What better way to celebrate the holidays than to gather the family around the computer and read a story? I'm only kidding. Really. However, there are a lot of Christmas stories available online. Here is our selection Happy Holidays.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled down for a long winter's nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below, When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too. And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my hand, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes -- how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly, That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
A famous letter from Virgina O'Hanlon to the editorial of The New York Sun, first printed in 1897.
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Click to go back to Free Gift Page.
Click to go back to Free Gift Page.
How Claus Made the First Toy
Excerpt from "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" by L Frank Baum
Truly our Claus had wisdom, for his good fortune but strengthened his resolve to befriend the little ones of his own race. He knew his plan was approved by the immortals, else they would not have favored him so greatly.
So he began at once to make acquaintance with mankind. He walked through the Valley to the plain beyond, and crossed the plain in many directions to reach the abodes of men. These stood singly or in groups of dwellings called villages, and in nearly all the houses, whether big or little, Claus found children.
The youngsters soon came to know his merry, laughing face and the kind glance of his bright eyes; and the parents, while they regarded the young man with some scorn for loving children more than their elders, were content that the girls and boys had found a playfellow who seemed willing to amuse them.
So the children romped and played games with Claus, and the boys rode upon his shoulders, and the girls nestled in his strong arms, and the babies clung fondly to his knees. Wherever the young man chanced to be, the sound of childish laughter followed him; and to understand this better you must know that children were much neglected in those days and received little attention from their parents, so that it became to them a marvel that so goodly a man as Claus devoted his time to making them happy. And those who knew him were, you may be sure, very happy indeed. The sad faces of the poor and abused grew bright for once; the cripple smiled despite his misfortune; the ailing ones hushed their moans and the grieved ones their cries when their merry friend came nigh to comfort them.
Only at the beautiful palace of the Lord of Lerd and at the frowning castle of the Baron Braun was Claus refused admittance. There were children at both places; but the servants at the palace shut the door in the young stranger's face, and the fierce Baron threatened to hang him from an iron hook on the castle walls. Whereupon Claus sighed and went back to the poorer dwellings where he was welcome.
After a time the winter drew near.
The flowers lived out their lives and faded and disappeared; the beetles burrowed far into the warm earth; the butterflies deserted the meadows; and the voice of the brook grew hoarse, as if it had taken cold.
One day snowflakes filled all the air in the Laughing Valley, dancing boisterously toward the earth and clothing in pure white raiment the roof of Claus's dwelling.
At night Jack Frost rapped at the door.
"Come in!" cried Claus.
"Come out!" answered Jack, "for you have a fire inside."
So Claus came out. He had known Jack Frost in the Forest, and liked the jolly rogue, even while he mistrusted him.
"There will be rare sport for me to-night, Claus!" shouted the sprite. "Isn't this glorious weather? I shall nip scores of noses and ears and toes before daybreak."
"If you love me, Jack, spare the children," begged Claus.
"And why?" asked the other, in surprise.
"They are tender and helpless," answered Claus.
"But I love to nip the tender ones!" declared Jack. "The older ones are tough, and tire my fingers."
"The young ones are weak, and can not fight you," said Claus.
"True," agreed Jack, thoughtfully. "Well, I will not pinch a child this night--if I can resist the temptation," he promised. "Good night, Claus!"
The young man went in and closed the door, and Jack Frost ran on to the nearest village.
Claus threw a log on the fire, which burned up brightly. Beside the hearth sat Blinkie, a big cat give him by Peter the Knook. Her fur was soft and glossy, and she purred never-ending songs of contentment.
"I shall not see the children again soon," said Claus to the cat, who kindly paused in her song to listen. "The winter is upon us, the snow will be deep for many days, and I shall be unable to play with my little friends."
The cat raised a paw and stroked her nose thoughtfully, but made no reply. So long as the fire burned and Claus sat in his easy chair by the hearth she did not mind the weather.
So passed many days and many long evenings. The cupboard was always full, but Claus became weary with having nothing to do more than to feed the fire from the big wood-pile the Knooks had brought him.
