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The best festive scenes in literature

From Zadie Smith to Irvine Welsh, get in the mood for Christmas with these memorable yuletide moments.

So, how's your Christmas shaping up? Ordered the meat in? Decked the halls with boughs of holly? Found any NYE party invitations on your doormat?

Me neither. As Bing Crosby didn't quite sing, it's beginning to look nothing at all like Christmas. But that's not to say we can't live a vicarious festive season through books.

Whether it's a heart-warming yuletide nostalgia-fest you're after, or a stark reminder that no matter how bad your holiday season is looking right now, it could be a lot worse, fiction covers all the angles. After all, what has fiction been these past seven months if not a welcome escape from viruses and doom?

So here, from Zadie Smith to Charles Dickens, Irvine Welsh to C. S. Lewis, are some of our most memorable (though not always enjoyable) festive scenes in literature. Happy holidays.

 

Anne's puff-sleeved Christmas present

Begbie's Christmas dinner

Santa's arrival in Narnia

The Alconbury's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet

'December 25, weight 140 pounds plus 42 mince pies. Alcohol units, oh, thousands'

Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding (1996)

“December 25, weight 140 pounds plus 42 mince pies. Alcohol units, oh, thousands.”

And so the yuletide spirit passes happily over Bridget, leaving her to wallow in that special brand of Christmassy boyfriendless funk, puffing away on fags, staring down empty bottles and shouting “bugger off” at carol singers.

But her festive nightmare does not truly begin until she is dragged to a family friends annual New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet, where she meets Mark Darcy in a hideous jumper, setting in motion the total trampling of Bridget's self-esteem over a buffet table of curried turkey and chat about books she hasn't read... the most delightfully cringeworthy festive encounter ever put to paper. Still, she finds a silver lining:

"2am: ... Hate the New Year. Hate everyone. Except Daniel Cleaver. Anyway, have got giant tray-sized bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk left over from Christmas on dressing table, also amusing joke gin and tonic miniature. Am going to consume them and have fag.

The 'End of the World' New Year's Eve party

Christmas at Hogwarts

'No less than twelve towering Christmas trees stood around the room, some sparkling with tiny icicles, some glittering with hundreds of candles'

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997)

“The hall looked spectacular. Festoons of holly and mistletoe hung all around the walls, and no less than twelve towering Christmas trees stood around the room, some sparkling with tiny icicles, some glittering with hundreds of candles.”

There's no place like Christmas at Hogwarts. And when Harry and pals elect to stay at school for Christmas they pull out all the stops. And if that's not enough to cook your goose, here's the meal:

“A hundred fat, roast turkeys; mountains of roast and boiled potatoes; platters of chipolatas; tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick rich gravy and cranberry sauce—and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table.”

As for Wizard Crackers, don't expect novelty-sized nail clippers and a joke about mince spies hiding in bakeries. No, it's more witches' hats topped with stuffed vultures, live white mice and grow-your-own-warts kits. We all want a magical Christmas, but come on.

All of A Christmas Carol

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