Classic Christmas Short Stories You Can Read Right Now

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Read these classic Christmas short stories to get in a festive mood for the holiday season! You’ll find some of the best and most famous Christmas short stories by authors like L. M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and Charles Dickens. And the best part is, you can read these Christmas stories for free!

Book and coffee on a Christmas-patterned background

20 Free Classic Christmas Stories

The most classic Christmas story can be found in the books of Mathew and Luke, from the Bible. Between them, the first few chapters of these books cover the birth of Jesus, and the familiar stories of the angels, shepherds, and wise men that we see depicted in Christmas pageants and ornaments and nativity scenes today.

Since that first Christmas story from 2,000 years ago, the holiday season has grown up with hundreds of Christmas stories both religious and secular that reflect what the season means to us. I had so much fun rounding up a few of these Christmas stories from famous authors for you to enjoy here!

Some of the authors on this list might surprise you, as they did me. Did you know that L. Frank Baum–author of The Wizard of Oz–wrote a Christmas fantasy story about Santa Claus getting kidnapped by daemons? Or that Washington Irving–the man known for his Halloween tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”–also wrote Christmas stories that would serve as inspiration for A Christmas Carol?

There’s also a range of “takes” on Christmas in these stories: from traditional Christmas stories to fantastical, funny and humorous to serious or sweet. And I’ve included New Year’s stories as well, since Christmas was historically seen as a twelve-day period, beginning on December 25th and ending on January 5th, or Twelfth Night. You can read these Christmas stories online for free, print them out, or download them for free to your e-reader. Some include illustrations as well! If you prefer to listen to these Christmas stories, you’ll also find a link to the audio version, if available.

Treat yourself to some fireside reading and capture the holiday spirit with a bit of old-fashioned storytelling from Christmas past.

20 Classic Christmas Short Stories You Can Read Online for Free

1. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

Probably one of the most famous Christmas short stories, this is the tale of a young married couple who desperately want to buy beautiful Christmas presents for each other, but lack the money to do so. They each make a sacrifice to buy the other a present, and the results are humorous and poignant.
Read it here | Listen here

2. “A Christmas Dream, and How It Came to Be True” by Louisa May Alcott

Alcott seems to have a genuine love for Christmas. She includes memorable Christmas scenes in her novel Little Women, but she also wrote a number of Christmas short stories and novellas. (You can get them all gathered into one volume here.) Alcott was a fan of Charles Dickens’s Christmas stories, and “A Christmas Dream” is a children’s version of A Christmas Carol. This would make a great Christmas story to read aloud to your kids!
Read it here

3. “The Elves and the Shoemaker” by The Brothers Grimm

In this familiar Christmas tale, a poor cobbler is rewarded for his honesty and hard work when two elves step in to save him from ruin. Like most of the Grimm fairy tales, this one is very short; it would make a nice Christmas bedtime story to read to young children!
Read it here | Listen here

4. “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas recounts memories of an old-fashioned Christmas from the perspective of a young boy. Thomas uses his skill as a poet to make this a lyrical and sense-engaging story.
Read it here | Listen here (read by the author)

5. “Christmas at Red Butte” by L. M. Montgomery

Montgomery was a prolific writer of short stories, and she has several Christmas and New Year’s stories in her bibliography. (Fourteen are collected here, along with Christmas excerpts from the Anne novels.) A departure from her usual setting of Prince Edward Island, “Christmas at Red Butte” takes place in a log cabin on the Saskatchewan prairie. Sixteen-year-old Theodora manages a home with her aunt, but as they struggle to make ends meet Theodora decides to make a great sacrifice in order to give her young cousins a happy Christmas.
Read it here | Listen here

6. “A Christmas Tree” by Charles Dickens

This short story is told as a memoir, in which the ornaments on a Christmas tree inspire an elderly narrator to reminisce about childhood. There’s no dialogue in this, but if you settle in, unhurried, with a glass of eggnog, you’ll enjoy the meandering trip into memory. (Here’s a list of other Christmas stories by Charles Dickens)
Read it here | Listen here

