In the 1920s, during his émigré life in interbellum Berlin, Vladimir Nabokov wrote a number of Christmas stories. These stories—“Christmas,” “The Christmas Story,” and “A Reunion”—were all composed and published at Christmastime and set on the eve of Russian Christmas (first week of January). While involving the traditional motifs of the Christmas-story genre, such as the combination of joy and sorrow as well as the motifs of epiphany, gift, care, and forgiveness, these narratives expand the scope of the genre to represent not communal religious values but a private ethical stance. The purity of commitments emerges as a criterion for successful inner life. The gifts are usually the gifts of the memory, cherished in “Christmas” and “A Reunion,” and forfeited in “The Christmas Story,” as well as in a counter-story, “A Matter of Chance,” which was also written at Christmas time but set August and published with half a year’s delay.
Success is a Private Matter: Nabokov’s Christmas Stories