Holidays

These Christmas poems are festive and sentimental.
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14 Christmas Poems To Share This Season

Soak in all the magic of this time of year.

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Christmas movies, Christmas episodes of your favorite shows, and Christmas tunes all seem to play around the clock once December hits. But what about Christmas poems? You may not have time to read a whole Christmas novel this season, but there are plenty of beautiful holiday poems that can really convey the festive, seasonal mood as the calendar moves closer to Dec. 25. They’ll help you take a moment to breathe and appreciate this time of the year.

I've never been a big poem lover — I find a lot of them to be too full of symbolism to really understand and enjoy. But Christmas? I can get behind that theme with poems. Regardless of whether you’re religious or not, there is something really magical about Christmastime. From the lights and Christmas trees to themes of peace and goodwill for all, I think everybody can agree that it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Poems, for whatever reason, seem to hit pretty deeply and can really put you in the spirit.

I often find myself so busy in December that I forget to actually sit and enjoy all the fun festive activities this month. Make some time to really dive into a poem or two from these 14 Christmas poems included below with excerpts. From Christmas poems for friends to Christmas poems for kids, some are funny, some are beautiful, and some are the perfect way to share the magic and joy of Christmas. But all of them are worth reading so you can truly soak in all the Christmas season has to offer.

1

"Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Written in 1963, when the Civil War was still tearing America apart, "Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gave some hope to those who were hurting during the Christmas season. Longfellow himself had lost his wife and welcomed his son home from the war with serious injuries, making Christmas difficult. But his poem about remembering that God is in control and that this season is a time for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men helped others to heal and is still relevant today. You can read "Christmas Bells" in its entirety to make your season brighter.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

2

"A Christmas Carol" by Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti's "A Christmas Carol" was written in 1872 and later became a Christmas song. The poem highlights the struggles Rossetti had with religion, where she was scared of God, but identified with Jesus's humanity and suffering — something a lot of people can relate to, especially this time of year. The following is a passage, but you can read "A Christmas Carol" in its entirety as well.

In the bleak mid-winter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter

Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him

Nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away

When He comes to reign:

In the bleak midwinter

A stable-place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty

Jesus Christ.

3

"On The Morning Of Christ's Nativity" by John Milton

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For a poem that's truly about the religious meaning behind Christmas, "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" by John Milton is a must. An analysis from Dartmouth noted that thematically, the poem isn't necessarily about Christmas, but it looks at the "cosmic significance of the incarnation." Apparently Milton hoped to be a "poet-priest" so that he could share the peace-bringing God with readers, which may explain his desire to write this poem. It's a long one, but "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" is worth reading if you're looking for an exceptional Christmas poem.

This is the month, and this the happy morn,

Wherein the Son of Heaven’s eternal King,

Of wedded maid and Virgin Mother born,

Our great redemption from above did bring;

For so the holy sages once did sing,

That he our deadly forfeit should release,

And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.

4

“The Savior Must Have Been A Docile Gentleman” by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson's nativity poem "The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman" is brief but beautiful, and it definitely warrants a reading or two on Christmas night. Fitting for the religious holiday, Dickinson’s poem is about how Jesus comes to each of his followers every Christmastime in the cold month of December. A short but dense poem, the entirety of “The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman” is below.

The Savior must have been

A docile Gentleman—

To come so far so cold a Day

For little Fellowmen—

The Road to Bethlehem

Since He and I were Boys

Was leveled, but for that ‘twould be

A rugged Billion Miles—

5

"A Christmas Carol" by George Wither

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For a poem about the merry feelings of Christmas, "A Christmas Carol" by George Wither is just perfect. It is happy and cheerful and shares all of the fun things about Christmas, like singing, eating, and everyone feeling jolly. It even mentions a Christmas pie, so you know it’s a truly sweet piece. It's a bit of a longer poem, but "A Christmas Carol" is worth read fully.

So now is come our joyful feast,

Let every man be jolly;

Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,

And every post with holly.

Though some churls at our mirth repine,

Round your foreheads garlands twine,

Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,

And let us all be merry.

Now all our neighbors’ chimnies smoke,

And Christmas blocks are burning;

Their ovens they with baked meats choke,

And all their spits are turning.

Without the door let sorrow lie,

And if for cold it hap to die,

We’ll bury it in a Christmas pie,

And evermore be merry.

6

"[Little Tree]" by E. E. Cummings

The wonder of a Christmas tree is something to behold, and "[little tree]" by E. E. Cummings shares it beautifully. Starting as just a small, quiet tree in a big forest, it later gets to take center stage in the warmth of a cozy home. It is seriously my favorite Christmas poem and manages to emote all of the magic of a Christmas tree for adults and children alike. Be sure to read the entire "[little tree]" poem this year.

put up your little arms

and i'll give them all to you to hold

every finger shall have its ring

and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed

you'll stand in the window for everyone to see

and how they'll stare!

oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands

and looking up at our beautiful tree

we'll dance and sing

"Noel Noel"

7

"The Three Kings" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Another poem by Longfellow, "The Three Kings" is a beautiful retelling of the birth of Christ and the journey of the three wise men to meet their savior and celebrate him. It's long, but it reads well, and "The Three Kings" is a lovely poem to share on Christmas Day. As a mother, it makes me openly weep with the description of Mary.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,

Through the silent street, till their horses turned

And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;

But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,

And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,

In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,

The little child in the manger lay,

The child, that would be king one day

Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth

Sat watching beside his place of rest,

Watching the even flow of his breath,

For the joy of life and the terror of death

Were mingled together in her breast.

