The Best Christmas Present in the World: Summary, Meanings and Answers Class 8 English, Chapter 1

‘The Best Christmas Present’ is the 1st Chapter of the class 8 NCERT book: “The Best Christmas Present in the World” by Michael Morpurgo is a heart-warming story about a man who discovers a hidden message in an old desk he has bought as a Christmas present for his wife. Here get the Summary, Meanings and Answers to textbook intext questions as well as the final exercise questions.



The story is about a man who discovers a letter in an old desk that he bought at a second-hand shop just before Christmas. The letter was written by a soldier in World War I, and it contained a message that made the man realize the true meaning of Christmas.

The Discovery:

The man found the letter while he was cleaning the desk, and he was intrigued by its contents. The letter was written by a soldier named Jim, who was stationed in the trenches in France on Christmas Eve in 1914.

The Message:

In the letter, Jim described how the soldiers on both sides of the conflict had laid down their weapons and come together to celebrate Christmas. They had sung carols exchanged gifts, and even played a game of soccer. Jim wrote that it was the best Christmas he had ever had, and he wished that the spirit of peace and goodwill could continue beyond that night.

The Impact:

The man was deeply moved by the letter and the message it contained. He realized that the true meaning of Christmas was not about material gifts, but about the gift of peace and love. He decided to find out more about Jim and his family, and eventually, he was able to return the letter to Jim’s granddaughter.


The story ends with the man reflecting on the message of the letter and how it had changed his perspective on Christmas. He realized that the best Christmas present in the world was not something that could be bought or wrapped, but something that came from the heart.

Theme and Message of ‘The Best Christmas Present in the World’

The story is told in a simple and straightforward manner, with a focus on the emotional impact of the letter and the truce. Morpurgo’s writing is evocative and powerful, and he skilfully captures the spirit of the truce and the sense of hope that it brought to the soldiers on both sides.

The story also touches on the theme of the lasting impact of war on individuals and families. Joey’s wife reflects on the loss of her husband and the pain of waiting for him to return from the war. She also remembers the joy and hope that the truce brought, and the sense that, for a brief moment, there was a glimmer of humanity and peace in the midst of the violence and chaos of war.

Overall, “The Best Christmas Present in the World” is a touching and poignant story that captures the spirit of the holiday season and the power of human connection and compassion. It reminds us of the importance of remembering the sacrifices of those who have fought in wars and of cherishing the moments of peace and kindness that can emerge even in the darkest of times.

