Peace reigns at the March household as Beth’s health improves. Christmas Day arrives, and news of Mr. March’s return after the New Year fills the March girls with hope. Jo and Laurie surprise Beth with a snow maiden decorated with modest Christmas gifts, accompanied by a poem by Jo.
The snow maiden, similar to Beth, is pure, simple, and beautiful because it’s natural. The girls once again give modest gifts that are within their means, given that they’re of the working class.
The March girls think they’ve gotten everything they could want on Christmas (Mr. Laurence gives Meg her first silk dress; Jo receives a long-desired book) until, that evening, Laurie brings Mr. March into the parlor. Mrs. March and her daughters are ecstatic. Later that night, they all sit down for a triumphant Christmas dinner, joined by Mr. Laurence, Laurie, and Mr. Brooke.
Since the Christmas of one year ago, the girls have learned a great deal about morality and virtue. Thus the gifts are a tad more extravagant than they were the year prior, as they have earned a reward. Meg’s first silk dress is a sign of her growing womanhood.
After supper, Mr. March observes how much his daughters have grown since he last saw them. He’s pleased that Meg’s hands, once spotless, are calloused from work. He’s also pleased to see that Jo is less tomboyish, that Amy is less selfish, and that Beth’s health is much improved. Jo asks Beth what she’s thinking, and Beth replies that she feels as if they’ve reached the “pleasant green meadow” from Pilgrim’s Progress.
Mr. March’s praise of Meg’s calloused hand once again bolsters the book’s argument that everyone, even women, needs work in order to live good lives. He is also pleased to see that Jo better fits a female gender role (one of the book’s less radical moments). Mr. March sees little that needs improving in Beth, the pious invalid.