Is Pride & Prejudice a Christmas book?

No Netherfield white soup?

I’m told that around this time, normal Internet (as opposed to Jane Austen-obsessed Internet) likes to debate if Die Hard (1988) is a Christmas film. I suppose the Austen equivalent surrounds Pride & Prejudice. P&P, after all, does have a winter ball where much happens (drama, intrigue, terrible singing). Technically speaking, Christmas is mentioned in the novel, almost as an afterthought:

“On the following Monday, Mrs. Bennet had the pleasure of receiving her brother and his wife, who came as usual to spend the Christmas at Longbourn …The first part of Mrs. Gardiner’s business on her arrival was to distribute her presents and describe the newest fashions” (P&P, Chapter 25).

But that’s it. The Gardiners leave their children at home, there’s no fulsome descriptions of gifts, decorations, or dress. Mainly, because Christmas, Inc. was hardly a thing during the Regency. Many blame the sparseness of Regency celebrations to a hangover from Puritan influences still lingering in England (and even more so in the United States).

Holiday or no holiday, Austen is notoriously spare in her description of characters’ physical appearances, other than what is directly relevant to the plot, so both for historical reasons as well as stylistic ones, the consensus tends to be a decided no regarding the original’s status as a Christmas book, although fan fiction authors have proven determined to suggest otherwise. I blame not only the infamous ugly Christmas Colin Firth jumper of Bridget Jones fame, but also the 1995 adaptation’s Netherfield Ball, which involves evergreens, redcoats, punch, dancing, musicians, and all the elements which wouldn’t have seemed quintessentially Christmassy to someone from the Regency, necessarily, but which to modern eyes are (anachronistically) associated with A Christmas Carol.

However, if you’re like me, and not a particularly Christmassy person, Pride & Prejudice does offer a nice taste of redemption, reflection, gratefulness, and growth, without being explicitly about The Thing. The perfect un-Christmas December read.

Although Austen does, I must admit, seem to understand that the holidays can bring out the spiteful worst in people, as evidenced in how Caroline Bingley ends her letter to Jane Bennet, quashing the sweet young woman’s hopes and dreams at the loss of Mr. Bingley:

I sincerely hope your Christmas in Hertfordshire may abound in the gaieties which that season generally brings, and that your beaux will be so numerous as to prevent your feeling the loss of the three of whom we shall deprive you(P&P, Chapter 21).

Not exactly Christmas card material, though.

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