The best Christmas scenes in English literature.

The best Christmas scenes in English literature.

For your holiday enjoyment, I present to you the (highly subjective) best Christmas scenes in English literature.

(As you will see, I’m using the word “literature” loosely, because it’s more fun that way.)

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry and his friends elect to stay at Hogwarts during their first Christmas holiday break.

After a meal of turkey sandwiches, crumpets, trifle, and Christmas cake, everyone felt too full and sleepy to do much before bed except sit and watch Percy chase Fred and George all over Gryffindor tower because they’d stolen his prefect badge.

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Catherine has just returned to the manor after recovering from an injured ankle. The house is preparing for Christmas but Heathcliff has hid himself from Catherine, as Nelly, our narrator, ponders their lot.

Under these circumstances I remained solitary. I smelt the rich scent of the heating spices; and admired the shining kitchen utensils, the polished clock, decked in holly, the silver mugs ranged on a tray ready to be filled with mulled ale for supper; and above all, the speckless purity of my particular care—the scoured and well-swept floor. I gave due inward applause to every object, and then I remembered how old Earnshaw used to come in when all was tidied, and call me a cant lass, and slip a shilling into my hand as a Christmas-box; and from that I went on to think of his fondness for Heathcliff, and his dread lest he should suffer neglect after death had removed him: and that naturally led me to consider the poor lad’s situation now, and from singing I changed my mind to crying. It struck me soon, however, there would be more sense in endeavouring to repair some of his wrongs than shedding tears over them: I got up and walked into the court to seek him.

Bridget Jones

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

It’s Mark Darcy to the rescue when Bridget’s family gathering is hijacked by her mother’s ex-lover.

“Come on,” said Mark Darcy.
“What” I said.
“Don’t say ‘what.’ Bridget, say ‘pardon,’” hissed Mum.
“Mrs. Jones,” said Mark firmly. “I am taking Bridget away to celebrate what is left of the Baby Jesus’s birthday.”
I took a big breath and grasped mark Darcy’s proffered hand.
“Merry Christmas, everyone,” I said with a gracious smile. “I expected we’ll see you all at the Turkey Curry Buffet.”

great expectations

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Pip joins his sister’s family for Christmas dinner and fears the moment they notice he stole the mincemeat pie reserved for dessert. First, a guest arrives.

Every Christmas Day he presented himself, as a profound novelty, with exactly the same words, and carrying the two bottles like dumbbells. Every Christmas Day, Mrs Joe replied, as she now replied, “Oh, Un — cle Pum — ble — chook! This IS kind!” Every Christmas Day, he retorted, as he now retorted, “It’s no more than your merits. And now are you all bobbish, and how’s Sixpennorth of halfpence?” meaning me.

perusasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Immediately surrounding Mrs. Musgrove were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard in spite of all the noise of the others.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Everyone came to the pageant to see what the Herdmans would do. Imogene and Ralph looked like refugees sent to wait in a strange place with all their boxes and sacks around them. “Hey!” Unto you a child is born” hollered Gladys. The Wisemen marched up the aisle but instead of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrhh they brought their own ham from the food basket. Imogene, who was holding a doll, started to cry. The pageant now had a new meaning. It was about a new baby and his mother and father, who were in a lot of trouble.

What would you add to the list?

best christmas scenes in literature

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60 comments

  1. Alice says:

    A Child’s Christmas in Wales! By Dylan Thomas. There is also a lovely, very close to the story, dramatization of it available.

    I would also add The Blue Carbuncle, by Sherlock Holmes.

  2. Erica M. says:

    I always enjoyed the Cratchits’ humble little Christmas dinner in A Christmas Carol. I suspect Mrs. Cratchit’s puddings were better than mine were last year!

    (Also, for Harry Potter Christmas scenes, I’m still attached to Dumbledore wearing the hideous vulture hat to annoy Snape. :D)

  3. Lauren says:

    Where Harry Potter is concerned (while its notably more depressing) I’ve always loved in the Deathly Hallows when Harry and Hermione end up in Godric’s Hallow and realize its Christmas Eve, and they lay a wreath on his parent’s graves. Solemn and beautiful.