Word Meanings

WordMeaningHindi Meaning
Spotteddiscovered by seeing at देखा या नजर पड़ी
Roll-top deska desk with a flexible sliding coverएक प्रकार की मेज
Far toovery muchबहुत
Clumsilyawkwardlyबेढंगे ओर फूहड़ तरीके से
mendedrepairedमरम्मत करना
scorch marksmarks caused by burnsआग से झुलस जाने के निशान
restorerepairमरम्मत करके फिर से अच्छा ओर उपयोगी बनाना
workroomworking placeकार्यशाला
Veneera thin layer of decorative wood on furniture of cheap wood separatedलकड़ी के बने सामानों पर ऊपर से लगाई गई परत
taken their toll ondamaged नुकसान पहुंचाना
struck fastshut tightकस कर बंद था
to easeto loosenताकत लगा कर ढीला करना
gentlywithout using much force, softlyबिना कोई नुकसान पहुंचाए
brute forcegreat forceअत्यधिक बाल, पशु समान बल
fisttightly closed palmमुट्ठी
revealshowदिखाना, खुलासा करना
shallownot deepछिछला
reached input hand inपहुंचा
grippingholding tightlyकस कर पकड़ना
holdingkeepingहाथ में लिए हुए
turned outhappenedपाया गया, सिद्ध हुआ
huddlesgroupsभीड़ या झुंड
cheeredencouragedउत्साह बढ़ाना
resolvesolveसुलझाना, हल करना
generouslyliberallyउदारता से, खुले मन से
driftinggoingधीरे – धीरे एक तरफ को हटना
rousingexcitingउत्साह ओर गर्मजोशी के साथ
terriblehorribleबहुत अधिक, भयानक, खौफनाक
long desireइच्छा, लालसा
muddleheadedconfusedविचलित ओर अस्थिर बुद्धि वाला
easily enoughquite easilyआसान या आसानी से
matronhead-nurseनर्सों की हेड यानि मुखिया
corridorpassageदालान, गैलरी
wickercaneलकड़ी ओर बांस का बना हुआ
wispywisp-like (like a thin mass)महीन (यहाँ पतले ओर काम गहने )
went oncontinuedजारी रखा
reached outextended the handपहुंचना
shakytremblingअस्थिर ओर हिलते-डुलते हुए
scruplesthe urge of conscienceझिझक, आशंका
got the better ofwon overओर बढ़िया
it usually doesit happens frequentlyऐसा अकसर हो जाता है
trenchesdeep holes in the groundखाई
crispbracing-invigorating (weather) all aroundताज़ा, खुशनुमा ओर ठंड भरा
all aboutall aroundहर तरफ
frostycovered with frostकुहासा ओर धुंध भरा
ashamedabashedशर्म या लज्जित महसूस करना
Orchestraa company of artists playing musical instrumentsवाद्य यंत्रों के साथ संगीत कलाकारों की संगत
Fritza name for a German soldierजर्मनी का सैनिक
no man’s landan area between armies that no one controlsदो बॉर्डर्स के बीच का हिस्सा
got overcontrolledनियंत्रण पाना
That would be thatthat was allबस उतना ही होना (बस इतना ही होना था)
ladsboysलड़के, छोरे
parapetthe wall at the side of the trenchमुंडेर
trickruse, a way of cheatingचाल
Schnappsa German drink from grainsएक प्रकार का जर्मन ड्रिंक
Sausagecanned minced meatकबाब
occurred tostruck in mind दिमाग या खयाल में आना
all alongall the time, from beginning हमेशा, शुरू से ही
outstretchedheld outआगे बढ़ा कर फैलाना
warmlyaffectionatelyस्नेह ओर गर्मजोशी के साथ
rum rationallowance of wine (given to the soldiers)सैनिकों को दी जाने शराब निश्चित पूर्ति
Marzipancovering on the cakeकेक के ऊपर बादाम ओर चीनी की बनी हुई परत
minglingmixingघुलमिल जाना
probablylikelyशायद, संभवतः
run outconsumed, used up , finished चीजों का खत्म हो जाना
dugoutstrenchesखाई या गड्ढा
distantfar offदूर का
foldedwrappedमोड़ कर लपेटना
slippedput gentlyखिसका दिया
boarded upcovered by woodलकड़ियों से बना या ढका हुआ
entitledhad the rightहकदार
lopsidedbent on one sideएक तरफ झुका हुआ
offeredgaveप्रस्ताव, कुछ देने या प्रदान करने की पेशकश
conservatorya glass house made to relax (close to the main house)ऐसा घर जहां आराम से रहा जा सके ओर वो स्थान गरम भी रहे
pottedin the potsगमलों में
bunhair gathered into a round coil or knotबालों का जूड़ा
vacantlywith blank stareखाली ओर सुने पन के साथ
lit upbecame bright with happinessरोशन हो गया
Suffused filled with, spread all over से भर जाना, फैल जाना
for mefor my sakeमेरी खातिर

Comprehension Check Solutions

Check 1 (Page 10)

1. What did the author find in a junk shop?

Ans. The author found an old roll-top desk in a junk shop in Bridport. It was made in the early 19th century of oak wood. Since it was not in good condition, the junk shopkeeper was selling it at a low price.

2. What did he find in a secret drawer? Who do you think had put it in there?

Ans. In the secret drawer, he (the narrator) found a small black tin box that contained a letter. On the box a note said that this letter was Jim’s last letter, received on 25th January 1915. The envelope of the letter addresses Mrs Macpherson as the receiver of the letter; therefore, it must be Mr Macpherson who kept the letter in that secret drawer.

