“’Twas the night before Christmas” is one of the most iconic lines from any children’s poem, and certainly the most well-remembered from our childhoods. I decided to venture away from that this year and get a taste of what else was there to get me in the holiday mood. Whether you want to impress your granny during the best dinner of the year, get in the festive spirit, or just find a good seasonal quote for your many Instagram posts, this list has something for you. I’ve included some of my favourite quotes from each so you can get a taste for them, even if you’re too snowed under with essays to read them all.
A Christmas Childhood
“The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.”
Patrick Kavanagh manages to create the feeling of nostalgia that’s not only associated with Christmas but of Irish culture in general. Anyone with a grá for Ireland will love this poem and also anyone who can appreciate the love that Christmas should represent. It gives that warm fuzzy feeling of sentimentality with Kavanagh’s distinct voice that reads sweetly from the perspective of a child “six Christmases of age”.
A Cradle Song
“Smiles on thee on me on all,
Who became an infant small,
Infant smiles are His own smiles,
Heaven & earth to peace beguiles.”
If you happened to study English in First Arts, you’ve probably heard of William Blake, who included this particular poem in his Songs of Innocence. The name of the book really carries through to this piece, you can see the childish wholesomeness that he tries to convey. It’s full of the traditional Christmas message and is one you could recite to nearly anyone and have them enjoy it. Though it’s not necessarily a Christmas poem, it tells the story of the baby Jesus in his mother’s arms and of the peace between heaven and earth when he smiles — definitely something your relatives will lap up.
“All the petty thoughts and narrow seem to vanish for awhile
And the true reward he’s seeking is the glory of a smile.”
This poem by Edgar Albert Guest reminds us how much kinder people are during the festive season. Free from the strain of the everyday, and when reminded of all the good in life, the poem is full of reminders of the joys of the holiday season — particularly the kindness that everyone seems to show to one another. It revolves around what should be cherished all the time but is only ever seen at that time of the year: laughter, selflessness and open hearts. It’s written in rhyming couplets and simple language, it sounds nice to read out to get you in the holiday mood.
“i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight”
This poem by E. E. Cummings could probably be summarized in one word: quaint. The speaker is a child who directs the poem to his Christmas tree, which he is going to decorate and appreciate for the holidays. Cummings wonders how the tree feels about being placed in his home, and assures it that it is loved as he adorns it in prized decorations. It fills the reader with the quintessential warmth of the holiday season and reminds us that it really is the time for bringing joy into our lives. Even this little tree is reminded that “there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy”. This poem reads lyrically, it’s charming and — most importantly — accessible, it doesn’t take an English major to tell you how to appreciate the little things at Christmas.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
“And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!“
No list of Christmas poems would really be complete without this Dr. Seuss gem. The film version is a cult classic these days and, despite haters of this time of year calling themselves the Grinch, it’s probably one of the first things I think of when I hear the word ‘Christmas’. Though everyone knows the story, the poem is relatively short and frankly just adorable. Even if you think you’re too old to watch the film, this is always a great alternative (especially when the Coronation Street Christmas Special is on and you need a way out).
Nowadays, the Christmas message is usually overpowered by brands making the post-Halloween period one long Hallmark holiday. Songs talk about presents, films revolve around Santa Claus, and even most books tell the same story about the most magical time of the year. All of these poems veer away from that and embrace what Christmas is all about — loved ones, appreciation, humanity. If you’re looking for something to do over reading week that isn’t studying, writing essays or watching the Friends Christmas specials for the hundredth time, any of these poems are sure to put a smile on your face.