One evening he picked up a stick of wood and began to cut it with his sharp knife. He had no thought, at first, except to occupy his time, and he whistled and sang to the cat as he carved away portions of the stick. Puss sat up on her haunches and watched him, listening at the same time to her master's merry whistle, which she loved to hear even more than her own purring songs.
Claus glanced at puss and then at the stick he was whittling, until presently the wood began to have a shape, and the shape was like the head of a cat, with two ears sticking upward.
Claus stopped whistling to laugh, and then both he and the cat looked at the wooden image in some surprise. Then he carved out the eyes and the nose, and rounded the lower part of the head so that it rested upon a neck.
Puss hardly knew what to make of it now, and sat up stiffly, as if watching with some suspicion what would come next.
Claus knew. The head gave him an idea. He plied his knife carefully and with skill, forming slowly the body of the cat, which he made to sit upon its haunches as the real cat did, with her tail wound around her two front legs.
The work cost him much time, but the evening was long and he had nothing better to do. Finally he gave a loud and delighted laugh at the result of his labors and placed the wooden cat, now completed, upon the hearth opposite the real one.
Puss thereupon glared at her image, raised her hair in anger, and uttered a defiant mew. The wooden cat paid no attention, and Claus, much amused, laughed again.
Then Blinkie advanced toward the wooden image to eye it closely and smell of it intelligently: Eyes and nose told her the creature was wood, in spite of its natural appearance; so puss resumed her seat and her purring, but as she neatly washed her face with her padded paw she cast more than one admiring glance at her clever master. Perhaps she felt the same satisfaction we feel when we look upon good photographs of ourselves.
The cat's master was himself pleased with his handiwork, without knowing exactly why. Indeed, he had great cause to congratulate himself that night, and all the children throughout the world should have joined him rejoicing. For Claus had made his first toy.
The Little Match Girl
Once upon a time . . . a little glrl tried to make a living by selling matches in the street.
It was New Year's Eve and the snowclad streets were deserted. From brightly lit windows came the tinkle of laughter and the sound of singing. People were getting ready to bring in the New Year. But the poor little matchseller sat sadly beside the fountain. Her ragged dress and worn shawl did not keep out the cold and she tried to keep her bare feet from touching the frozen ground. She hadn't sold one box of matches all day and she was frightened to go home, for her father would certainly be angry. It wouldn't be much warmer anyway, in the draughty attic that was her home. The little girl's fingers were stiff with cold. If only she could light a match! But what would her father say at such a waste! Falteringly she took out a match and lit it. What a nice warm flame! The little matchseller cupped her hand over it, and as she did so, she magically saw in its light a big brightly burning stove.
She held out her hands to the heat, but just then the match went out and the vision faded. The night seemed blacker than before and it was getting colder. A shiver ran through the little girl's thin body.
After hesitating for a long time, she struck another match on the wall, and this time, the glimmer turned the wall into a great sheet of crystal. Beyond that stood a fine table laden with food and lit by a candlestick. Holding out her arms towards the plates, the little matchseller seemed to pass through the glass, but then the match went out and the magic faded. Poor thing: in just a few seconds she had caught a glimpse of everything that life had denied her: warmth and good things to eat. Her eyes filled with tears and she lifted her gaze to the lit windows, praying that she too might know a little of such happiness.
She lit the third match and an even more wonderful thing happened. There stood a Christmas tree hung with hundreds of candles, glittering with tinsel and coloured balls. "Oh, how lovely!" exclaimed the little matchseller, holding up the match. Then, the match burned her finger and flickered out. The light from the Christmas candles rose higher and higher, then one of the lights fell, leaving a trail behind it. "Someone is dying," murmured the little girl, as she remembered her beloved Granny who used to say: "When a star falls, a heart stops beating!"
Scarcely aware of what she was doing, the little matchseller lit another match. This time, she saw her grandmother.
