Literary Christmas Trees

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
How lovely are thy branches!

Ernst Anschütz

Christmas is coming. In a year where everyone is desperate for some festive cheer, we look at some of the most memorable literary Christmas trees to provide some festive foliage inspiration. Christmas trees seem to be lacking in literature, even though the Christmas Tree has been around since the 16th century.

Many of the quotes I’ve chosen have a sad outcome, with the Christmas Tree providing a final image of happiness to the children before death. However, the description of the trees is still picturesque, despite the poignant undertones.

Harry Potter

Christmas at Hogwarts is beyond magical, with gigantic Christmas trees, stunning crackers and a feast like no other. We never find out what Christmas at the Dursley’s was like, but if Dudley’s birthday is anything to go by it probably wasn’t much fun! The Christmas with Beauxbatons and Durmstrangs stands out because of the Yule Ball, which glitters and gleams like a grotto.

When the decorations went up, Harry noticed that they were the most stunning he had yet seen inside the school. Everlasting icicles had been attached to the banisters of the marble staircase; the usual twelve Christmas trees in the Great Hall were bedecked with everything from luminous holly berries to real, hooting, golden owls, and the suits of armour had all been bewitched to sing carols whenever anyone passed them.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ~ J.K. Rowling

Charles Dickens

Although best known for A Christmas Carol (a must-read every Christmas Eve), Dickens wrote several festive stories. Each of them paints a fantastic picture of a Victorian Christmas and despite the poverty and suffering we’re so used to seeing, A Christmas Tree is full of joy and the magic of Christmas giving.

The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects… And now, I see a wonderful row of little lights rise smoothly out of the ground, before a vast green curtain. Now, a bell rings—a magic bell, which still sounds in my ears unlike all other bells—and music plays, amidst a buzz of voices, and a fragrant smell of orange–peel and oil… Now, the tree is decorated with bright merriment, and song, and dance, and cheerfulness. And they are welcome. Innocent and welcome be they ever held, beneath the branches of the Christmas Tree, which cast no gloomy shadow! But, as it sinks into the ground, I hear a whisper going through the leaves. “This, in commemoration of the law of love and kindness, mercy and compassion. This, in remembrance of Me!”

A Christmas Tree ~ Charles Dickens

The Little Match Girl

Not the most cheery of Christmas tales, the Little Match Girl has its own beauty, reminding children that not everyone has a happy Christmas.

What I like about it, is that although the ending is sad, the little girl experiences a Christmas like no other and – for one blissful moment – feels happy and full of the joys of Christmas.

She lighted another match, and then she found herself sitting under a beautiful Christmas-tree. It was larger and more beautifully decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door at the rich merchant’s. Thousands of tapers were burning upon the green branches, and coloured pictures, like those she had seen in the show-windows, looked down upon it all. The little one stretched out her hand towards them, and the match went out.

The Christmas lights rose higher and higher, till they looked to her like the stars in the sky. Then she saw a star fall, leaving behind it a bright streak of fire. “Someone is dying,” thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only one who had ever loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star falls, a soul was going up to God.

The Little Match Girl ~ Hans Christian Andersen

The Beggar Boy

Although similar to the Little Match Girl, Dostoyevsky gives his story a strong Christian message. Although I prefer his story of the Wedding, this one conjures up such a lovely image of the boy under the tree, that I had to include it. Once again, the boy experiences a Christmas like he’d always imagined, before being reunited with his mother.

“Come to my Christmas tree, little one,” a soft voice suddenly whispered over his head.

He thought that this was still his mother, but no, it was not she. Who it was calling him, he could not see, but someone bent over to him, and … and all at once—oh, what a bright light! Oh, what a Christmas tree! And yet it was not a fir tree, he had never seen a tree like that! Where was he now? Everything was bright and shining, and all around him were dolls; but no, they were not dolls, they were little boys and girls, only so bright and shining. They all came flying round him, they all kissed him, took him and carried him along with them, and he was flying himself, and he saw that his mother was looking at him and laughing joyfully. “Mammy, Mammy; oh, how nice it is here, Mammy!” and again he kissed the children and wanted to tell them at once of those dolls in the shop windows.

The Beggar Boy at Christ’s Christmas Tree ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

What are some of your favourite literary Christmas trees? And what’s your favourite Christmas story?

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