Opening Lines from Christmas Books

atkins-bookshelf-xmasThe cold winter air curled itself around a remote country cottage on a quiet Christmas eve. Amidst a silky blanket of new-fallen snow, a crooked chimney jutting out of the moss-covered thatched roof takes a puff of the crackling fire burning inside, sending out a wispy trail of smoke, spiraling its way up against the downward dance of snowflakes. The windows glow a deep amber, revealing the light and warmth of the cottage’s interior. Just to the right of the fireplace sits a small figure on an overstuffed chair; a colorful patchwork blanket draped over his lap. An aged white-faced golden retriever lays at his feet, a furry footstool for his beloved companion. The dog slowly lifts his head and sniffs the air as if he senses our presence as we peer into the cottage window. Oblivious to his dog’s brief investigation, the boy is absorbed by the book that he delicately cradles in his hands. Christmas ushers in so many family traditions, but this one is uniquely his — reading a Christmas story on the night before Christmas. Bookshelf honors this lad’s noble tradition by presenting the opening lines of cherished Christmas books that rekindle the warmth, tenderness, hope, and wonder of the holiday season to lift the spirit of even the weariest of souls. To readers everywhere — a hearty “Merry Christmas!”; and as Dickens’s beloved Tiny Tim observed, “God bless us everyone.”

On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound — a sound a friend had told me I’d never hear — the ringing bells of Santa’s sleigh. “There is no Santa,” my friend had insisted, but I knew he was wrong. Late that night I did hear sounds, though not of ringing bells. From outside came the sounds of hissing steam and squeaking metal. I looked through my window and saw a train standing perfectly still in front of my house.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Have you heard of the great Forest of Burzee? Nurse used to sing of it when I was a child. She sang of the big tree-trunks, standing close together, with their roots intertwining below the earth and their branches intertwining above it; of their rough coating of bark and queer, gnarled limbs; of the bushy foliage that roofed the entire forest, save where the sunbeams found a path through which to touch the ground in little spots and to cast weird and curious shadows over the mosses, the lichens and the drifts of dried leaves.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

If you search every old folks’ home in the country, you couldn’t find anyone who looked more like Santa Claus. He was the living, breathing incarnation of the old gent—white beard, pink cheeks, fat tummy and all—and his name was Kris Kringle, too. Whether this was coincidence or design—a sort of stage name he had assume—his friends at the Maplewood Home for Anged never knew.
Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It may be that I am growing old in this world and have used up more than my share of allotted words and eager audiences. Or maybe I am just growing weary of a skeptical age that pokes and prods at my story much the same as a middle-school biology student pokes and prods through an anesthetized frog to determine what makes it live, leaving the poor creature dead in the end. Whatever the reason, I find that with each passing Christmas the story of the Christmas box is told less and needed more.
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

The day of Christmas eve ended, and the night began, cold, and clear. The stars and the crescent moon shone brightly upon the Christian world, helping all the good folks welcome the birth of our Savior. The cold grew sharper, yet the night was so quet that one could hear the snow squeak under a traveler’s boots from half a mile away. Caroling hadn’t begun; village youths weren’t yet crowded outside the windows waiting for treat; the moon alone peeked through, as though inviting the girls to finish up their toilette and run out onto the clean, sparkling snow.
The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. that was all. and sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Snow was falling gently on the streets, and people were hurrying home, their arms filled with gaily wrapped boxes and paper parcels from toy stores, candy shops, and bakeries. For it was Christmas Eve, and as twilight fell, the children throughout Germany waited in hushed expectation for night to arrive, and with it their gifts from the Christ Child.
The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann

There is nothing in England that exercises a more delightful spell over my imagination than the lingerings of the holiday customs and rural games of former times. They recall the pictures my fancy used to draw in the May mornings of life, when as yet I only knew the world through books, and believed it to be all the poets had painted it; and they bring with them the flavour of those honest days of yore, in which, perhaps with equal fallacy, I am apt to think the world was more home-bred, social, and joyous than at present. I regret to say that they are daily growing more and more faint, being gradually worn away by time, but still more obliterated by modern fashion.
Old Christmas by Washington Irving

Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot…
But the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did NOT!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

The little town straggling up the hill was bright with coloured Christmas lights. But George Pratt did not see them. He was leaning over the railing of the iron bridge, staring down moodily at the black water. The current eddied and swirled like liquid glass, and occasionally a bit of ice, detached from the shore, would go gliding downstream to be swallowed up in the shadows.
The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern

Read related posts: The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”
The Literary Christmas Price Index

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