"Granny, stay with me!" she pleaded, as she lit one match after the other, so that her grandmother could not disappear like all the other visions. However, Granny did not vanish, but gazed smilingly at her. Then she opened her arms and the little girl hugged her crying: "Granny, take me away with you!"
A cold day dawned and a pale sun shone on the fountain and the icy road. Close by lay the lifeless body of a little girl surrounded by spent matches. "Poor little thing!" exclaimed the passersby. "She was trying to keep warm!"
But by that time, the little matchseller was far away where there is neither cold, hunger nor pain.
The Nutcracker Story
It's Christmas at the Stahlbaum home. There' s a huge tree, and many guests arrive to celebrate with the family. Clara's godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, makes magical toys. He entertains the guests with two life-sized dolls that dance around the room. Then he gives gifts to the children, and gives Clara a very special gift of a nutcracker. Her brother, Fritz, is jealous, and grabs the nutcracker and it gets broken! Clara is very upset, so Herr Drosselmeyer repairs the doll before handing it back to her..
Soon after, all the guests leave and the children go to bed. Clara gets up in the night and goes downstairs to get her nutcracker from under the tree. She falls asleep there, and is transported into Christmas fantasy where her nutcracker has grown to the size of a human. When the Mouse King attacks, the Nutcracker Prince tries to valiantly defend young Clara, but is struck down in the battle. Clara in turn saves her Nutcracker Prince by throwing her shoe at the Mouse King and defeating him.
With the nasty Mouse King out of the way, Clara runs to the Nutcracker Prince. When she kisses him, he turns into a human! Then she and her Prince are whisked away through the Enchanted Forest, where they see dancing snowflakes and other wonders. Then they travel further to the Kingdom of the Sweets.
In the Kingdom of Sweets, Clara and the Prince behold the wondrous beauty of the Sugarplum Fairy. She invites the couple to stay for a while and enjoy the entertainment of her subjects. Clara and the prince watch in awe as the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Sweets dance before them.
When the dancers are finished, Clara and her Prince sail home in a magic sleigh made of ice and candy. On Christmas morning, Clara wakes under the tree holding her nutcracker doll.
You can see Nutcracker photos from a ballet performance of this story.
The Snow Queen
You must attend to the commencement of this story, for when we get to the end we shall know more than we do now about a very wicked hobgoblin; he was one of the very worst, for he was a real demon. One day, when he was in a merry mood, he made a looking-glass which had the power of making everything good or beautiful that was reflected in it almost shrink to nothing, while everything that was worthless and bad looked increased in size and worse than ever. The most lovely landscapes appeared like boiled spinach, and the people became hideous, and looked as if they stood on their heads and had no bodies.
Their countenances were so distorted that no one could recognize them, and even one freckle on the face appeared to spread over the whole of the nose and mouth. The demon said this was very amusing. When a good or pious thought passed through the mind of any one it was misrepresented in the glass; and then how the demon laughed at his cunning invention. All who went to the demon's school- for he kept a school- talked everywhere of the wonders they had seen, and declared that people could now, for the first time, see what the world and mankind were really like. They carried the glass about everywhere, till at last there was not a land nor a people who had not been looked at through this distorted mirror. They wanted even to fly with it up to heaven to see the angels, but the higher they flew the more slippery the glass became, and they could scarcely hold it, till at last it slipped from their hands, fell to the earth, and was broken into millions of pieces. But now the looking-glass caused more unhappiness than ever, for some of the fragments were not so large as a grain of sand, and they flew about the world into every country. When one of these tiny atoms flew into a person's eye, it stuck there unknown to him, and from that moment he saw everything through a distorted medium, or could see only the worst side of what he looked at, for even the smallest fragment retained the same power which had belonged to the whole mirror. Some few persons even got a fragment of the looking-glass in their hearts, and this was very terrible, for their hearts became cold like a lump of ice. A few of the pieces were so large that they could be used as window-panes; it would have been a sad thing to look at our friends through them. Other pieces were made into spectacles; this was dreadful for those who wore them, for they could see nothing either rightly or justly. At all this the wicked demon laughed till his sides shook- it tickled him so to see the mischief he had done. There were still a number of these little fragments of glass floating about in the air, and now you shall hear what happened with one of them.