8

"Christmas Tree Lots" by Chris Green

Quite a different perspective on festive holiday trees, "Christmas Tree Lots" is one of those poems that might make you laugh at first, but then makes you rethink everything you've ever known about a Christmas tree. Short and to the point, "Christmas Tree Lots" considers Christmastime from the point of view of the trees. Maybe next year, you'll go artificial?

Christmas trees lined like war refugees,

a fallen army made to stand in their greens.

Cut down at the foot, on their last leg,

they pull themselves up, arms raised.

We drop them like wood;

tied, they are driven through the streets,

dragged through the door, cornered

in a room, given a single blanket,

only water to drink, surrounded by joy.

Forced to wear a gaudy gold star,

to surrender their pride,

they do their best to look alive.

9

"Christmas Night" by Conrad Hilberry

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This one hit me right in the feels. I'm not sure if I'm the proper analyst for Conrad Hilberry's "Christmas Night,” but the poem makes me think of the sadness I feel on Christmas night when all the hard work is done, all of the anticipation is over, and everyone's gone home for the night. It’s a very accurate representation of how so many of us parents feel, especially the part about children. In general, though, “Christmas Night” fits if you feel any kind of sadness on Christmas, too.

Let midnight gather up the wind

and the cry of tires on bitter snow.

Let midnight call the cold dogs home,

sleet in their fur—last one can blow

the streetlights out. If children sleep

after the day’s unfoldings, the wheel

of gifts and griefs, may their breathing

ease the strange hollowness we feel.

Let midnight draw whoever’s left

to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls

low mutterings of smoke until

a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.

10

"Mistletoe" by Walter de La Mere

Is there anything more romantic and lovely at Christmas than mistletoe? The poem "Mistletoe" by Walter de La Mere is a short and sweet one that will make you want to grab a sprig of mistletoe and kiss your darling on Christmas night. In fact, “Mistletoe” is a sonnet, so it’s extra romantic even in the poetic form it takes — undoubtedly a conscious decision by the poet himself.

Sitting under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

One last candle burning low,

All the sleepy dancers gone,

Just one candle burning on,

Shadows lurking everywhere:

Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go

Nodding under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

No footsteps came, no voice, but only,

Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,

Stooped in the still and shadowy air

Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

11

"A Visit From St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore

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The most well-known Christmas poem of all? "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore. You may recognize it as The Night Before Christmas, but the original poem was published in 1823, and Moore's description of Santa Claus and his eight reindeer is considered to be the start of the tradition we know now as Santa Claus — red suit, jolly and plump, with his reindeer. It's a must-read for anyone, but especially if you have kiddos, so be sure to read "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in its entirety.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

12

“Advent” by Mary Jo Salter

This poem by Mary Jo Salter is a meditation on Christmastime festivities, tradition, and motherhood in the face of the often dismal dead of winter. Though this time of year comes with many images of warmth, happiness, and celebration, the holidays can also be a time of pressure and uncertainty for many families. Taking this into account, the poem hints at the troubles a family is facing, all while ending in a moment of hope and possibility for what’s to come. Told over the course of a mother building a gingerbread house with her daughter, Salter’s “Advent” is definitely a treat to read.

Look, in my surprise

I somehow split a wall,

the last one in the house

we’re making of gingerbread.

We’ll have to improvise:

prop the two halves forward

like an open double door

and with a tube of icing

cement them to the floor.

13

“Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” by George Starbuck

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Who doesn’t love a visual poem? This clever piece by George Starbuck not only tells the reader of the imagery and feeling surrounding a full and decorated tree during the holidays, but also shows them exactly what he is writing about — that is, a potted Christmas tree, even fit with a star on top! Starbuck’s “Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” is a fun and sharply smart poem that will let you see the iconic imagery of a Christmas tree in a new, unexpected light.

*

O

fury-

bedecked!

O glitter-torn!

Let the wild wind erect

bonbonbonanzas; junipers affect

frostyfreeze turbans; iciclestuff adorn

all cuckolded creation in a madcap crown of horn!

It’s a new day; no scapegrace of a sect

tidying up the ashtrays playing Daughter-in-Law Elect;

bells! bibelots! popsicle cigars! shatter the glassware! a son born

14

“To Mrs K____, On Her Sending Me an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris” by Helen Maria Williams

In this poem, Helen Maria Williams tells of receiving the gift of a homemade Christmas cake from a friend in her home country of England while she lives abroad — alone and away from family — in France. Williams is struck by the emotional impact a simple cake has on her, bringing back memories of holidays past and surrounding her with warmth even as she is far from home during Christmas. Read “To Mrs K____, On Her Sending Me an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris” in full to truly appreciate all that a generously given holiday baked good can do for the heart.

What crowding thoughts around me wake,

What marvels in a Christmas-cake!

Ah say, what strange enchantment dwells

Enclosed within its odorous cells?

Is there no small magician bound

Encrusted in its snowy round?

No matter what type of poem you’re looking for — funny, romantic, or sentimental — there’s something for everyone on this list. Share one with each of your loved ones to help them feel the Christmas spirit.