9 Iconic Holiday Gifts From Literature

The holiday season means gift-giving – both in the real world and the world of fiction. Literature is full of great stories that feature interesting holiday gifts, from the fantastic to the grimly realistic. In this list, we’re exploring the most memorable and interesting holiday gifts from the stories we love.


The Bell

From The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Van Allsburg’s protagonist gets a very special gift from Santa Claus himself. Santa gifts the boy a magic bell, which can only be heard by true believers. Though many stop hearing the bell as they get older, the story’s protagonist never loses his belief, and always hears the bell.


A Cruise Package

From Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

John Grisham took a break from writing courtroom dramas to pen Skipping Christmas, a heartwarming story about a couple that tries (and fails) to avoid the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. The plan for skipping Christmas is to go on a cruise. When things fall through, the main character turns the cruise package over to his grumpy neighbor in a gesture of goodwill.


A Doll

From A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn paints an unflinching portrait of poverty in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. When a rich girl named Mary decides to give away a doll to a girl also named Mary, protagonist Francie Nolan lies about her name to get it. Francie later finds out that her full name is Mary Frances Nolan, and is thus relieved of her guilt. 


The Invisibility Cloak

From Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

One of Harry Potter’s most important possessions was a Christmas gift. He received his invisibility cloak from an anonymous giver. We later find out (spoiler alert!) that it was Albus Dumbledore that sent it to him.


The Nutcracker

From The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann

Before The Nutcracker was a famous ballet, it was a story by E.T.A. Hoffman. And in the story, just as in the ballet, the nutcracker makes his first appearance as a holiday gift to a little girl. From there, of course, things take a magical turn.


Pocket Watch Chain and Combs

From The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

O. Henry’s classic Christmas tale might be his most famous story. The Gift of the Magi is about two lovers who will do anything to find the perfect gift for each other. Della sells her own long hair to a nearby hairdresser to get the cash to buy a pocket watch chain for her husband, Jim. Jim, meanwhile, pawns his pocket watch to get Della a set of combs.


A Prize Turkey

From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It takes three ghosts to get Ebenezer Scrooge to see the error of his ways, but once their work is finished, he becomes a great gift-giver. Scrooge anonymously sends a prize turkey to the home of his employee, Bob Cratchit, who he knows could never afford it. Cratchit also gets a raise the next day. Not a bad Christmas!


A Red Coat

From A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert

Ziefert’s moving historical fiction picture book reminds us how important ordinary items can seem in dark times. A New Coat for Anna is set in the Netherlands after World War II, when many families had very little. Despite their circumstances, Anna’s mother is determined to get her daughter a beautiful red coat.


Rhindon, the Sword

From The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Narnia would be a pretty cool place to spend the holidays. They have Father Christmas showing up in person to hand out gifts – including legendary swords! Of course, you have to be the rightful king of Narnia to get your hands on Rhindon. In the books, Peter is the only one who gets a sword – but his siblings get other cool stuff, like a magical healing cordial and a bow and arrow set.


Main Image: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)