What makes a book a Christmas book?

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What makes a book a Christmas book? Did you read a particular book one Christmas and now you associate the two in your mind? Does there have to be snow, or a love story, or Father Christmas? The answers ultimately boil down to each individual’s opinion but there is often a large consensus on the major themes of a Christmas book. Let’s explore them together.

From mid-November onwards, articles and lists are released by bookstores and book lovers about the perfect books to read to get you in the festive mood and the best ones to buy as gifts. They contain books from many different genres including crime, romance, fantasy and non-fiction. With so many different genres, is it not impossible to define what makes a book a Christmas book?

Take crime, for example. Hercules Poirot’s Christmas, by Agatha Christie, is often mentioned in many lists. The plot centres around the death of an old multi-millionaire, surrounded by his dysfunctional family, on Christmas Eve. In the end, when the murder is solved, the family manages to sort out some of its main differences and move on together. Therefore, although the book entails murder and family strife, it also embodies the Christmas spirit with a lesson given in how to value family and a slightly more heart-warming ending.

A great example of a Christmas book is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. To me this embodies everything that makes a book a Christmas book. Dickens writes about the frosty weather, the cheer of the season, and looks at different ways that people celebrate the holiday. And, most importantly, the book deals with a very important Christmas lesson. We see a Christmas humbug transformed into a merry man through the contemplation of his regrets, the loss of his fiancée through his past personal greed, and the revelation of how others suffer and yet still feel the joy and hope of Christmas. It leads him to live his life to the full, treat others with kindness, and embody the spirit of Christmas. It is truly heart-warming and inspiring to watch the transformation unfold. What more could you ask for from a Christmas book?


Christmas is a time to appreciate what you have and encourage generosity, joy, hope and kindness. A cosy atmosphere and wintry weather help to generate these feelings and bring Christmas to mind. However, since a lot of the planet celebrate Christmas in the sun, these qualities are not necessary to make a book a Christmas book. We can all appreciate Christmas without snow. Still, the weather and cosy atmosphere are frequent themes in popular Christmas books on the market. What transpires in all of them, however, is a main message with a lesson to readers which often encourages celebrating Christmas and embracing its nature of happiness, kindness and thankfulness.

“Christmas is a time to appreciate what you have and encourage generosity, joy, hope and kindness. A cosy atmosphere and wintry weather help to generate these feelings and bring Christmas to mind”

Moving stories, with a deeper meaning to them, that help you treasure what is important, loved ones, kindness and hope, at Christmas are the true Christmas books, in my opinion. If a cookbook inspires you to think about cooking for the less fortunate, or enjoying valuable time with your loved ones, then it is worth the title. If a crime novella set during the holidays inspires you to work out the rifts in your family, it is also worth the title. If a Christmas-themed-horror or thriller holds a deeper meaning or subtly suggests at important values (perhaps through the absence of these things), then it is a Christmas book. What is important is how the book makes you feel, what it makes you appreciate during Christmas and the atmosphere it creates.

Image: Andy Mabbett via Creative Commons

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