The Best Christmas Short Stories for High School
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.
ELA Common Core Standards Covered
Teaching Christmas short stories can accomplish the following ELA Common Core Standards.
- RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
- RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise
- W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Inspirational Christmas Stories
You can’t have an inspirational Christmas short stories list without these (The following short stories can be accessed here.).
- “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 (follow the link for an explanation of allegory). Make a chart like the one in the linked lesson plan and adapt it for this story. The connections are very obvious. 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 Clause 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.
More Christmas Literature
Although not short stories, these Christmas Stories delight 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 “A Christmas Memory,” 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 5 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 “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” 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.
- 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 writing style of Charles Dickens’ study guide for Great Expectations, where Dickens portrays a darker sife of Christmas, for help teaching A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol has inspired several movies including A Muppets Christmas Carol, Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Scrooged (my personal favorite), and of course several adaptations of A Christmas Carol.
- “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore – The modern image of Santa Clause 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.
Teaching Literary Elements with Short Stories
Understanding literary elements is necessary for literary analysis. These short stories will help you teach literary elements.
- The Best American Short Stories
- Short Stories for Teaching Theme
- Short Stories for Teaching Irony
- Short Stories for Teaching Symbolism
- Short Stories for Teaching Conflict
- Short Stories for Teaching Foreshadowing
- Short Stories for Teaching Imagery
- Short Stories for Teaching Characterization