    • Jaimie Ramsey says:

      That’s one of my favorite scenes in all the Harry Potter books. Especially considering the way they figure out it’s Christmas Eve is from the music coming from the church. So sad but so lovely…

  4. Natalie says:

    I agree with all the additions I hadn’t thought of Deathly Hallows but that is a great one. I love the whole “Twas the Night before Christmas” its a bit different from the others but I love it and of course Luke 2 🙂

  5. Jeannie says:

    I’ve always loved Little Women, ch. 2, when the March girls bring their Christmas breakfast to a poor family: “In a few minutes it really did seem as if kind spirits had been at work there. Hannah, who had carried wood, made a fire, and stopped up the broken panes with old hats and her own cloak. Mrs.March gave the mother tea and gruel, and comforted her with promises of help, while she dressed the little baby as tenderly as if it had been her own. The girls meantime spread the table, set the children round the fire, and fed them like so many hungry birds, laughing, talking, and trying to understand the funny broken English. ‘Das ist gut! Die Engel-kinder!’ cried the poor things as they ate and warmed their purple hands at the comfortable blaze. The girls had never been called angel children before, and thought it very agreeable, especially Jo, who had been considered `Sancho’ ever since she was born. That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn’t get any of it. And when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.”

  6. Melodee says:

    I’m excited for the kids’ version next week, as many of my favorites are from childhood books. (But doesn’t the first Harry Potter count as children’s lit? That’s how you threw us all off the scent!)

    The one that popped into my head when I read your post is from Daddy-Long-Legs: “My dear, dear Daddy, haven’t you any sense? Don’t you know that you mustn’t give one girl seventeen Christmas presents? I’m a socialist, please remember; do you wish to turn me into a plutocrat?” Haha.

    • Lisa Z says:

      I agree with the Harry Potter question! I was wondering that too, especially since I consider “Little Women” even more grown up than HP. Interesting to ponder!

  7. I am not a Brit Lit aficianado. But how about American Lit, in A Prayer for Owen Meany where Owen is both the baby Jesus in the pageant and the ghost of Christmas past in the Christmas Carol? (I rarely reread, but it’s been several years since I read Owen Meany … it’s time to read it again. My absolute favorite.)

  8. Lindsay Marie says:

    Pilgrim’s Inn/Herb of Grace, Elizabeth Goudge’s second novel in the Eliots of Damerosehay trilogy, ends with one of the most beautiful Christmas scenes!

    • Karlyne says:

      Just scrolling through these comments from last year, and I see my beloved Elizabeth Goudge! I agree – that scene is so beautiful that I try to read the whole book at Christmas, if not the trilogy. I’m off to grab it right now!

  9. Janet says:

    Little Women starts with “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents”…Jo complaining on the rug by the fire.

    Also, the scene in Little House where Mr. Edwards comes and is nearly frozen and brings them the candy. And the scene in a later book (help, can’t remember) where they are making the little net bags for presents for the children in the town.

    I know there are more…will have to think on it!

    • Kitty Balay says:

      The Little House Christmas (can’t remember which one) has stuck in my head forever. I think of it every year as I fill my kids stockings!

      And, of course, Little Women!

    • Lisa Z says:

      My favorite Little House Christmas scene has to be in By the Shores of Silver Lake when they’re staying at the Surveyor’s House. I’ll never forget the Christmas dinner of canned oysters, saltines, and salt back from the huge barrel in the pantry. To Laura it was a feast! Also, the gift of a jacket (I think) for Carrie made from the swan Pa accidentally shot. Gosh, now I’m forgetting some of those details so I will have to back and reread…

  10. Jessica Thomas says:

    What wonderful scenes! i would add this one from the end of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as it’s my favourite Christmas story:

    Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!
    “I don’t know what day of the month it is!” said Scrooge. “I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!”
    He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell. Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious! Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!
    “What’s to-day!” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
    “EH?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.
    “What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
    “To-day!” replied the boy. “Why, CHRISTMAS DAY.”
    “It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!”

  11. Cynthia Harrod-EaglesThe Morland Saga where there is a lot of christmases through the years, the fethching of the yule log. And Anne Perrys special Christmas books, each new every year, the characters in these books, from her other two series, both the Tomas Pitt and Hester Monk series.

  12. Ashley says:

    Also from A Christmas Carol, “It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?” What a beautiful moment of redemption and forgiveness when Scrooge is welcomed into the dinner party!
    Thank you for the fun list, what a Christmas treat!

  13. Diane says:

    Yes to The Herb of Grace! And Rosamund Pilcher s Winter Solstice…Would add Fanny Flagg A Redbird Christmas and India Knight Comfort and Joy-makes me laugh til I cry in parts..
    This is sooo Christmassy-Thank you!

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