Check 2 (Page 14)

1. Who had written the letter, to whom and when?

Ans. Jim had written the last letter to his wife, Connie when he was away on the war front fighting the war against the Germans. The letter was written a day after Christmas i.e. on 2nd December 1914. It reached Mrs Macpherson on 25th January 1915.

2. Why was the letter written- When was the wonderful thing that had happened?

Ans. Jim wrote this letter to his wife, Connie to describe certain unusual events that took place on the previous day. In the midst of the war, the British and the German soldiers had come together to celebrate Christmas.

They celebrated the day as the best of friends would, sharing their food and drinks and cake. It was unbelievable for Jim and perhaps for others too to think of enemies setting aside their hatred for each other and making peace. Jim shared with Connie all possible details of the day, for he was too happy.

3. What jobs did Hans Wolf and Jim Macpherson have when they were not soldiers?

Ans. Hans Wolf played the cello in an orchestra. He had come from Dusseldorf. Jim Macpherson, on the other hand, was a school teacher in Dorset.

4. Had Hans Wolf ever been to Dorset? Why did he say he knew it?

Ans. Hans Wolf had never been to Dorset. Despite that, he knew fairly well about the place. He had read a lot about Dorset and England in English books.

He also spoke good English. Jim was surprised to know this.

5. Do you think Jim Macpherson came back from the war? How do you know this?

Ans. Jim Macpherson did not come back from the war. Jim wrote the letter to Connie in the year 1914 and because he was a soldier/ an officer, he must have been very young then. The story ends with old Mrs Macpherson, aged hundred and one, still waiting for Jim’s return. Clearly many decades have passed and contrary to his promise, Jim did not come back home. He was probably dead.

Check 3 (Page 15)

1. Why did the author go to Bridport?

Ans. The author went to Bridport to meet Connie and return her the letter. The tin box that contained the letter had Connie’s message pasted upon it, “To be buried with me when the time comes.”

The narrator could not restrain himself from taking the letter to its rightful owner.

2. How old was Mrs Macpherson now? Where was she?

Ans. Old Mrs Macpherson was now a hundred and one years old. She was admitted to Burlington House Nursing Home after her house had caught fire.

Check 4 (Page 16)

1. Who did Connie Macpherson think her visitor was?

Ans. The narrator on seeing Connie called out her name and handed over the tin box and the letter to her. On seeing the letter, Connie began stroking the letter and thought the visitor to be her husband, who had finally returned from the war.

2. Which sentence in the text shows that the visitor did not try to hide his identity?

Ans. On meeting Connie, the visitor tried to explain to her how he had found the desk, the secret drawer and the letter, “I explained about the desk, about how I had found it, but I don’t think she was listening.”

Textbook Exercise Solutions

Working with the Text (NCERT Page 16)

1. For how long do you think Connie had kept Jim’s letter? Give reasons for your answer.

Ans. Connie must have kept her husband, Jim’s letter for a very long time as she used to read it very often. Jim was a British officer fighting in the war against the Germans. The soldiers in armies are usually young men. This tells us that Connie must also have been a young lady when she received her husband’s letter on 25th January 1915.

When we meet Mrs Macpherson in the Burlington House Nursing Home, she is an old lady, aged hundred and one. The time-lapse clearly indicates that Connie must have preserved Jim’s letter for more than 70 years.

2. Why do you think the desk had been sold and when?

Ans. The narrator purchased the desk from a junk shop in perhaps the late 20th century. The desk was an old, early 19th-century desk made of oak and was supposed to be very expensive.

However, the current state of the desk was very bad, for it was recovered from Mrs Macpherson’s house after it caught fire. The remains of the household articles must have been sold after Mrs Macpherson was taken to the nursing home.

3. Why do Jim and Hans think that games or sports are a good way of resolving conflicts? Do you agree?

Ans. Jim and Hans thought that games or sports are good ways of resolving conflicts than going to war because war only leads to death and destruction. No matter which camp wins the war, loss of life is common to both armies, families too are ruined and children are orphaned and wives are widowed. I completely agree with this line of thought as no one dies during matches. Peace constructs society whereas war destroys it.

