into the Christmas carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. The Three Kings tells the story of the Wise Men visiting Jesus in the manger.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

A Visit from St. Nicholas is a poem that Moore originally published anonymously. This poem later came to be known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Our modern-day images of Santa Claus could harken back to this poem, which tells us what happens as we prepare to welcome Santa's visit. There are lots of descriptions about Santa's rosy cheeks and a belly that shook 'like a bowl full of jelly.' It's a perfect poem to read before a long winter's nap.

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

This one's on the sadder side of Christmas stories, following a young girl trying to sell matches on a street corner at her father's insistence. As she burns through the matches, she sees visions of the perfect Christmas tree, meal and memories. The story ends with a sad twist.

Is There a Santa Claus? by Frank Church

This holiday reading comes in the form of a newspaper editorial, where a newspaperman answered this famous Christmas question with an equally famous response: 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.' The letter has been repurposed into televisions shows and movies since it was written in 1897.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann

You probably recognize this one by the first two words of the title, rather than the title in its entirety. It's been performed on stages all over the world, telling the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker, who comes to life and takes Clara on a Christmas adventure.

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