Christmas movies, Christmas episodes of your favorite shows, and Christmas tunes seem to all 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 some beautiful poems that can really convey what you're feeling as you move closer to Dec. 25 and make you take a moment to enjoy the season.
I've never been a big poem lover — I find a lot of them to be too full of symbolism to really enjoy. But Christmas? I can get behind that theme with poems. Whether you're religious or not, there is something really magical about Christmas time. From the lights and Christmas trees to the story of the nativity and 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 this month has to offer, so make some time to really dive into a poem or two from these 11 Christmas poems. 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 Christmas has to offer.
1"Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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, according to Family Life. 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 towards 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
According to a blog from Stanford University, Christina Rossetti's "A Christmas Carol" was written in 1872 and later became a Christmas carol. 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
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
3"On The Morning Of Christ's Nativity" by John Milton
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 long, but "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" is worth reading if you're looking for a strong 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 definitely warrants a reading or two on Christmas night.
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
For a poem about the joy and 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's a bit of a longer poem, but "A Christmas Carol" is a sweet one to 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. 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
7"The Three Kings" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Another poem by Longfellow, "The Three Kings" is a beautiful re-telling of the birth of Christ and the journey of the three wise men to meet their savior and celebrate him. It's long, but 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
A tongue-in-cheek look at Christmas trees, "Christmas Tree Lots" is one of those poems that makes you laugh and then makes you rethink everything you've ever known about a Christmas tree. 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
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 Christmas night when all the hard work is done, all of the anticipation is over, and everyone's gone home for the night. This was a very accurate representation of how so many of us feel, especially the part about children, but it could work 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 sweet and short one that will make you want to grab a sprig of mistletoe and kiss your darling on Christmas night.
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
And 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 has been considered to be the start of the tradition we know now of Santa Claus — red suit, jolly and plump, and the names of 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;