7. “A Kidnapped Santa Claus” by L. Frank Baum

In this fantasy Christmas tale by the author of The Wizard of Oz, Santa lives in a castle in the Laughing Valley. Santa has helpers, but he also has enemies, and on Christmas Eve he’s lassoed out of his sleigh by five daemons. This short story is a follow-up to Baum’s longer novel, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
Read it here | Listen here

8. “The Other Wise Man” by Henry van Dyke

Traditionally, when we think of the wise men of the Christmas story, we think of three kings. For this story, van Dyke imagines a fourth wise man who misses the rendezvous with the other kings and must journey to visit the Christ Child on his own. The quest that follows is an immersive and richly detailed story.
Read it here | Listen here

9. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Fancy a Christmas-y mystery? It’s the holiday season in London, and when a stolen jewel turns up in a highly unusual spot, Holmes must use his powers of deduction to discover the identity of the thief.
Read it here | Listen here

10. “The Burglar’s Christmas” by Willa Cather

Written under the pen name Elizabeth L. Seymour, Cather’s story is a retelling of the prodigal son parable, set in Chicago on Christmas Eve. Cather started out as a writer of poetry and short stories; she published “The Burglar’s Christmas” when she was 23, a good 15 years before her first novel.
Read it here

11. “The Tailor of Gloucester” by Beatrix Potter

The tailor of Gloucester is making a splendid waistcoat for the Mayor’s wedding, which will be held “on Christmas day in the morning.” Unfortunately, the coat might not be completed in time, thanks to a vindictive cat!
Read it here | Listen here

12. “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen

This tale is about a poor girl attempting to earn a few pennies on New Year’s Eve by selling matches in the streets. As night draws on, she begins to strike matches for herself, catching glimpses of warmth and comfort as she does so. Although this is a famous “tragic” Christmas story, Andersen viewed it as a happy ending.
Read it here | Listen here

Open book and Christmas mug in front of a Christmas tree

13. “Nutcracker and Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffmann

The original nutcracker tale is dark and fantastical. In fact, the story as we know it today–from picture books and the ballet–is based on Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation of the original. Dumas’ adaptation is lighter and sweeter. But if you want the full, dramatic story, read Hoffman’s! (For both versions in one volume, Penguin has you covered.)
Read it here | Listen here

14. “Christmas at Thompson Hall” by Anthony Trollope

If you prefer funny, lighthearted Christmas fare, read this story about an English lady living abroad in Paris, who desperately wants to get back to her ancestral home in time for Christmas. This story is included in a nice hardback collection as part of Penguin’s Christmas Classics series.
Read it here | Listen here

15. “A Letter From Santa Claus” by Mark Twain

This sweet, simple letter was written by Twain to his 3-year-old daughter. If you’ve ever had a parent or relative play Santa–perhaps even write you letters as Santa–it’s delightful to think of Twain as a parent carrying out this tradition a hundred years ago.
Read it here

16. “Old Christmas” by Washington Irving

Charles Dickens gets a lot of credit for “inventing” modern-day Christmas. But every author draws their inspiration from somewhere, and Dickens got a lot of his from Washington Irving. Irving’s Christmas sketches describe a jolly, feast-filled holiday in Yorkshire at the estate of Squire Bracebridge, a precursor to Fezziwig’s party in A Christmas Carol.
Read it here | Listen here

17. “The Dead” by James Joyce

In Dublin, Ireland, a group of friends and relatives gather for an annual Twelfth Night party. Through a long evening of merry-making, awkward moments, and a patchwork of conversations, Joyce brings his characters to various epiphanies, large and small.
Read it here | Listen here

18. “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote

This short memoir is based on Capote’s childhood Christmas traditions, which he enjoys with his elderly cousin in rural Alabama.
Read it here | Listen here (read by the author)

19. “A Country Christmas” by Louisa May Alcott

Alcott wrote so many Christmas stories that I couldn’t resist sharing another one. In this story, city girls Sophie and Emily opt for a more “rustic” Christmas when they go to visit Sophie’s cousins in Vermont. While Alcott’s “A Christmas Dream” is written for a young audience, this one for older readers, more along the lines of Little Women.
Read it here

20. “Where Love Is, There God Is Also” by Leo Tolstoy

With its themes of love and generosity, Tolstoy’s wintry tale is a fitting read for Christmas. It tells the story of Martuin the cobbler, a man wearied by sorrow who ultimately finds hope and purpose.
Read it here

What would you add to this Christmas stories list? What are your favourite inspirational, funny, or heartwarming Christmas stories to read during the holidays? Please share!

