The 12 Stories of Christmas: A Nostalgic Countdown

December 5, 2019

[Updated Dec. 6, 2019]


Is your favorite holiday story part of the countdown?


Enjoy discovering a new book or finding out more about a favorite tale in this countdown of twelve nostalgic Christmas stories:




The Birds' Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin



Story Description:


Classic children's book fans will recognize Kate Douglas Wiggin as the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Sixteen years before her best-known work, this lovely story was written in 1887, featuring a little girl born on Christmas day.


The carols being sung that morning seem to echo in her heart throughout the year, even when she falls seriously ill. Resolved to reach out to others, she puts together a surprising plan.


What Makes This Book Special:


I had never heard of this book until a good friend recommended it as her favorite Christmas story. The pages were few, but the heart message is large. It is sad, tender and humorous by turns, and by the last page of the book, it will leave the reader with a quietly warm and bittersweet feeling.


A Little More About the Author:



Kate Douglas Wiggin's pen spoke on paper of the magic and adventures of childhood, but she didn't stop there. She established the first free kindergarten in San Francisco, and spent her life as a tireless advocate of children's rights, welfare and education.







A Merry Christmas and Other Christmas Stories by Louisa May Alcott



Book Description:


Like her character Jo in Little Women, Louisa May Alcott wrote short stories to send off to magazines, eagerly watching the mail for an acceptance letter and a check.


In Louisa's case, she wrote for her own satisfaction and especially to help her family financially. Her stories with a Christmas theme are now collected in this attractive book. We also get to enjoy the Christmas scene from Little Women all over again.


What Makes This Book Special:


In an era when the messages in children's books were often heavy-handed, Louisa May Alcott made her characters more real and less perfect. They often have a breezy and ironic sense of humor that keeps the stories from being overly sweet.


She brought her own sensibilities as an abolitionist and suffragist to bring a more modern feel to her books. These stories still brim over with the spirit of the season and an old-fashioned charm.




The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson



Book Description:


Leaving behind the Victorian era (for now!), this selection jumps ahead to 1972, but keeps the feeling of a nostalgic Christmas intact.


The Herdman children in this book are the "worst kids in the history of the world." When they invade a church (the first time they pass through its doors) during rehearsals for the annual nativity play, their "take" on the message is unconventional and startling, to say the least. Will it be the worst Pageant ever, or will the Herdmans bring new hope to everyone in the church?


What Makes This Book Special:


Lively, warm and funny, this creative story brings a unique perspective to the timeless message of Christmas.




Anne of Green Gables Christmas Treasury by Carolyn Strum Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson



Book Description:


A perfect companion book for any Anne of Green Gables fan! 


I'm not a "crafty" person (my creations never turn out remotely like the ones pictured in handicraft books). I still love looking through the illustrations in this book.


The drawings, quotes from the "Anne" books and interesting lore about a Victorian Christmas give a wonderful "feel" to this Treasury. Hand-made decorations to trim a Christmas tree—Anne-style—are especially fun (even if, like me, you just soak up the nostalgic ambiance of the book .


What Makes This Book Special:


My husband, an expert chef, created an "Anne" Christmas dinner for me using these recipes: Island Mashed Potatoes, Anne's Glazed Carrots and Four Winds Roast Goose (turkey for us).  I always remember that literary Christmas dinner when I open this Treasury every year.


A Green Gables Christmas quote:






Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien



Book Description:


Master John Francis Reuel Tolkien was three years old when he received an exciting letter addressed to him alone. The stamp had an interesting, quite icy look to it. But, it was the postmark that must have riveted his attention when his mother read it to him.


It said simply, "North Pole."


It was the first letter in a long tradition at the Tolkien household (from 1920-1943). John, and later his brothers and sister, received an annual letter from Father Christmas and his associate, the North Polar Bear (who gave his outlook on things, too, in thick red handwriting as he tried to write with his paw).


If the handwriting and drawing style began to look suspiciously like their father's, I'm sure John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla enjoyed the letters all the more in later years.


