Famous Stories, Plays, Songs Based on Christmas

The Gift of the Magi – O. Henry

The Gift of the Magi is probably the most famous of Christmas-themed stories. Written by O. Henry and first published in 1905, the story tells the tale of a young married couple selling their most precious possessions in an effort to gift the other a special Christmas present. The story emphasizes the love and affection that underlines their relationship, set in the backdrop of the Christmas season. Well-known for his short stories with surprise endings, O. Henry showcased the enduring quality of affection and warmth over the hardships of the poor working class in many of his tales.

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

This novel was written by Charles Dickens and first published in 1843. It describes the transformation of the old miserly Ebenezer Scrooge into a kind generous person after a visit from the ghost of his former business associate Jacob Marley and his journey to the past, present and the probable future with three Christmas spirits. Colored by Dickens’ early life and his brushes with poverty and a class-ridden society, the novel became a huge hit in England and its popularity spread across the English speaking countries. It is another story that emphasizes the need for kindness and generosity over money and financial enterprise.

The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg

Published in 1985, The Polar Express is a children’s picture book that was both written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. The book tells the story of a boy’s visit to the North Pole and explains the reason faith and innocence make Christmas a special holiday. The book was adapted into an Oscar nominated film and was also ranked among the Top 100 Picture Books of all time by the School Library Journal.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – Dr. Seuss

Based on the famous book by Dr. Seuss called How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this is one of the most famous Christmas-themed musicals. The lyrics of the musical were written by Timothy Mason and the original score was composed by Mel Marvin. John DeLuca was the original choreographer who set the moves for Children’s Theatre Company’s original production in 1994. It tells the story of a Grinch, a grumpy creature that tries to steal Christmas by taking away the food, presents, and the tree from Whoville but is reformed by the joy and the spirit of the Whos.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is best known for her crime fiction and her lead character, Hercule Poirot, the bald Belgian detective with amazing deductive capabilities. Poirot has remained one of the most famous detective characters in literature for many decades now. One of her best loved stories is Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, a story featuring a Christmas Eve murder and games played around the festivities. Published in 1938, the story is centered on the murder of millionaire Simeon Lee and the disappearance of diamonds from his household. The story became very popular and was later adapted on television and radio as well.

Papa Panov’s Special Christmas – Leo Tolstoy

Based on the Biblical text, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me water”, and written by Leo Tolstoy, Papa Panov’s Special Christmas is a famous Christmas-based story. Like many of Tolstoy’s stories, this one tells us the tale of poor working class people and their woes. It also talks of the charity and generosity that we are capable of, if we tap into the goodness in our hearts. Papa Panov, an old cobbler, finds the true spirit of Christmas when he dishes out food, warmth, and love to poor people while waiting for Christ to appear.

Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer – Johnny Marks

Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer is one of the most popular Christmas songs, written by Johnny Marks based on the poem by Robert L May. Harry Brannon was the earliest performer who sang the song in 1949 making it the first No 1 ranking song of 1950. The song was later sung by a number of popular artists such as Bing Crosby, Billy May, Paul McCartney, and Destiny’s Child. The song has consistently been on America’s top charts and is a Christmastime favorite. The song made Rudolph the reindeer a famous character in popular culture

The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole

Written by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé, The Christmas Song is one of the best known songs based on Christmas. The song was initially written in 1945 and performed by Nat King Cole. He recorded this song some four times and the 1961 version (Capitol Studios, New York City, March, 1961) is the most popular. So much so that The Christmas Song became one of the defining songs of Nat King Cole’s career. The song was also performed by Mel Tormé himself.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is another very popular Christmas-themed song written by Haven Gillespie and John Frederick Coots. It was first performed by Harry Reser, the famous banjo player, and his band. The song became an instant hit when it was aired on the Eddie Cantor radio show. It was later performed by a number of popular performers including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Mariah Carey, Faith Hill, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber. Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi also recorded rock versions of the song which became very popular.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays – ‘NSYNC

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays by ‘NSYNC, an American boy band, has become one of the most popular Christmas-themed pop songs of recent times. The song was the only single in ‘NSYNC’s second album recorded in a studio, ‘Home for Christmas’, and was released in November 1998. The song became immensely popular and has remained a favorite during the Christmas season.

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