Given that most of us spend the holidays swamped in revision and essay-writing, it’s hardly surprising that we tend to turn to festive blockbusters throughout the Christmas season rather than books. But this year, instead of settling in for a marathon viewing of Bridget Jones or the Polar Express, why not rediscover the magic of Christmas with one of these seasonal classics?
Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is, in its own special way, one of the most heart-warming Christmas books out there. The Grinch is a lonely, bitter creature who despises Christmas. One year, he decides he must prevent Christmas from happening – not understanding that removing all physical traces of Christmas is futile, as the Christmas spirit is not something which can be taken away from people. While we can’t help but laugh as Seuss works his magic with rhyme, this short story also instils a distinct message about the true meaning of Christmas, made all the more poignant as a result of society’s increasingly consumerist-driven perceptions of the festive season.
Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham, is the book behind the 2004 festive hit Christmas with the Kranks. With their daughter having flown the nest, Luther and Nora Krank prepare for their first Christmas without her – at which point Luther decides they would be better off skipping Christmas altogether. They resist decorating the house, acknowledging carollers and buying Christmas cards, much to the disappointment of their neighbours. Everything is thrown into disarray when they receive an unexpected call from their daughter, who is on her way home expecting their usual party to take place that evening. Chaos ensues as the Kranks attempt to pull together a party for the sake of their daughter – and along the way they learn about the true values of community, friendship, and putting others first.
If you prefer the traditional classics, how about Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? Initially written to draw attention to the plight of those living in poverty and to express his concerns about social inequality, A Christmas Carol is a timeless tale which still resonates with readers today. Miserly Scrooge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, each seeking to encourage Scrooge to see the error of his ways. Scrooge’s change in character ultimately enables him to appreciate the need for goodwill and compassion towards others.
Within each of these books the themes which embody the Christmas spirit are exposed and our views regarding the meaning of Christmas are challenged. Whilst many of these stories have a moral element to them, it is often only discreetly hinted at, allowing us to curl up nostalgically with them in a post-Christmas dinner coma. Many Christmas stories transport us back to our childhood, revitalising our imaginations and reinstating what Christmas means to us. Whether you opt for a children’s classic, such as Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, or a contemporary bestseller, there is something magical about a festive story that cannot be felt through film.