4. Do you think the soldiers of the two armies are like each other or different from each other? Find evidence from the story to support your answer.

Ans. There is enough evidence in the story to prove that the soldiers of both armies are no different from each other. The soldiers from both sides love the idea of peace and harmony. They lose no time in coming together to celebrate Christmas with each other, forgetting that they are each other’s enemies. They bring their drinks, sausages and cakes and unite in perfect brotherhood. Also, the soldiers on both sides become sad again when they were to again return to their trenches and continue with the war. Jim Macpherson also regretted that he was not the first one to initiate the peace truce.

5. Mention the various ways in which the British and the German soldiers become friends and find things in common at Christmas.

Ans. When the German soldiers waved the white flag and called out ‘Merry Christmas’ from across the no man’s land, the British soldiers with a similar spirit replied,’ same to you.’ The soldiers on both sides galled together over alcohol, sausages and cakes that they brought together to make merry on Christmas.

They also played football and other games and even after having returned to their trenches, continued singing Christmas carols following each other in perfect harmony.

6. What is Connie’s Christmas present? Why is it” the best Christmas present in the world”?

Ans. The letter that Jim wrote to Connie informed her of her husband’s happy state of mind, a rarity during the times of war. In the letter, Jim also promised Connie that he would be home before next Christmas. Jim’s letter carried with it a message of hope. Recovery of the letter despite the fact that her house had caught fire and mistakenly assuming the stranger, who bought with him the letter to be her husband,” the best Christmas present” for Connie was the fulfilment of her hopes on a Christmas day, the return of the letter and her husband, Jim.

7. Do you think the title of this story is suitable for it? Can you think of any other title (s)?

Ans. According to me, the title of the story,” The Best Christmas Present in the World” is quite apt, as all the events in the story revolve around Christmas. Each of the primary characters receives a present on the day of Christmas. Jim Macpherson and Hans Wolf rejoice in the merriment of Christmas along with their armies. Away from home and its gaiety they nonetheless get to be happy, even though temporarily.

The narrator manages to buy the desk, a desk he had been longing to buy but was too expensive for him. Around Christmas, he manages to acquire a desk that is in bad condition and therefore, relatively cheaper. Connie Macpherson recovers her special letter yet again and believes that on Christmas her husband has finally returned to her, as he had promised years ago n the letter.

Working With Language (NCERT Page 17)

1. Look at these sentences from the story.

spotted it in a junk shop in Bridport…. The man said it was made in the early 19th century…. This one was in a bad condition…

The italicised verbs are in the past tense. They tell us what happened in the past, before now.

(i) Read the passage below and underline the verbs in the past tense.

A man got on the train and sat down. The compartment was empty except for one lady. She took her gloves off. A few hours later the police arrested the man. They held him for 24 hours and then freed him.

Ans. A man got on the train and sat down. The compartment was empty except for one lady. She took her gloves off.  A few hours later the police arrested the man. They held him for 24 hours and then freed him.

Now look at these sentences.

The veneer had lifted almost everywhere. Both fire and water had taken their toll on this desk.

Notice the verb forms had lifted, had taken (their toll). The author found and bought the desk in the past. The desk was damaged before the author found it and bought it.

Fire and water had damaged the desk before the author found it and bought it.

We use verb forms like had damaged for an event in the ‘earlier past’. If there are two events in the past, we use the ‘had…’ form for the event that occurred first in the past.

We also use the past perfect tense to show that something was wished for or expected before a particular time in the past, e.g. I had always wanted one…

Discuss with your partner the difference in meaning in the sentences below.

When I reached the station, the train left.

When I reached the station, the train had left.

(ii) Fill in the blanks using the correct form of the verbs in brackets.

My little sister is very naughty. When she …………..(come) back from school yesterday, she had ……….. (tear) her dress. We …………. (ask) her how it had …………….(happen). She ………..(say) she ………… (have) ………………(quarrel) with a boy. She ………..(have) ……………(beat) him in a race and he ……………(have)………….(try) to push her. She ………… (have) ………..(tell) the teacher and so he ……..(have) …………..(chase) her and she ……..(have) ………….(fall) down and …………….(have)………….(tear) her dress.


