Christmas is a sometimes precarious mix of boisterous, tipsy and fraught: a potential recipe for disaster. To help put things into perspective, we’ve pulled together a list of the worst ever Christmases in literature.
Told with Amis’s piercing wit, this is a black comedy reflecting the indignities of old age. At Tuppenny-hapenny Cottage, five mismatched elderly people are living out their last days and waiting for their grandchildren to visit at Christmas. But this is a festive season fuelled by bickering, boredom, backstabbing and an excess of booze, with disaster and chaos looming.
The Dark is Rising
The Stanton family has had a pleasant enough Christmas. And then Will Stanton wakes up on Midwinter Day to a world where he’s one of the last defences against looming forces of evil.
Imagining a peaceful year without Christmas, Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip it entirely, foregoing the decorations, tree, and yearly Christmas party, to head off on a Caribbean holiday. Unfortunately, their horrified neighbours have other plans. In this hilarious tale, John Grisham casts a satirical eye on the overblown ritual of the festive season.
“‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo”. We meet the March sisters on a bleak Christmas Day. Missing their father, who is away in the war, and living in genteel poverty, lamenting the loss of more lavish Christmases, they soon turn their attention to those who have even less.
Trainspotting’s Begbie returns in typical fashion in short story Elspeth’s Boyfriend. Hungover on Christmas Day and unhappy with the day’s television viewing, tempers start to flare when Elspeth’s new boyfriend is introduced, and a life-saving attempt is repaid with violence at the dinner table.
A list of worst Christmases could not leave out A Christmas Carol, where the overworked and underpaid Bob Cratchit makes the most of his meagre earnings to carve out a festive feast for his family. Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t have a much easier time, learning difficult lessons on a ghostly journey through past, present and future.