“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” And so began one of the most enduring children’s classic, Little Women by Louisa Alcott. The story begins at Christmas time and the first chapter’s message about the March girls learning the true meaning of Christmas in the first chapter had a strong impact on me as a child. It was neither the first nor the last Christmas story that has enthralled me over the years. Before I read Little Women, I was enchanted by the Christmas celebrated in the Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Like Laura, I once received a baby doll on Christmas that I cherished for years. Then there are the perennial Christmas classics, How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry.
As I grew older, I found myself reading adult romances with Christmas themes. Among my favorites are two romance stories by Maggie Davis, A Christmas Romance, which was made into a TV movie, and Moonlight and Mistletoe. There are Christmas romances in nearly every romance genre including erotic, historical, regency, contemporary and paranormal. There are also the Christmas mysteries in a variety subgenres, including historical mysteries, A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry, cozy mysteries, Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke, and humorous mystery, I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley. In the general fiction section, there is Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah and “Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb.
There are so many reasons why Christmas stories have an enduring appeal to so many readers. The Christmas season is fraught with high expectations and all too frequent resulting disappointments. Families travel great distances to spend time with loved ones. These holiday visits could revive uncomfortable family tensions just as the family enjoys a loving reunion. Then there is the gross commercialization of what is a spiritual time for many individuals. All and all, the Christmas holiday provides a lot of fodder for storytellers, with its themes of dreams, hopes, family, love, anger, disappointment, greed, and humor. It is easy to see how a talented writer could find a setting for a murder in such turmoil.
One of my favorite aspects of the holiday is the sense of magic. Every time I decorate the family Christmas tree, it is magical. Like my favorite heroine in the children’s Christmas picture book, A Nutcracker Noel by Kate McMullen, my Christmas experiences didn’t match my dreams. They were better.
Do you have a favorite Christmas story? What is it and why do you love it?