My little sister is very naughty. When she came back from school yesterday, she had torn her dress. We asked her how it had happened. She said she had quarrelled with a boy. She had beaten him in a race and he had tried to push her. She had told the teacher and so he had chased her and she had fallen down and had torn her dress.

(iii) Underline the verbs and arrange them in two columns, Past and Earlier past.

(a) My friend set out to see the caves in the next town, but I stayed at home because I had seen them already.

(b) When they arrived at the station, their train had left. They came back home, but by that time I had gone out to see a movie.

(c) So they sat outside and ate the lunch I had packed for them

(d) By the time I returned, they had fallen asleep.


(a) My friend set out to see the caves in the next town, but I stayed at home because I had seen them already.

(b) When they arrived at the station, their train had left. They came back home, but by that time I had gone out to see a movie.

(c) So they sat outside and ate the lunch I had packed for them

(d) By the time I returned, they had fallen asleep.

PastEarlier Past
Stayed, Arrived, Came, Sat, ate, Returnedhad seen, had left, had gone, had packed, had fallen

2. Dictionary Work

By the end of the journey, we had run out of drinking water.

Look at the verb run out of in this sentence. It is a phrasal verb: it has two parts, a verb and a preposition or an adverb.

Phrasal verbs often have meanings that are different from the meanings of their parts. Find these phrasal verbs in the story.

Burn out, lit up, looked on, run out, keep out

Write down the sentences in which they occur. Consult a dictionary and write down the meaning that you think matches the meaning of the phrasal verb in the sentences.


(i) Burn out – completely burnt or exhausted

House number 12 turned out to be nothing, but a burned-out shell.

(ii) Lit-up – glow

That was the moment her eyes lit up with recognition and her face became suffused with a sudden glow of happiness.

(iii)  Looked on  watched

Hans Wolf and I looked on and cheered, clapping our hands and stamping our feet.

(iv) Run out – finished

The time came and all too soon, when the game was finished, the schnapps and the rum and the sausage had long since run out and we knew it was all over.

(v) Keep out  – prevent from entering

Hans Wolf and I looked on and cheered clapping our hands and stamping our feet, to keep out the cold as much as anything.

3. Noun Phrase

Read the following sentence.

I took out a small black tin box.

  • The phrase in italics is a noun phrase.
  • It has the noun-box- as the head word and three adjectives preceding it.
  • Notice the order in which the adjectives occur- size(small), colour(black) and material(tin) of which it is made.

We rarely use more than four adjectives before a noun and there is no rigid order in which they are used, though there is a preferred order of modifiers/ adjectives in a noun phrase, as given below.

A/ an / thenice/ lazy/beautifultall/round/old/youngred/ white/ light/ darksilk/cotton/woollenwoman/man/table/chair

4. The table below contains a list of nouns and some adjectives. Use as many adjectives as you can to describe each noun. You might come up with some funny descriptions!

circular, stripped, enormous,
multicoloured, round, cheerful, wild, blue,
red, chubby, large, medium-sized, cold


elephant, face, building, waterenormous, multicoloured striped, round, cheerful, red, chubby large, medium-sized, multicoloured blue, cold

Speaking (NCERT Page 19)

1. In groups discuss whether wars are a good way to end conflicts between countries. Then present your arguments to the whole class.

Ans. “War is an ineffective and destructive means of conflict resolution between nations. It results in widespread devastation and loss of both human lives and property. The toll of war on human life is immeasurable, with the loss of skilled, trained, zealous and patriotic soldiers being particularly lamentable. War heroes often sacrifice their lives on the battlefield, and those who survive may carry lifelong physical and emotional wounds. The suffering of soldiers also extends to their families, who mourn their separation, injury, and death. Civilians are not immune to the effects of war, often becoming innocent victims of the conflict.”

Governments spend a significant amount of money on maintaining armies, including increased expenditure on weapons and ammunition during times of war. However, rather than prioritizing military spending, these funds could be redirected towards critical welfare programs and infrastructural developments. A civilized society should prioritize discussions, negotiations, and peace treaties to prevent conflict and create a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere.