More Christmas posts at Tea and Ink Society:

Classic Christmas Short Stories You Can Read Right Now
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11 Comments

  1. Three other great Christmas Stories:

    When the Yule Log Burns by Leona Dalyrmple, I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Gould, The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke.

  2. You have my permission to add my story to your fine list. Joe DiMino, author of “The Angel Who Lost Her Tree.” Blessings and Merry Christmas to all.

    “The Angel Who Lost Her Tree”
    by Joe DiMino

    Celeste was a pretty little angel. Everyone in Heaven
    loved her. She had the most charming wings, and rainbow
    halo; however, she had the forgetful habit of losing things.
    When put in charge of clouds, a responsible position for all the
    flowers depended on the rain, she seemed to always misplace
    a few—dropping them between mountains making for foggy
    valleys; and even when rain fell from the clouds that Celeste was
    to oversee, several drops never made their way to the ground to
    nourish the crops in the fields and fruit trees, and no-one could ever
    find them no matter where they looked. But she was still loved,
    for that is Heaven’s way. And God often reminded the other angels,
    that they must care for one another, just as they care for all the children
    in the world; watching over them as they sleep, and staying close,
    protecting them throughout the day while at school and later at play.

    So God’s response to the angels who thought Celeste was
    not of the highest rank was to give Celeste a very special
    responsibility—she would have her own Christmas tree.
    Now as you know, some pine trees are blessed to be
    very special trees, with the greatest honor—that of
    becoming a season’s Christmas tree. They had to be just
    the right height, and grow no taller, for every family had
    their prayer order. They had to have just the right shape,
    and holiday green—with all of winter’s charming pine-
    fragrance, ultra frosting for just the right gleam.
    And that was the dilemma—Celeste had been separated
    from her tree. What would a tree do without its angel
    atop? So sad if no-one to hear children’s prayers and
    wishes; to bless the lights, the silver tinsel and charming
    decorations—all made with love, watched over by
    Guardians high above. Yes, what would Celeste’s tree do
    if the top were bare, without her angel’s care?

    She was frantic, and searched the forest, thinking perhaps
    it had not yet been cut. She tried the many parking lots
    and corners, where trees had gathered—already having
    been sorted, proudly waiting to be picked-up by their
    rightful owners. But Celeste could not find hers. She
    began to weep—her tears growing cold and changing to
    snow.

    Of course, though Celeste did not know it at the time,
    this was good; the children having all wished for snow
    on Christmas, and till then there had not fell a single
    flake; not one snowball any child was able to make.
    Soon the entire city was covered in Christmas-white—
    with snow reflecting all the many colored lights. Celeste
    grew sadder—which was good, for her tree heard her
    weep; and as everyone knows, Christmas trees never
    sleep. Though you don’t see them, they have ears and
    eyes way up above; seeing all and hearing all, ready to
    respond with love. Eyes of the many angels are seen as
    a sky of Christmas lights. Ears are the countless hosts
    of Heaven, as many as needed—always listening, at
    least two hearing every prayer, applauding every hymn
    celebrating Christmas night. We celebrate Christmas
    night as we do the joyful Eves and Days.
    The earth blessed by God with never-ending mirth when
    our greatest worth acknowledged is that of Jesus’ holy
    birth. Celeste’s tree grew ever greener and brighter—till
    Celeste could not help but notice such outpouring of
    light.

    Celeste found her tree; and I do believe it could very
    well be your tree!

  3. heh these stories are great! but those comments were last year 🙂 WELL hope yall had a good christmas last year christmas is coming im super excited

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