Books

20 of the greatest opening lines from our favourite Christmas and winter-themed books

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There's not much we don't love about the traditions of Christmas. Mince pies, mulled wine and, yes, giving and receiving gifts are all pretty great activities over the festive period.

But perhaps one of our favourite things to do on a cold wintry night is to curl up with one of our favourite Christmassy books and travel to far away places, while we let the glow of an open fire warm our faces. 

Just the cover and reading the first sentence of our most-loved festive novel can send shivers down our spine and get us feeling ready for the happy times ahead. 

Here, we've shared 20 of our favourites and their opening lines. All we need now are some chestnuts,

  • 101 Dalmatians - Dodie Smith

    “Not long ago, there lived in London a young married couple of Dalmatian dogs named Pongo and Misses Pongo.”

     

  • Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

    “‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”

  • A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

    “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.”

  • The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

    “Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.”

  • The Grinch Who Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss

    “Every who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot.”

  • The Gift of the Magi - O. Henry

    “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 Greatest Gift - Philip Van Doren Stern

    “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.”

  • Miracle on 34th Street - Valentine Davies

    “If you search every old folks’ home in the country, you couldn’t find anyone who looked more like Santa Claus.”

  • Life and Adventures of Santa Claus - L. Frank Baum

    “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 Adventure of Christmas Pudding - Agatha Christie

    “‘I regret exceedingly – ‘ said M. Hercule Poirot. He was interrupted. Not rudely interrupted. The interruption was suave, dexterous, persuasive rather than contradictory.”

  • Hogfather - Terry Pratchett

    “Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.”

  • Christmas Train - David Baldacci

    “Tom Langdon was a journalist, a globetrotting one, because it was in his blood to roam widely. Where others say only instability and fear in life, Tom felt graced by an embracing independence. He’d spent the bulk of his career in foreign lands covering wars, insurrections, famines, pestilence, virtually every earthly despair.”

  • The Christmas List: A Novel - Richard Paul Evans

    “Saturday, three weeks before Christmas

    James Kier looks back and forth between the newspaper headline and the photograph of himself, not sure if he should laugh or call his attorney. It was the same photograph the Tribune had used a couple of years earlier when they featured him on the front page of the business section.”

  • The Nutcracker - E. T. A. Hoffmann

    “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.”

  • Skipping Christmas: Christmas with The Kranks - John Grisham

    “The gate was packed with weary travellers, most of them standing and huddled along the walls because the meagre allotment of plastic chairs had long since been taken. Every plane that came and went held at least eighty passengers, yet the gate had seats for only a few dozen.”

  • The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper

    “Midwinter’s Ever

    ‘Too many’ James shouted, and slammed the door behind him.”

  • Rover Saves Christmas - Roddy Doyle

    “It was Christmas Eve in Dublin and the sun was splitting the rocks. The lizards were wearing flip-flops and the cacti that line the streets of the city were gasping.”

  • The Stupidest Angel - Christopher Moore

    “Tuck looked at the red-and-white pile on the ground at his feet and realized for the first time what it really was: a dead Santa.”

  • The Nightmare before Christmas - Tim Burton

    “It was late one fall in Halloweenland, and the air had quite a chill. Against the moon a skeleton sat, alone upon a hill. He was tall and thing with a bat bow tie; Jack Skellington was his name. He was tired and bored in Halloweenland – Everything was always the same.”

  • The Gift - Cecelia Ahern

    “If you were to stroll down the candy-cane façade of a suburban housing state early on Christmas morning, you couldn’t help but observe how the houses in all their tinselled glory are skin to the wrapped parcels that lie beneath the Christmas trees within.”

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