Winter Holiday Quotes by Women

Quotations for the Season from Notable Women

Two women rolling Father Christmas in a snowball, 19th century card
A 19th century card. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In honor of the holiday season, here are some quotes from the writings of notable women.

In these selections you'll find everything from a vision of a golden-haired, white garbed Virgin Mary, to a humorous lament from a 20th century homemaker, to a 19th century Christmas without presents, to a woman historian's story of the Puritan approach to Christmas (work, work, work!).

On Being a Child

There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child....

Time, self-pity, apathy, bitterness, and exhaustion can take the Christmas out of the child, but you cannot take the child out of Christmas. - Erma Bombeck, newspaper columnist and humorist

On Detrimming the Tree

No one loves a Christmas tree on Jan. 1. The wonderful soft branches that the family couldn't wait to get inside to smell have turned into rapiers that jab you. The wonderful blinking lights that Daddy arranged by branch and color have knotted themselves hopelessly around crumbling brownery and have to be severed with a bread knife. The stockings that hung by the chimney with care are hanging out of sofa cushions, and they smell like clam dip.

And the angel that everyone fought to put on top of the tree can only be removed with an extension ladder that is in the garage, and no one can remember how to fit it through the door.

Next to the presidency, detrimming a tree has to be the loneliest job in the world.

It has fallen to women for centuries and is considered a skill only they can do, like replacing the roll on the toilet tissue spindle, painting baseboards, holding a wet washcloth for a child who is throwing up or taking out a splinter with a needle.  - Erma Bombeck, newspaper columnist and humorist

Vision of the Virgin

From Revelations, 1344-1349, by Saint Bridget of Sweden, a medieval mystic. This vision has become the typical Western image of  the Nativity.

I beheld a Virgin of extreme beauty wrapped in a white mantle and a delicate tunic . . . with her beautiful golden hair falling loosely down her shoulders. . . . She stood with uplifted hands, her eyes fixed on heaven, rapt, as it were, in an ecstasy of contemplation, in a rapture of divine sweetness. And while she stood in prayer, I beheld her Child move in her womb and . . . she brought forth her Son, from Whom such ineffable light and splendor radiated that the sun could not be compared to it. . . . And then I heard the wonderful singing of many angels.

The Holy Night

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

We sate among the stalls at Bethlehem;
The dumb kine from their fodder turning them,
   Softened their horned faces
   To almost human gazes
   Toward the newly Born:
The simple shepherds from the star-lit brooks
   Brought their visionary looks,
As yet in their astonied hearing rung
   The strange sweet angel-tonge:
The magi of the East, in sandals worn,
   Knelt reverent, sweeping round,
   With long pale beards, their gifts upon the ground,
   The incense, myrrh, and gold
These baby hands were impotent to hold:
So let all earthlies and celestials wait
   Upon thy royal state.


   Sleep, sleep, my kingly One!

Never Alone

I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the word seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.  – Taylor Caldwell

Christmas Day

Midnight, and the clock strikes. It is Christmas Day, the werewolves birthday, the door of the solstice still wide enough open to let them all slink through.  – Angela Carter

Peace on Earth

From one of Willa Cather's columns in the Nebraska State Journal, where she worked at the beginning of her career:

Up in the Negro church one Christmas the congregation were singing the "Peace on Earth." When the plaintive music stopped an old gray-haired Negro in a frock coat and wearing two pairs of glasses arose and began reading the old, old story of the men who were watching their flocks by night and of the babe who was born in the city of David.

He became very excited as he read, and his voice trembled and he unconsciously put the words to measure and chanted them slowly. When he finished he looked up at the ceiling with eager misty eyes as though he could see the light of the heavenly messenger shining in upon him. It is a beautiful story, this of the holiest and purest childhood on earth, beautiful even to those who cannot understand it, as dreams are sweet to men without hope. After all, if we cannot hear the carol and see the heavenly messenger, it is because our ears are deaf and our eyes are blind, not that we turn willfully away from love or beauty. No one is antagonistic by preference. Almost any of us who doubt would give the little we know or hope to know to go down upon our knees among the lowly and experience a great faith or a great conviction.

