Everyone loves Christmas stories, even high school students. Make these part of your English curriculum. I've included lesson ideas and a short summary of each story.
Begin With These Four Short Stories
You can't have an inspirational Christmas short stories list without these. You can access the stories themselves at East of the Web's Short Stories page.
"The Gift of the Magi" by O'Henry - Della and Jim can't decide what to get each other for Christmas. With little money in their pockets and a lot of love in their hearts, Della and Jim give up what they love most to give the other a Merry Christmas. Lesson ideas include teaching allusions and teaching irony.
"A Kidnapped Santa Clause" by L. Frank Baum - Who would dare kidnap Santa Clause? Only the the Cave Daemons of Selfishness, Hatred, Envy, and Malice. After their failed efforts to tempt Santa Clause into their abode, these Cave Daemons resort to felony kidnapping. This story is better suited for younger audiences. It contains the elements of folktales and is a great story for teaching allegory. Make a chart that utilizes symbols from the story and have the students collaborate and brainstorm the symbol's associated meanings. The connections are very obvious and this should be an easy way to illustrate allegory. The story also contains excellent examples of personification.
"Bertie's Christmas Eve" by Saki - For those tired of the same old inspirational Christmas short stories, try Bertie's interpretation of a Merry Christmas. Bertie, the family "ne'er do well" is tired of his stuffy family and locks them in a barn. Drunk, stranded motorists are invited in by Bertie to share some of his family's best champagne. As with all Saki short stories, this one contains enough irony to occupy irony-minded students for an entire class period.
"How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar" by Bret Harte - Harte uses a familiar formula in his rendition of Christmas in a California mining town. Roads are flooded and Simpson's Bar is unreachable -- or is it? Harte's story shows that the redeeming value of Christmas applies to all, even the broken down men of Simpson's Bar.
Two Great Stories for Personal Narrative or Memoir Lessons
Although these are not short stories, these two tales typically delight both students and adults during the holidays.
"A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote - Capote uses Christmas as a controlling image in sharing a memory of his elderly cousin, Buddy. "A Christmas Memory" provides inspiration for writing personal narratives. After reading this story, have students write a personal narrative about a special holiday.
"A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas - Thomas uses imagery and figurative language to relate his memory of Christmas past. Make a web diagram with the word "A Child's Christmas in Wales" in the middle. Draw five large circles around the middle circle and connect them. Label each circle with one of the five senses--touch, sight, sound, smell, taste. As you read the story, fill in the circles with specific images from the memoir. After you are finished reading and filling in, instruct students to create their own web diagram, with a holiday of their choosing. Instruct them to use their web diagram for a descriptive essay or personal memoir of their own.
Two Classic Christmas Tales Finish Out the List
"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens - Dickens' novel is the classic Christmas tale of redemption. The novel is suitable for teaching characterization, stereotypes, and figurative language. Check out this study guide on the writing elements of Great Expectations, where Dickens portrays a darker side of Christmas, for help in teaching A Christmas Carol. This book has inspired several movies including A Muppets Christmas Carol, Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol, Scrooged (my personal favorite), and, of course, several other adaptations the classic tale.
"'Twas the Night before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore - The modern image of Santa Claus comes primarily from this classic poem. Assign students a poem writing assignment, in which they must describe a holiday creature in the same rhyming manner as Clarke.
Please read before downloading the article below: The teacher and author of this article, Trent Lorcher, included a short story that he wrote, and found to be humorous. However, many of our readers complained about it. Trent originally described the article as 'cheesy'. The editorial staff feel it is more appropriately described as a dark twist on the Gift of the Magi, one which would not exactly produce a deep belly laugh, or even a delighted chuckle.
After some debate, we decided not to delete it, but instead, remove it from this page and offer it as an optional download. Why? Because if we ask someone to write a short, fictional story about Christmas, and they return with a story that has a rather dark and disturbing twist -- well, we need to accept that it's a fictional story about Christmas, and Christmas isn't always happy in everyone's household.
While Trent is an adult, and a teacher, and could write anything he chose to, we've left this article as an example, and a reminder, that everyone's expression of thoughts and ideas differs. When trying to light a spark in the imagination of a potential writer, we have to constantly remind ourselves not to extinguish that spark, simply because their words make us uncomfortable, and do not reflect our own.
Cheesy, Humorous Stories
You could always have your kids write a cheesy humorous Christmas short story, like the one you can download here, written by the author of this article, Trent Lorcher.