What Makes This Book Special:


Where do I start? Letters from Father Christmas was a wonderful discovery for me this Christmas season. The letters and illustrations are filled with humor and charm. I found myself laughing out loud many times (I especially enjoyed the exasperated but affectionate banter between Father Christmas and the North Polar Bear).


Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's masterworks, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, will also enjoy seeing the author at his most relaxed and playful. I was surprised to see a few correlations between some characters in the Letters and his famous books.


In reading through the the book, it is poignant to catch a glimpse of the love J.R.R. Tolkien had for his family, and to imagine the children's delight when they discovered each new letter Father Christmas wrote for them.





 A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz



Television Special and Book Description:


As Charlie Brown searches for something real in the midst of aluminum trees, he encounters an over-the-top Christmas light contest and dancing Nativity Play participants. His desperate question bursts out in the midst of all the artificial distractions of the season: "Isn't there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?"


What Makes This Story Special:


When Linus answers, who can forget this powerful scene from the television special? An article I read by Jason Soroski gave me a  new insight that adds even more depth to this scene: Linus purposely drops his security blanket when he quotes, "Fear not."


"And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord...'"

Luke 2:10-11



Advent in Narnia: Reflections for the Season by Heidi Haverkamp



Book Description:


At the beginning of December, I always need to decide which special Christmas book I'll choose to spend time with each morning. This is the one I selected for 2019.


Advent in Narnia is a collection of readings about the Christmassy aspects of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The book is arranged with one reading  for every day in December leading up to the 25th.


What Makes This Book Special:


With interesting insights about the C.S. Lewis classic, it's wonderful to spend time in a new way with the story. As Ms. Haverkamp writes, " placing Christianity in another world, [Lewis] makes it unfamiliar again."


Her book is a thought-provoking way to learn what the true meaning of Christmas is all about "whether we aren't sure Christianity can mean anything to us or whether it means everything."





The Flying Lighthouse Santa


The Story:


In a blinding December snowstorm in 1929, Capt. William H. Wincapaw flew on through the night, trying to find his way. His destination of Rockland, Maine seemed like a lost dream as he peered out through the falling whiteness of the sky. A pioneering aviator, he had experience flying in harsh weather, but this time he could not even see the shoreline.


Then, a flash of light came. He recognized the beacon of Dice Head Light, found his bearings and made his way to safety.


 Dice Head Light


In gratitude, Capt. Wincapaw took to the skies again a few days later. He dropped a Christmas package to the lighthouse keeper and the rest of the hardworking family at Dice Head. As he headed back home, he realized other lighthouse families, who did so much for others, might also find encouragement from Christmas packages dropped from the sky.


Capt. Wincapaw began the tradition of the "Flying Santa," eventually expanding to lighthouses all over the country. His son, Bill, Jr. and the aptly named Edward Rowe Snow continued the tradition. Mr. Snow became the "Flying Santa" for nearly 50 years.


Lighthouse children eagerly listened for the rumble of the plane’s engines every December. Along with the gifts, the Flying Santa volunteers brought hope and a great deal of fun to isolated lighthouse families.


Lighthouse expert Elinor DeWire writes that Capt. Wincapaw thought "all lighthouse families ought to be remembered during the holidays for their benevolent services, especially at Christmas when the symbolism of light to guide the way was foremost in everyone's heart."


Read more about the Flying Santas over the lighthouses in Elinor DeWire's book, Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers.



For photographs and more information about the beloved tradition of the Flying Santas, please click here.





The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry



Book Description:


On a cold December day in 1905, William Sydney Porter sat hunched over in a dark booth. Pete's Tavern had become a sanctuary as he struggled to meet his deadline for the New York Sunday World Magazine. Then, the deadline passed and he still searched for inspiration. As an idea came, his pen must have flown over the paper. In two, or possibly three hours, he wrote one of the best short stories ever published.


The tale, a breezy and deep reflection on the power of giving at Christmas, ended with the ironic twist that made his writing famous. Using the pen name of O. Henry, he gave a gift himself that has endured for a 114 years.