Not a Date

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. – Mary Ellen Chase

The Christmas Holly

The holly! the holly!  oh, twine it with hay --
   Come give the holly a song;
For it helps to drive the stern winter away,
   With his garment so sombre and long.

It peeps through the trees with its berries of red,
   And its leaves of burnished green,
When the flowers and fruits have long been dead,
   And not even the daisy is seen.
Then sing to the holly; the Christmas holly,
   That hangs over peasant and king;
While we laugh and carouse 'neath its glittering boughs,
   To the Christmas holly we'll sing.

The gale may whistle, the frost may come
   To fetter the gurgling rill;
The woods may be bare, and warblers dumb,
   But holly is beautiful still.


In the revel and light of princely halls
   The bright holly branch is found;
And its shadow falls on the lowliest walls,
   While the brimming horn goes round.

The ivy lives long, but its home must be
   Where graves and ruins are spread;
There's beauty about the cypress tree,
   But it flourishes near the dead;
The laurel the warrior's brow may wreathe,
   But it tells of tears and blood;
I sing the holly, and who can breathe
   Aught of that that is not good?
Then sing to the holly, the Christmas holly,
   That hangs over peasant and king;
While we laugh and carouse 'neath its glittering boughs,
   To the Christmas holly we'll sing.

Eliza Cook (1818-1889)

Awaiting Presents

From the Ladies' Home Journal, 1950, Marcelene Cox:

Our children await Christmas presents like politicians getting election returns; there's the Uncle Fred precinct and the Aunt Ruth district still to come in.

"God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen"

A version of this carol was published as early as 1823. This is a version written by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826-1887).

1.
God rest ye, merry gentlemen; let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day.
The dawn rose red o'er Bethlehem, the stars shone through the gray,
When Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day.

2.
God rest ye, little children; let nothing you affright,
For Jesus Christ, your Saviour, was born this happy night;
Along the hills of Galilee the white flocks sleeping lay,
When Christ, the Child of Nazareth, was born on Christmas-day.

3.
God rest ye, all good Christians; upon this blessed morn
The Lord of all good Christians was of a woman born:
Now all your sorrows He doth heal, your sins He takes away;
For Jesus Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas-day.

Let Us Keep Christmas

Whatever else be lost among the years,
Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing;
Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears,
Let us hold close one day, remembering
It's poignant meaning for the hearts of men.
Let us get back our childlike faith again.  -- Grace Noll Crowell

The Christmas Silence

Hushed are the pigeons cooing low,
On dusty rafters of the loft;
And mild-eyed oxen, breathing soft,
Sleep on the fragrant hay below.

Dim shadows in the corners hide;
The glimmering lantern's rays are shed,
Where one young lamb just lifts his head
Then huddles against his mother's side.

Strange silence tingles in the air;
Through the half-open door a bar
Of light from one low hanging star
Touches a baby's radiant hair --

No sound -- The mother, kneeling, lays
Her cheek against the little face.
Oh, human love! Oh, heavenly grace!
Tis yet in silence that she prays!

Ages of silence end to-night;
Then to the long expectant earth
Glad angels come to greet His birth
In burst of music, love and light!

 – Margaret Deland (1857-1945)

Before the Ice

From: The complete poems of Emily Dickinson, with an introduction by her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi.

Before the ice is in the pools,
Before the skaters go,
Or any cheek at nightfall
Is tarnished by the snow,
Before the fields have finished,
Before the Christmas tree,
Wonder upon wonder
Will arrive to me!
What we touch the hems of
On a summer's day;
What is only walking
Just a bridge away;
That which sings so, speaks so,
When there's no one here, --
Will the frock I wept in
Answer me to wear? – Emily Dickinson

Memories?

Christmas is a time when everybody wants his past forgotten and his present remembered. What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day. – Phyllis Diller

Colonial Christmases

Alice Morse Earle writes of Christmas in New England in colonial America. How did the Puritans celebrate Christmas? From "Customs and Fashions in Old New England," 1903.

