As we approach the holiday season, Christmas short stories can bring a sense of warmth and nostalgia to the classroom – even for educators who do not find themselves immersed in a Christian environment. The charm of Christmas, with its universal themes of love, generosity, and goodwill, transcends religious boundaries. The holiday season makes a perfect backdrop for exploring valuable themes to students from all walks of life.
In this blog post, I’ll share some holiday short stories that you can teach during Christmas. These stories not only explore the true meaning of Christmas, but also illustrate the winter landscape and examine cultural differences.
What makes a good Christmas short story?
Whether it’s a tale of love and generosity, a heartwarming reunion, or an exploration of the deeper meaning of the season, a good Christmas story should leave our students with a sense of hope. The holidays are a reminder of the importance of love, kindness, and togetherness during this reflective time of year.
A good holiday story does not even need to necessarily be about Christmas – or any other winter holiday. In fact, some of my favorite seasonal stories do not mention the holidays at all. December is an introspective month; as the year comes to a close, it’s a time to reflect on the growth, challenges, and events of the last calendar year. For countries in the Western hemisphere, December also brings colder weather, welcoming more time spent indoors with those closest to us. A good Christmas story evokes this sense of warmth and joy, and perhaps even a touch of nostalgia.
Celebrating Diversity in Christmas Short Stories
In this blog post, I’m excited to share a collection of short stories that share the incredible diversity of authors and perspectives within the world of literature. Each story comes from a unique voice, representing various backgrounds, experiences, and cultural lenses.
From tales rooted in different traditions and settings to those exploring a wide range of emotions and human experiences, these stories serve as a testament to the power of literature to bridge the gaps between us. They also offer students a glimpse into the beautifully varied tapestry of our world. Whether you’re a seasoned reader or just beginning to explore the world of short fiction, these stories promise to offer fresh perspectives and meaningful insights that resonate with our shared human experiences.
The Best Christmas Short Stories
“Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan
In “Fish Cheeks,” Amy Tan shares an autobiographical narrative from the perspective of the author at 14 years old. To her horror, her family has invited her crush’s family over to celebrate a Christmas meal, uncovering themes of cultural identity, internalized racism, pride, and shame. This short story is a great pick for both Christian and non-Christian contexts as it examines diverse experiences within a dominant culture.
“Fish Cheeks” by Amy Tan examines holiday themes through the use of descriptive writing and irony, making it a great short story to teach in upper middle school and high school alike. This text introduces a variety of literary devices, including hyperbole, imagery, maxim, and personification. It’s also a great starting point to teach descriptive writing. Finally, students can emulate the style and literary techniques of this short story by writing their own personal narratives.
“The Gift” by Ray Bradbury
On a rocket into space, a young boy has a profound awakening about the true meaning of Christmas. Although written in 1952, “The Gift” is set in a dystopian future where materialism and consumerism have reached extreme heights. The story revolves around the protagonist named Willie, who stumbles upon a unique gift that defies the norm of his society. Through a small act of kindness, Bradbury reminds us of the most precious gifts in life – those that are often intangible yet deeply meaningful.
A dystopian short story like “The Gift” is a great opportunity to explore the background of the author, Ray Bradbury. Understanding Bradbury’s unique life experiences will enrich students’ interpretation of “The Gift.” This author biography shares about Bradbury’s childhood and upbringing, his path to becoming an author, and his contributions outside of literature, including film production and space exploration.
“Snow” by Naomi Shihab Nye
“Snow” by Naomi Shihab Nye is a short story told through poetry. Nye is an Arab American poet and novelist. She grew up in Missouri, the West Bank, and later in Texas; her father was a Palestinian refugee and her mother was an American artist. Her work is characterized by her childhood memories and her travels abroad.
“Snow” captures the thrill of siblings braving the natural elements of winter together. Between the lines reads a story of familial hardship and dysfunction. Although the poem makes no mention of Christmas or holiday festivities, it evokes the nostalgia and emotion of the season. It also captures the darkness of winter, and the forces of love that help us through to spring.
This poem is the perfect opportunity to introduce students to the elements of poetry and to teach them how to annotate a poem. Students can use this free poetry bookmark for guidance while reading, annotating, and analyzing “Snow.” Additionally, as a brilliant example of free verse poetry, “Snow” offers an excellent starting point for leading a writing workshop to teach students to write their own free verse poem.
Enjoying Christmas Short Stories during the Holidays
The holiday season serves as a gentle reminder to reflect on the significance of love, benevolence, and unity. As we’ve explored in this blog post, holiday stories do not need to exclusively revolve around Christmas. What these Christmas short stories all share in common is that they beautifully capture universal themes that make up the essence of the season.
As the year comes to an end, I hope your days are filled with this same essence of hope, warmth, and kindness. I wish you a winter holiday filled with gratitude and rest, and hope you find joy in whatever festivities you choose to celebrate.