Victorian Christmas Classics to Read this Holiday Season (that are not Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol)

A warm fireplace.

A hot cuppa cocoa (or tea or coffee).

A thick throw blanket.

A Christmas classic.

For the seasonal reader, these are the ingredients that, when combined, create an ideal evening for the holiday homebody to savor.

And when it comes to Christmas classics, it should come as no surprise to a reader like you that the most widely recognized & read Christmas story worldwide is none other than Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843).

I recently shared with my Monthly Book Club Members in their December Book Boxes that writing Christmas stories was a popular pastime in Victorian England.

“The long midwinter nights meant folks had to stop working early, and they spent their leisure hours huddled close to the fire,” says Tara Moore, an assistant professor of English at Elizabethtown College. “Plus, you didn’t need to be literate to retell the local ghost story.”

Oral storytelling gave our forebears something to do during those long winter nights pre-printing press (and electricity), and with the advent of the printing press, gave writers solid source material from which to spin spooky stories with an air of familiarity to their audience.

"The popularity of Victorian Christmas ghost stories also transcended socioeconomic status. They were available to read everywhere from cheap publications, to expensive Christmas annuals that middle-class ladies would show off on their coffee tables," according to Moore.

Victorian writer Charles Dickens popularized the pastime of creating creepy Christmas stories in A Christmas Carol, but he also introduced the themes we have come to associate with Christmas classics today like forgiveness and reconciliation. 

If you're up for reading outside your comfort zone this holiday season and into experiencing a bit of Victorian Christmas storytelling, here are a few Victorian Christmas Classics to Read this Holiday Season (that are not Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol) that I've added to my own Holiday TBR pile.

And you can, too!

The Old Nurse's Story by Elizabeth Gaskell (1852)

Charles Dickens himself said The Old Nurses Story was “a very fine ghost-story indeed. Nobly told, and wonderfully managed.”

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Listen up: Beautiful British accent version

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The Kit Bag by Algernon Blackwood (1908)

Johnson, Blackwood's main character in The Kit Bagworks for a law firm that has just won a murder case. Worn out by the trial, Johnson plans to recover from the case by spending his Christmas holiday in the Alps...if he can manage the night.

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Listen Up: Complete with a beautiful British accent

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The Captain of the Pole-Star: A Ghost Story for Christmas by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1883)

Arctic setting with snow and ice aplenty, this Christmas ghost-story is the brainchild of 23-year-old medical student Doyle - pre-Sherlock Holmes.

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Listen Up: Here's an awesome dramatized version 

Read for Free: Pick your preference of eBook thanks to Project Gutenberg.

The Lady's Walk by Margaret Oliphant (1897)

A family ghost haunting an English family's estate. Say no more.

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Read for Free: Thanks, Project Gutenberg!

A Strange Christmas Game by J. H. Riddell (1863)

Charlotte Riddell (pen name J. H. Riddell) was one of the most popular and influential writers of the Victorian period. A Strange Christmas Game is her brilliant ghost story with a delightfully strange twist at the end.

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Listen Up: Excellently Narrated by Edward French

Read for Free: Thanks, Short Story Project!

The Curse of the Catafalques by F. Anstey (1882)

Staff member at Punch Magazine during its heyday, Anstey was known for his humor and this Christmas ghost story about Victorian identity theft is a good sampling of why.

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Listen Up: Excellently Narrated by Edward French

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Jerry Bundler by W.W. Jacobs

Christmas ghost story that is set on Christmas Eve 'round a cheery fireplace about the very house the characters have lodged in for the night.

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Listen Up: via the Classic Ghost Stories Podcast YouTube Channel

Read for Free: Pick your preference of eBook via Project Gutenberg

Which Christmas classics would you recommend?

Share your favorite go-to titles & authors in the comments.

1 comment

  • I am a huge Georgette Heyer fan and so I would recommend an English country manor closed-door murder mystery called Envious Casca (some newer editions go by the name A Christmas Story). Snowdrift and Other Stories is a collection of 14 short stories in the traditional Heyer mode; not all of them are Christmas-centered but still very enjoyable. Shepherds Abiding is a beautiful book from Jan Karon’s Mitford series and after discovering it last year I am making it a tradition to read every Christmas season. Thank you for your recs!

    Lynda A.

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