There’s something about Christmas fiction that appeals to more than just the regular reader, enticing people who aren’t in the habit of reading during the rest of the year to pick up a book.
Whatever the genre, the special- or magical- feel of the associated festive season can provide an extra layer of description, tension, romance, or even snow covered fear.
The most famous and consistently most popular Christmas story in the UK is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Written in December 1843, this festive novella is a ghost story which perfectly encapsulates the hope and resilience of the human spirit which, Dickens argues, is reflected on at Christmas, more so than at any other time of the year.
It is in the world of children’s fiction that the Christmas story has its greatest audience. From the wordless yet hugely descriptive The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, to How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss, and the fantasy of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the magic of the Christmas fiction endures year after year.
One of the best loved modern classics, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year. The Polar Express is the story of a little boy taken for a train ride to the North Pole with hundreds of other children, to where Santa and his elves are gathered to give the first gift of Christmas. The story perfectly captures the joy of Christmas, and the magic of the season which adults find so hard to keep hold of.
Whether it’s the need to curl up on the sofa with a glass of mulled wine, mince pie, and light hearted romantic tale, the comfort of being safe and sound under a duvet while you read about being chilled to the bone in a winter frost, or the magical smiles inspired by children’s festive stories, every year Christmas fiction makes many of us feel better, happier, safer and warmer.
Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.