With the holidays quickly approaching, there’s no better time to open up a comforting book with a blanket and a warm mug nearby. If you’re searching for an uplifting, heartwarming story for the holiday season, look no further than Louisa May Alcott’s adored classic novel Little Women. The book was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, and it traces the lives of the four March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy — as they grow up and find their places in the world.
Whether you’re already a fan of Alcott’s work or this is your first introduction to the March family, here are all the reasons why Little Women is the perfect book for the chilly days of December.
Many pivotal scenes in Little Women take place during Christmas.
Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel opens with the iconic line, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” The sentiment is uttered by Jo, the novel’s protagonist, and is reinforced by her sisters Meg, Beth, and Amy, as they come to terms with their family’s modest means and with the absence of their father, who is serving as a chaplain for the Union army in the Civil War.
The first volume of Little Women begins and ends at Christmastime, and, for the March sisters, the holiday represents a time to reflect on familial bonds and consider what kinds of lives they hope to lead. When Jo and her sisters find themselves in a holiday season that appears bleak and disappointing, they are forced to reconsider what Christmas means to them, and readers are encouraged to join them on their journeys of self-reflection.
The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting.Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Encourages Generosity and Gratitude
On Christmas day, the March sisters are prompted by their mother, whom they affectionately call “Marmee,” to share their Christmas breakfast with a nearby impoverished family. Although the girls are already disappointed by their scaled-down holiday celebration, they obey Marmee’s suggestion and, in giving away their breakfast, they learn a few essential lessons about the value of appreciating what you possess and the joy of sharing with others.
Although receiving gifts can be one of the most enjoyable holiday traditions, Alcott’s description of the satisfaction the March sisters experience when they share their Christmas breakfast with another family offers profound wisdom for modern readers. As the holiday season seems to become more materialistic each year, the March family’s Christmas is a touching reminder of the importance of practicing generosity and cultivating gratitude.
That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn’t get any of it; and when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts, and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Timeless Themes of Family and Friendship
For many, the holidays are a time to gather with and cherish the people in our lives, which is another reason that Little Women is perfectly suited for the season. Throughout the book, Alcott emphasizes the importance of the bonds of family and friendships as the March sisters navigate the challenges of childhood and adolescence. Although Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy fight and disagree at times, like all families, they ultimately love and support each other unconditionally.
Alcott’s exploration of family dynamics extends not only to the March sisters but also to their parents and friends. Both Mr. and Mrs. March are incredibly generous and supportive toward their daughters as they encourage them to go out into the world and leave their mark. The March family also opens their warm household to their neighbor, Mr. Lawrence, and his nephew, Theodore, nicknamed “Laurie.” In difficult times, the March family and the Lawrence family come together to support one another, which can inspire readers to connect with the family and friends around them.
I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world!Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Offers Comfort and Nostalgia
Alcott’s vivid descriptions of the March family’s cozy home and unique traditions give Little Women a comforting and inviting tone that makes it the perfect choice for a wholesome, joyful holiday read. The sisters chat on the floor in front of their burning fireplace, they go sledding and ice-skating together, and they sing while Beth plays piano before they go to bed. One of their most memorable holiday celebrations is the play that they perform on Christmas night, which they call “The Witch’s Curse.”
These amusing, heartwarming scenes beautifully capture the essence of family traditions and the magic of childhood and young adulthood, which draws readers of all ages and stages of life. Alcott’s portrayal of the March family’s holiday traditions offers modern readers a unique glimpse at a Victorian Christmas, which evokes a sense of nostalgia and excitement, and as readers encounter the holiday celebrations in Little Women, they may be inspired to reflect on their own cherished traditions.
Being still too young to go often to the theatre, and not rich enough to afford any great outlay for private performances, the girls put their wits to work, and, necessity being the mother of invention, made whatever they needed. Very clever were some of their productions; pasteboard guitars, antique lamps made of old-fashioned butter-boats, covered with silver paper, gorgeous robes of old cotton, glimmering with tin spangles from a pickle factory.Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Inspires Readers to Engage in Self-Reflection
Despite Marmee’s rule about “no presents” for Christmas at the beginning of Little Women, she gives each of her daughters a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress, a 1678 Christian allegory written by John Bunyan, which tells the story of a “pilgrim” who progresses through life in search of salvation. As the March sisters read their copies of The Pilgrim’s Progress, they are inspired to learn and grow as they navigate their lives.
As the year comes to a close, the holidays are a great time to reflect and make resolutions for the year to come, which fits perfectly with the March sisters’ journeys of self-discovery and self-improvement. Between the two Christmases that frame the first volume of Little Women, each of the girls encounters a variety of challenges, losses, successes, and joys. The March sisters learn from their mistakes and mature over the course of the year, and Alcott’s description of each of their virtues and flaws encourages readers to reflect on the previous year and on the year to come.
I know they will remember all I said to them, that they will be loving children to you, will do their duty faithfully, fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully, that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Ultimately, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is the perfect holiday read because of its timeless, uplifting messages, lovable characters, and cozy atmosphere. Although the novel was published over 150 years ago, the March sisters remain vivid and compelling characters, and Alcott’s wisdom remains insightful and moving.
If you’re looking to read or re-read the classic story of the March family, there’s no better time than the holidays. There are also plenty of screen adaptations that capture the magic of Alcott’s novel, including Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 film starring Winona Ryder as Jo, Greta Gerwig’s beautifully crafted 2019 film, and a delightful 2017 mini-series directed by Vanessa Caswill.
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