2. What kind of presents do you like and why? What are the things you keep in mind when you buy presents for others? Discuss with your partner.

Ans. Gifts are more than just material items; they are a gesture of love and blessings. Receiving a gift makes one feel cherished and pampered. Personally, I love receiving painting materials and books as gifts as they allow me to create art to decorate my home.

When buying presents for others, it is essential to consider two points. Firstly, we should prioritize the preferences of the recipient, setting aside our own likes and dislikes. We must think about what would be appropriate if they were to buy the gift themselves. Secondly, we should consider the worth of the present. Gifts can be used to promote and inspire good habits in others. For example, gifting books that can be shared over time or potted plants to encourage cleaner and greener spaces.

It is also important to give gifts to those in need, such as children in orphanages who may not have anyone else to give them happiness. Ultimately, gifts are a reflection of our love and affection for others and should be given with thought and care.

Writing (NCERT Page 20)

1. Imagine that you are Jim. You have returned to your town after the war. In your diary record how you feel about the changes you see and the events that occur in your town. You could begin like this, 25th December 1919, it’s Christmas today, but the town looks…………


25th December 1919

The war is over and I have returned home and today is Christmas, but Christmas didn’t have its usual cheer and gaiety. Hardly any people can be seen on the streets dancing, singing, and merry-making. It’s been more than a month since the war was over, but people are still terrorised and hesitant in stepping out. The joy of Christmas is incomplete without a community celebration.

The empty streets are not the same either. The buildings, the parks, and the fountains have been reduced to debris. The purity of the air has been replaced by the smell of blood and fire. I just cannot connect with this town. I get lost while wandering because all those familiar landmarks have been reduced to heaps of garbage. I feel so sad.

Connie is sad too. She is traumatised and gets lost in the web of her thoughts. I wish this war had never happened. How I wish that the last Christmas celebration should not have been further followed by the war. Things could have been different today. Things could have been normal today.




Suppose you are the visitor. You are in a dilemma. You don’t know whether to disclose your identity and disappoint the old lady or let her believe that her dear Jim has come back. Write a letter to a friend highlighting your anxiety, fear and feelings.


XYZ Street,


25th December 1919

Dear Peter

Hello my friend, it’s been a while since we last met. I hope you’re doing well. I’m currently in Burlington for some work, but something strange has happened and I could use your help. I bought a roll-top desk that was in bad condition and while repairing it, I found a secret drawer containing a letter.

The letter was dated 1914 and written by Jim, an army officer, to his wife Connie while he was away at war with the Germans. Realizing its significance, I tracked down Mrs. Macpherson, the recipient of the letter, but found out that her house had burned down and she was now in the hospital. When I visited her, she mistook me for Jim and I didn’t have the heart to correct her. I spent some time with her and talked to her as if I were Jim.

Now, I’m not sure what to do. Should I tell her the truth and disappoint her, or let her believe that her husband has finally returned to her? I’m torn and could really use your advice.

Thank you.

Yours truly


2. Given below is the outline of a story. Consider the story using the outline.

A young, newly married doctor………… freedom fighter ……….. exiled to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by the British ……….. infamous Cellular Jail …….. prisoners tortured ……….. revolt by inmates …………… doctor hanged ……….. wife waits for his return ………….. becomes old ……. continue to wait with hope and faith.

Ans. The story begins with a young doctor who has just recently married. He is not only a doctor but also a freedom fighter who opposes British rule in India. Unfortunately, he is caught and exiled to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by the British, where he is imprisoned in the infamous Cellular Jail.

The prisoners in the jail are subject to brutal torture, which causes much pain and suffering. Despite the harsh conditions, the doctor maintains his spirit and continues to resist the British rule.

Eventually, the inmates revolt against the jail authorities, hoping to gain their freedom. Sadly, the doctor is caught, and as punishment, he is hanged.

His wife, who had been waiting for him, never sees her husband return. She continues to wait with hope and faith, as she grows old. Despite the passage of time, she remains steadfast in her belief that her husband will one day return.

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