The first century of colonial life saw few set times and days for pleasure. The holy days of the English Church were as a stench to the Puritan nostrils, and their public celebration was at once rigidly forbidden by the laws of New England. New holidays were not quickly evolved, and the sober gatherings for matters of Church and State for a time took their place. The hatred of "wanton Bacchanallian Christmasses" spent throughout England, as Cotton said, in "revelling, dicing, carding, masking, mumming, consumed in compotations, in interludes, in excess of wine, in mad mirth," was the natural reaction of intelligent and thoughtful minds against the excesses of a festival which had ceased to be a Christian holiday, but was dominated by a lord of misrule who did not hesitate to invade the churches in time of service, in his noisy revels and sports. English Churchmen long ago revolted also against such Christmas observance.

Of the first Pilgrim Christmas we know but little, save that it was spent, as was many a later one, in work.

By 1659 the Puritans had grown to hate Christmas more and more; it was, to use Shakespeare's words, "the bug that feared them all." The very name smacked to them of incense, stole, and monkish jargon; any person who observed it as a holiday by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way was to pay five shillings fine, so desirous were they to "beate down every sprout of Episcopacie." Judge Sewall watched jealously the feeling of the people with regard to Christmas, and noted with pleasure on each succeeding year the continuance of common traffic throughout the day. Such entries as this show his attitude: "Dec. 25, 1685. Carts come to town and shops open as usual. Some somehow observe the day, but are vexed I believe that the Body of people profane it, and blessed be God no authority yet to compel them to keep it." When the Church of England established Christmas services in Boston a few years later, we find the judge waging hopeless war against Governor Belcher over it, and hear him praising his son for not going with other boy friends to hear the novel and attractive services. He says: "I dehort mine from Christmas keeping and charge them to forbear."

Christmas could not be regarded till this century as a New England holiday, though in certain localities, such as old Narragansett -- an opulent community which was settled by Episcopalians -- two weeks of Christmas visiting and feasting were entered into with zest by both planters and slaves for many years previous to the revolution.

And So the Children Come

And so the children come.
And so they have been coming.
Always in the same way they come --
Born of the seed of man and woman.
No angels herald their beginnings,
No prophets predict their future courses,
No wise men see a star to point their way
To find a babe that may save humankind.
Yet each night a child is born is a holy night.
Fathers and Mothers --
Sitting beside their children's cribs --
Feel glory in the wond'rous sight of life beginning.
They ask: "When or how will this new life end?
Or will it ever end?"
Each night a child is born is a holy night. – Sophia Lyon Fahs

The Shepherd Who Stayed

There are in Paradise
Souls neither great nor wise,
Yet souls who wear no less
The crown of faithfulness.

My master bade me watch the flock by night;
My duty was to stay. I do not know
What thing my comrades saw in that great light,
I did not heed the words that bade them go,
I know not were they maddened or afraid;
I only know I stayed.

The hillside seemed on fire; I felt the sweep
Of wings above my head; I ran to see
If any danger threatened these my sheep.
What though I found them folded quietly,
What though my brother wept and plucked my sleeve,
They were not mine to leave.

Thieves in the wood and wolves on the hill,
My duty was to stay. Strange though it be,
I had no thought to hold my mates, no will
To bid them wait and keep the watch with me.
I had not heard that summons they obeyed;
I only know I stayed.

Perchance they will return upon the dawn
With word of Bethlehem and why they went.
I only know that watching here alone,
I know a strange content.
I have not failed that trust upon me laid;
I ask no more -- I stayed.  -- Theodosia Garrison (1874-1944)

Blessing

May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;
The spirit of Christmas which is peace;
The heart of Christmas which is love.   -- Ada V. Hendricks

Give Books

Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal. -- Lenore Hershey

Every Year

It comes every year and will go on forever. And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs. Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart. -- Marjorie Holmes

In the Heart

The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart. – Helen Keller

Christmas Candle

Eva Logue

A Christmas candle is a lovely thing; 
It makes no noise at all, 
But softly gives itself away; 
While quite unselfish, it grows small.

Christmas for a Jewish Child

Christmas was a miserable time for a Jewish child in those days, and I still recall the feeling.... Decades later, I still feel left out at Christmas, but I sing the carols anyway. You might recognize me if you ever heard me. I'm the one who sings, "La-La, the la-la is born." -- Faye Moskowitz

What Is Christmas?

