The Top 10 Christmas Stories of All Time

There are hundreds of Christmas stories ranging across every type of medium imaginable, from books and movies to plays and songs. With all of these amazing Christmas stories out there, how is anyone ever supposed to choose which ones to consume during the holiday season?

You have just under two weeks left to take in Christmas related media. Here are the top 10 Christmas stories of all time for you to enjoy before the holiday is over.

Books on a shelf with Christmas stocking wreath and candy cane

10. The Little Match Girl - Short Story

Let’s start off with something cheerful, shall we? This short story was published in the 1800s. Most people have heard the title of this story, but not everyone actually knows the tale, which is a shame. It is a very lovely, very sad Christmas story that serves as a reminder that there are many people in need in the world today, even as we enjoy an abundance of gifts and food.

The story may take place over New Years, but the Christmas imagery is impossible to ignore. As the young girl dies, she has dreamy visions of amazing Christmas decorations and a huge Christmas feast. It’s a sobering tale that I’d recommend to anyone. It certainly helps to give you perspective.

9. Sherlock Holmes - The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle - Short Story

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle is the only Sherlock Holmes story that explicitly takes place at Christmas-- it’s also one of the funniest.  The mystery is light-hearted (a Christmas goose was stolen and a blue diamond was lost) and the resolution is silly. Written and set in Victorian London, this story gives the reader the feeling of what it must have been like to race through the streets of London at Christmas.

Around the short, amusing mystery is warm domesticity between Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, as well as a few displays of deductive genius on the part of the Great Detective.  Read the story, close your eyes, and imagine yourself sitting beside the fire with Holmes and Watson, stomach full of stolen Christmas goose.

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas - TV Special

This is one of my favorite Charlie Brown specials of all time, as I’m sure it is for many people. Watching it as an adult gives me a much different feeling than when I was a child, though. This special uses satire masterfully to express the consumerism of the Christmas season.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but I can appreciate how the story brings a deeper meaning to Christmas through Linus’ speech. All Charlie Brown specials are a bit “dark” and bleak, and as a writer I can’t help but try to deconstruct the things these characters say, but this special really turns all of the bleakness into a truly heartwarming story.

7. Skipping Christmas/Christmas with the Kranks - Book/Movie

This comedy has just enough sappy, heartwarming content splashed in to create a perfect balance. An older couple, choosing to skip Christmas because their daughter will not be home for the holidays, are thrown into chaos when she surprises them by returning at the last minute.

I prefer the movie to the book and watch it every year. The story gives you so many relatable holiday moments, like the grocery store being out of your favorite Christmas dish and having nosy neighbors trying to tell you how to celebrate the holidays. This is a really fun one that I think everyone should watch or read.

6. Home Alone - Movie

At the risk at sounding incredibly old and cliche, kids these days will never understand the plot of this movie. At least, not the way we understood it when I was growing up. With smartphones, wi-fi connections, and even smart homes, this movie just couldn’t happen in the modern era like it used to.

Home Alone does such a good job of explaining how every little thing goes wrong to result in Kevin home alone during the holidays while his family is in France. The phone lines are down, the family does a headcount but a a neighbor boy gets counted, even Kevin’s ticket gets thrown away. The writers do an amazing job at making this story work. What do you think Kevin does when he grows up if he can pull off all those boobie traps at age 8? He must be building military weapons or something.

5. Christmas Vacation - Movie

This is one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. In terms of Christmas movies, this one truly is a classic, though not for the same reasons that most Christmas movies are. This comedy is utterly absurd, plays on gross humor, and is probably pretty offensive by today’s standards. But the movie is just so...good.

If you like a bit more humor and a lot less sappy in your Christmas movies, this one is a really good choice. The movie follows an “old fashioned family Christmas,” and all the stress and shenanigans that come from that. And there are morals woven into the story, most notably about how letting your expectations become unrealistic can negatively affect your experience. That’s something I try to keep in mind, because I definitely tend to build up expectations.

4. The Gift of the Magi - Short Story

This short story, published in 1905, is the heartwarming tale of two people who don’t have a lot of money but find a way to get each other a heartfelt gift through their own personal sacrifice. This really puts the emphasis on how we should all strive to give, rather than obsess over receiving.

This classic has been adapted into multiple mediums, and is also a popular story to borrow from when it comes to other media such as TV Christmas specials. While many people have done the original story justice in their re-telling, none is as good as the original.

3. The Christmas Shoes - Song

Christmas Shoes is one of the saddest song I’ve ever heard, and certainly one of the saddest Christmas songs out there. It may seem unusual to include a song in a list about Christmas stories, but this song manages to tell a very vivid, very heartbreaking story in under 5 minutes.

This song tells the tale of a young boy who is trying to buy his mother a Christmas present, and he wants to get the perfect gift because she may die that very night. If you’re in the mood for something painful, give the song a listen.

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Children’s Book

This story is such a great mix of absurd and heartwarming. The utter imagination that Dr. Seuss brings to all of his stories is astounding.

I actually never cared much for the animated version of The Grinch, but I adore the Jim Carrey version. I think it adds a lot to the source material in a way that is true to the original work. This is a great example of a humorous story with a heartwarming message.

1. A Christmas Carol - Novella

A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens in 1843. Originally a novella, it has been adapted for a huge variety of mediums including plays, movies, and special TV episodes. No matter what format you consume this classic in, A Christmas Carol tops every list in terms of the best Christmas story ever created.

A Christmas Carol is a ghost story, a story of redemption, and a history lesson all at once. Every time I experience it my heart feels warm. When I think about Christmas I often think of the classic setting of this tale. It is remarkably magical, haunting, and sobering.

I go see A Christmas Carol at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee every year. They put on an amazing show. If you can get to the theater to see it live, I’d highly recommend it.

Which of these Christmas stories is your favorite? Did it not make the list? Let me know in the comments, and have a Merry Christmas!

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