"A Christmas Memory" was issued by Random House in 1966 during the holiday season in order to capitalize on Truman Capote's growing popularity following the release of his true-crime novel, In Cold Blood. Though "A Christmas Memory" had initially appeared in Mademoiselle magazine in December, 1956, and was reprinted in The Selected Writings of Truman Capote in 1963, it was the 1966 edition that established the story's enduring popularity. The story of a seven-year-old boy and his aging cousin's holiday traditions was made into an Emmy Award-winning television movie starring Geraldine Page in 1968 and continues to be produced by high-school and regional theaters throughout the United States.
The story is a prime example of what William L. Nance in The Worlds of Truman Capote calls Capote's ''fiction of nostalgia," in which the author looks back fondly upon his Southern childhood. These nostalgic stones evoke a gentle, simple, and secure childhood uncorrupted by the complications of adulthood. Autobiographical elements in "A Christmas Memory" are apparent: Capote lived with relatives in the South as a child, and during this time his older female cousin, the childlike Sook Faulk, was his closest companion. The nostalgic mood has prompted some critics to dismiss the story as "saccharine." However, the story also contains darker elements such as loneliness, poverty, social isolation, and death, which demonstrate that the innocence of childhood may protect young people from the elements of the human condition, but not remove them from it. The story is also an example of a common theme in Capote's writings: the friendship forged among social outcasts, many of which are eccentric women.