A Little More About the Author:


The Gift of the Magi may have reflected some of Porter's own life experiences. Like Della and Jim in the story, he married young and struggled to make a living. He and his wife, Athol, were devoted to each other, and made sacrifices for each other, until she died from tuberculosis in 1897 before reaching her thirtieth birthday.


In his own colorful, troubled and short life, he wrote stories with a style that no one else has been able to duplicate.


What Makes This Story Special:


Published on December 10, 1905, The Gift of the Magi remains a powerful story of love and the sacrifice of giving.


To read The Gift of the Magi, please click here on my website. It can be finished in just a few minutes, but the beauty the tale will linger much longer.





 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens



The Story Behind the Story:


When a wealthy friend asked Charles Dickens to inspect a school for poor children prior to making a donation there, he readily agreed. Because of his own poverty as a child, Dickens was very troubled about the plight of those trapped in the life he remembered.


His rage built the more he saw of the "Ragged School," as it was called. At first, he wanted to write a fact-based pamphlet to let people know about the harsh and terribleconditions there. He realized, though, that change usually comes by touching the emotions. 


Later that year, under financial pressure, Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol, taking only six weeks to finish his story of loss, brokenness and redemption. He wrote it "at a white heat." He often "wept and laughed and wept again," walking fifteen or twenty miles on many nights as he thought out the book.  


A Christmas Carol was released just a week before Christmas and became an instant sensation and bestseller.


What Makes This Story Special:


Charles Dickens had a genius for creating characters (and their names!), and Ebenezer Scrooge is among his most memorable. In countless stage plays and film adaptations, this story comes alive and touches the heart, just as Dickens hoped it would when he wrote his timeless words in 1843.


 First edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


(This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas

where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.)





"O Holy Night" by Placide Cappeau and Adolphe Charles Adams

The Story:


Bowling along over a rough road, Placide Cappeau tried to steady himself as he was tossed from side-to-side in the carriage. The commissionaire of wines was on his way to Paris, and had a commission from the local parish priest to think about as well..


Cappeau had a reputation as a poet, but he was by no means a regular church-goer. He may have been surprised when the priest asked him to write a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, Cappeau took the request seriously and tried to place himself inside the Christmas story as the carriage rolled along to the city.


He repeatedly read the opening of Luke's Gospel, imagining what it would be like to witness the birth of a Child who would change the world. Cappeau found the words to relate what those present must have felt in their hearts. He wrote "Cantique de Noel" by the time he finished his journey.


Studying his words again, Cappeau decided they were meant to be set to music. Fortunately, his good friend was a classically-trained musician. A famous composer, Adolphe Charles Adams was of Jewish heritage, but agreed to help out because of friendship.


The powerful music he composed is a beautiful setting for Cappeau's words. When the listener hears Fall on you knees, O hear the angels' voices, it may be one of the most emotional moments in musical history.


"Cantique de Noel" was performed for the first time at Christmas Eve Mass at the small parish church in 1847.


Unfortunately, the hymn fell out of favor with the church because of Cappeau's socialist leanings and Adams's Jewish heritage. The people loved it, however, and "O Holy Night" continued to be sung with devotion.


There is even more to the story of "O Holy Night." I enjoyed reading this account of the carol here: The Amazing Story of "O Holy Night."




The First Christmas and the Meaning of This Day


Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst (1622)

This work is in the public domain in the United States




Merry Christmas!


May you have a wonderful day filled with the joys of the season and happiness throughout the New Year.


Linda Borromeo just enjoyed the first Christmas snowfall of December (and caught a few snowflakes as Lucy did in A Charlie Brown Christmas).


Linda is the author of Mystery Shores, a novel of secrets set along the beauty of the Pacific Northwest coast. She is currently writing the sequel, Mystery Fair.

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In my stories, you'll find islands, mystery, friendship and danger. 

My novel, Mystery Shores, is set on a lighthouse island filled with secrets. 

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