Lucy Mangan’s best Christmas scenes in literature

Join Lucy Mangan on a journey of nostalgia and delight, peeping in on Christmas dinners, gift giving, and festive spirit from the March sisters in Little Women to the four siblings of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe who fight for Christmas’s return to Narnia. 

xmas scenes

The Hummels’ Christmas morning breakfast in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

Given that my Christmas breakfast generally comprises a piece of toast and a mouthful of cheap chocolate stolen from my child’s stocking on my way to the shower, I doubt the Hummels would be very grateful for it. Fortunately, they – famously – are given the March sisters’ breakfast and in nineteenth century Massachusetts they do these things properly. Meg covers the buckwheats and piles bread into one big plate, Amy offers to take the cream and muffins (the things she most likes – this is SO Amy), and everyone else loads up on wood for the fire and old clothes with which to stuff broken windows and dress the impoverished family. They are called “angel children” by the grateful family and go home to breakfast on simple bread and milk, feeling as nourished by Christian charity as the Hummels do on homemade buckwheats. Whatever they may be.

The Ingalls celebrate Christmas in May in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series is pretty much one long exercise in appreciating the wonder of every moment and every bounty that comes your way, and never more so than in The Long Winter, when the Ingalls’ entire town is cut off from the world for seven months by the blizzards howling across the frozen endless prairie and people come close to starvation. No trains are able to reach them until the thaw – and they end up celebrating Christmas in May. Their delayed presents arrive – a shawl for Ma, embroidery silks for the girls – and neighbours gather at Laura’s house for a feast of turkey, bread, butter, potatoes, gravy and apple pie. Not even the Hummels can have enjoyed their meal more.

When Christmas comes to Narnia after years of banishment in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

’Always winter and never Christmas – think of that!’

The White Witch has made it so in Narnia. But eventually, thanks to the Pevensie children and Aslan her powers start to wane. The first sign is a group of satyrs and small animals enjoying a Christmas dinner, and eventually the sound of sleigh bells is heard and through the woods and melting snow comes Father Christmas ’in a bright red robe with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest.’

C. S. Lewis knew what Narnia, and his readers, needed.

Sign up to the VINTAGE newsletter

By signing up, I confirm that I'm over 16. To find out what personal data we collect and how we use it, please visit our Privacy Policy

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more