Best Classic Christmas Stories for Children

It's finally that time of year again when we can start to feel festive! So to help you get in the Christmas spirit, here are some classic snow-sprinkled children's stories to whet their winter appetite.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, 1816

E. T. A. Hoffmann

This spellbinding story features young Marie Stahlbaum, whose favourite Christmas toy, a nutcracker, suddenly comes to life! Once it defeats the malicious Mouse King in battle, it takes Marie away to a magical kingdom, inhabited by an assortment of dolls. In 1892, the story was adapted into one of the most popular ballets of all time, The Nutcracker, by the composer Tchaikovsky, alongside choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. It's an exciting and fantastical tale, perfect for children in the run-up to Christmas.

A Christmas Carol, 1843

Charles Dickens

The full title of this well-known classic is A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas, but that's a bit of a mouthful to say the least! The story features Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old miser who loathes Christmas (and famously calls it 'humbug'), and the visits he receives from several ghosts. This starts with the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley, who was a similarly mean and miserly man. Jacob's ghost is now weighed down by burdensome chains and has to wear a scarf around his head to keep his face together! Throughout the following ghostly visitations (from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come), Scrooge learns that he must end his selfish and spiteful ways, or else face terrible consequences, such as having no-one to mourn his death. This memorable tale imparts the clear message that selfishness and greed can only have bad consequences, whilst compassion and generosity lead to happiness and friendship.

The Little Match Girl, 1845

Hans Christian Andersen

For something a little more sombre, The Little Match Girl is rather bittersweet, but highly poignant and thought-provoking. It begins with a little girl, trying to sell matches on a freezing cold New Year's Eve, who begins to light the matches for warmth instead. She sees wonderful visions in the glow of their flames, including a vision of her beloved late grandmother, and then looks up to see a beautiful shooting star. Once she runs out of matches, she passes away, but she does get to spend a joyful New Year with her grandmother in Heaven. This tale reflects how important it is to spend the festive season with the people you love, and also reminds us of those who might not be having such a merry Christmas.

The Gift of the Magi, 1905

O. Henry (pseudonym of William Sydney Porter)

This heart-warming story features a poor but very much in love couple, who set out to buy each other Christmas presents with the very little money they have. They have only two significant possessions: Della's long and flowing hair, and Jim's shiny pocket watch. Each of them sells their precious possession in order to raise money for gifts for each other. Unfortunately, Della's gift of a platinum pocket watch fob chain and Jim's present of elaborate hair accessories are now useless! But Della and Jim now fully understand the extent of their love, given that they would give up their most precious possessions for one another, and realise no present could be better than that. A very sweet story with the moral message that the intention behind gift-giving is the most important part.

The Snowman, 1978

Raymond Briggs

This enchanting picture book is completely wordless, but nonetheless tells a magical story. It tells the story of a little boy who goes on an exciting adventure with the snowman he built, and ends famously sadly when the boy finds the snowman has melted in the morning. This classic tale is perfect for young children as the beautiful illustrations make the story highly accessible.

The Polar Express, 1985

Chris Van Allsburg

A quintessentially Christmassy adventure, this exciting story comes complete with snowy settings and a sprinkle of magic. It features a young boy who hears a magnificent train pull up outside his house on Christmas Eve. He is invited on-board by the charismatic conductor to join a throng of excitable children all on a journey to the North Pole. When they get there, the boy receives the first gift of Christmas from Santa: a reindeer's silver sleigh-bell. When he hops back on the train, however, he discovers the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket! Devastated, he returns home. In a mysterious turn of events, however, the bell somehow ends up under the Christmas tree in time for morning. However, only he and his sister can hear its lovely ring; their parents think it must be broken. It turns out that only those who believe in the spirit of Christmas can hear it, and the boy continues to hear it forever.

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    Includes: The Tinder-Box; The Princess and the Pea; Thumbelina; The Little Mermaid; The Emperor's New Clothes; The Steadfast Soldier; The Ugly Duckling; The Snow Queen; The Little Match-Girl
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    Everyone's favourite snowman, with a sparkly glitter cover and introduction by Raymond Briggs. One winter's night, a snowman comes to life and an unforgettable adventure begins. Raymond Briggs' favourite classic is a true piece of Christmas magic - narrated entirely through pictures, it captures the wonder and innocence of childhood and is now recognised throughout the world. In 2012 the 30th anniversary of The Snowman was celebrated with a brand new half-hour animation The Snowman and the Snowdog. It introduced a new adorable character, can you guess who? That's right, a lovable snow puppy!
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    Late on Christmas Eve, after the town has gone to sleep, a boy boards a mysterious train that waits for him: the Polar Express bound for the North Pole. When he arrives there, Santa offers him any gift he desires. The boy modestly asks for one bell from the reindeer's harness. It turns out to be a very special gift, for only believers in Santa can hear it ring. "Magical glowing double spread pictures original and memorable book." (Guardian). "Evocative, realist pastels and atmospheric text." (Sunday Times). "A thrilling tale." (Independent).
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    Tony Robinson stars in this BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of E T A Hoffmann's renowned Christmas story, which inspired Tchaikovsky's ballet 'The Nutcracker'. It is Christmas Eve, and young Mary and Fred are opening presents from their godfather, Drosselmeier the toymaker. Mary's favourite gift is a nutcracker soldier, and she is disappointed when his jaw breaks on a particularly hard nut. She puts him away carefully, promising that Drosselmeier will mend him - and at that moment he seems to come alive. Surely she is just imagining things? But as the grandfather clock begins to chime midnight, all her toys spring to life! Led by the Nutcracker, they rush into battle with an army of mice who emerge from beneath the floorboards - including the seven-headed Mouse King...Hoffmann's classic children's tale is adapted by Brian Sibley (who also dramatised 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Chronicles of Narnia' for radio). Starring Tony Robinson as the Nutcracker, Edward de Souza as Drosselmeier, Eric Allen as the Mouse King and Angela Shaftoe as Mary, it is sure to delight fans of Tchaikovsy's famous ballet - and anyone who loves the magic of a good fairy tale.
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    Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly old skinflint. He hates everyone, especially children. But at Christmas three ghosts come to visit him, scare him into mending his ways, and he finds, as he celebrates with Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and their family, that geniality brings its own reward. This finest of all Christmas stories is beautifully illustrated with Arthur Rackham's superb line drawings.
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    A heartwarming collection of your favourite Christmas classics that are sure to get you into the festive spirit. Filled with tales of family, presents and all the joy that Christmas brings! From frolicking goblins in the graveyards of Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, to the importance of giving gifts in O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, this collection is the perfect Christmas gift.