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Literary Quotes about Family and Christmas

December 22, 2010

Over the next few days, many people will be traveling and then staying with family for the holiday. In honor of this (or maybe dishonor) I researched some literary quotes about family and Christmas. Here they are along with some unofficial commentary by me.

Let me admit upfront that I picked most of the family quotes because they are funny, and I think these little quips about family life are at least a little true for everyone.

“Even in common people, conceit has the virtue of making them cheerful; the man who thinks his wife, his baby, his house, his horse, his dog, and himself severally unequaled, is almost sure to be a good-humored person, though liable to be tedious at times.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. , The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

I don’t think “liable” is really a strong enough word. More like “certain”.

“Brothers are a blessing for one thing. There is no possibility of any young lady getting unreasonably conceited if she be endowed with them.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Our Derby Sweepstakes

Brothers do seem to be unduly mean to their sisters when they are young, always breaking their dolls or getting them in trouble on purpose. Why must boys behave this way?

“Streams may spring from one source, and yet some be clear and some be foul.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company

Not much to add to that one.

“You have of late stood out against your brother, and he hath ta’en you newly into his grace; where it is impossible you should take true root but by the fair weather that you make yourself: it is needful that you frame the season for your own harvest.”

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

I like this bit about “frame the season for your own harvest.” That should be rememberd for every situation.

“To be sure, a step-mother to a girl is a different thing to a second wife to a man!”

Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters

That is so obvious that I wonder why it was even said. I never read the book, obviously.

“If a man has committed wrong in life, I don’t know any moralist more anxious to point his errors out to the world than his own relations.”

William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

Indeed, indeed. We all seem to have a family member that points out everyone’s wrongdoings, while his own life is lived perfectly, according to him. A good candidate for a lump of coal.

“Ecod, you may say what you like of my father, then, and so I give you leave,” said Jonas. “I think it’s liquid aggravation that circulates through his veins, and not regular blood …”

Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit

Perhaps he’s an alcoholic?

“If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


“Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when–the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven …”

Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Match Girl

This is a sad short story. I’d recommend reading it if you have a few moments to spare. You can read it for free.

“It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling–the season for kindling, not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart.”

Washington Irving, Old Christmas

Let us hope. Even with all of the humbug, there is a lot of good that is done at this time of year.

“Money is made at Christmas out of holly and mistletoe, but who save the vendors would greatly care if no green branch were procurable? One symbol, indeed, has obscured all others–the minted round of metal. And one may safely say that, of all the ages since a coin first became the symbol of power, ours is that in which it yields to the majority of its possessors the poorest return in heart’s contentment.”

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft

I thought this quote was fitting for this last week before Christmas when everyone is running around trying to find last-minute gifts. It’s also the very darkest day of the year today (winter solstice) and some connection could be drawn between the two.

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled shows;
But like of each thing that in season grows.”

William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Lovely concept to remember.

And one last quote:

“Friendless I can never be, for all mankind are my kindred, and I am on ill terms with no one member of my great family.”

Charles Dickens, Master Humphrey’s Clock

(The links in this post to go places where you can get ebook versions of these books or others by the same author.)


From → Classics

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