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace. -- Agnes M. Pharo

Living Christmas

Peace on earth will come to stay,
When we live Christmas every day.

Helen Steiner Rice

Love Came Down at Christmas

Christina Rossetti

Love came down at Christmas, 
Love all lovely, Love Divine; 
Love was born at Christmas; 
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign? 

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

In the Bleak Midwinter

Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago.

Our God, heav'n cannot hold him
Nor earth sustain;
Heav'n and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for him, whom angels 
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air:
But only his mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him --
Give my heart.

Christmas Eve

Christina Rossetti

Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answring music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Magic Blanket

Christmas -- that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance -- a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved. -- Augusta E. Rundel

Hunger of Heart

From a speech, "Solitude of Self" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

The great lesson that nature seems to teach us at all ages is self-dependence, self-protection, self-support. What a touching instance of a child's solitude; of that hunger of heart for love and recognition, in the case of the little girl who helped to dress a christmas tree for the children of the family in which she served. On finding there was no present for herself she slipped away in the darkness and spent the night in an open field sitting on a stone, and when found in the morning was weeping as if her heart would break. No mortal will ever know the thoughts that passed through the mind of that friendless child in the long hours of that cold night, with only the silent stars to keep her company. The mention of her case in the daily papers moved many generous hearts to send her presents, but in the hours of her keenest sufferings she was thrown wholly on herself for consolation.

Only in Winter

In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. – Ruth Stout

Christmas Carol

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

The kings they came from out the south,
All dressed in ermine fine;
They bore Him gold and chrysoprase,
And gifts of precious wine.

The shepherds came from out the north,
Their coats were brown and old;
They brought Him little new-born lambs --
They had not any gold.

The wise men came from out the east,
And they were wrapped in white;
The star that led them all the way
Did glorify the night.

The angels came from heaven high,
And they were clad with wings;
And lo, they brought a joyful song
The host of heaven sings.

The kings they knocked upon the door;
The wise men entered in,
The shepherds followed after them
To hear the song begin.

The angels sang through all the night
Until the rising sun,
But little Jesus fell asleep
Before the song was done.

Believing

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph. – Shirley Temple

Touch of Eternity

I do hope your Christmas has had a little touch of Eternity in among the rush and pitter patter and all.  It always seems such a mixing of this world and the next -- but that after all is the idea! -- Evelyn Underhill

Commercial View

From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it. - Katharine Whitehorn

Christmas Fancies

From the poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, in her collection, Poems of Power, 1901.

WHEN Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago,
     And etched on vacant places
     Are half forgotten faces
Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know --
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow.

Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near,
We see, with strange emotion that is not free from fear,
     That continent Elysian
     Long vanished from our vision,
Youth's lovely lost Atlantis, so mourned for and so dear,
Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near.

When gloomy gray Decembers are roused to Christmas mirth,
The dullest life remembers there once was joy on earth,
     And draws from youth's recesses
     Some memory it possesses,
And, gazing through the lens of time, exaggerates its worth,
When gloomy gray December is roused to Christmas mirth.

When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis
Each heart recalls some folly that lit the world with bliss.
     Not all the seers and sages 
     With wisdom of the ages
Can give the mind such pleasure as memories of that kiss
When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis.

For life was made for loving, and love alone repays,
As passing years are proving, for all of Time's sad ways.
     There lies a sting in pleasure,
     And fame gives shallow measure,
And wealth is but a phantom that mocks the restless days,
For life was made for loving, and only loving pays.

When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes,
And silences are melting to soft, melodious rhymes,
     Let Love, the world's beginning, 
     End fear and hate and sinning;
Let Love, the God Eternal, be worshiped in all climes
When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Winter Holiday Quotes by Women." ThoughtCo, Jan. 31, 2017, thoughtco.com/winter-holiday-quotes-by-women-3530769. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, January 31). Winter Holiday Quotes by Women. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/winter-holiday-quotes-by-women-3530769 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Winter Holiday Quotes by Women." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/winter-holiday-quotes-by-women-3530769 (accessed November 25, 2017).