A LITTLE BOY AND A LITTLE GIRL
In a large town, full of houses and people, there is not room for everybody to have even a little garden, therefore they are obliged to be satisfied with a few flowers in flower-pots. In one of these large towns lived two poor children who had a garden something larger and better than a few flower-pots. They were not brother and sister, but they loved each other almost as much as if they had been. Their parents lived opposite to each other in two garrets, where the roofs of neighboring houses projected out towards each other and the water-pipe ran between them. In each house was a little window, so that any one could step across the gutter from one window to the other. The parents of these children had each a large wooden box in which they cultivated kitchen herbs for their own use, and a little rose-bush in each box, which grew splendidly. Now after a while the parents decided to place these two boxes across the water-pipe, so that they reached from one window to the other and looked like two banks of flowers. Sweet-peas drooped over the boxes, and the rose-bushes shot forth long branches, which were trained round the windows and clustered together almost like a triumphal arch of leaves and flowers. The boxes were very high, and the children knew they must not climb upon them, without permission, but they were often, however, allowed to step out together and sit upon their little stools under the rose-bushes, or play quietly. In winter all this pleasure came to an end, for the windows were sometimes quite frozen over. But then they would warm copper pennies on the stove, and hold the warm pennies against the frozen pane; there would be very soon a little round hole through which they could peep, and the soft bright eyes of the little boy and girl would beam through the hole at each window as they looked at each other. Their names were Kay and Gerda. In summer they could be together with one jump from the window, but in winter they had to go up and down the long staircase, and out through the snow before they could meet.
"See there are the white bees swarming," said Kay's old grandmother one day when it was snowing.
"Have they a queen bee?" asked the little boy, for he knew that the real bees had a queen.
"To be sure they have," said the grandmother. "She is flying there where the swarm is thickest. She is the largest of them all, and never remains on the earth, but flies up to the dark clouds. Often at midnight she flies through the streets of the town, and looks in at the windows, then the ice freezes on the panes into wonderful shapes, that look like flowers and castles."
"Yes, I have seen them," said both the children, and they knew it must be true.
"Can the Snow Queen come in here?" asked the little girl.
"Only let her come," said the boy, "I'll set her on the stove and then she'll melt."
Then the grandmother smoothed his hair and told him some more tales. One evening, when little Kay was at home, half undressed, he climbed on a chair by the window and peeped out through the little hole. A few flakes of snow were falling, and one of them, rather larger than the rest, alighted on the edge of one of the flower boxes. This snow-flake grew larger and larger, till at last it became the figure of a woman, dressed in garments of white gauze, which looked like millions of starry snow-flakes linked together. She was fair and beautiful, but made of ice- shining and glittering ice. Still she was alive and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, but there was neither peace nor rest in their glance. She nodded towards the window and waved her hand. The little boy was frightened and sprang from the chair; at the same moment it seemed as if a large bird flew by the window. On the following day there was a clear frost, and very soon came the spring. The sun shone; the young green leaves burst forth; the swallows built their nests; windows were opened, and the children sat once more in the garden on the roof, high above all the other rooms. How beautiful the roses blossomed this summer. The little girl had learnt a hymn in which roses were spoken of, and then she thought of their own roses, and she sang the hymn to the little boy, and he sang too:-
"Roses bloom and cease to be, But we shall the Christ-child see."
Then the little ones held each other by the hand, and kissed the roses, and looked at the bright sunshine, and spoke to it as if the Christ-child were there. Those were splendid summer days. How beautiful and fresh it was out among the rose-bushes, which seemed as if they would never leave off blooming. One day Kay and Gerda sat looking at a book full of pictures of animals and birds, and then just as the clock in the church tower struck twelve, Kay said, "Oh, something has struck my heart!" and soon after, "There is something in my eye."
The little girl put her arm round his neck, and looked into his eye, but she could see nothing.
"I think it is gone," he said. But it was not gone; it was one of those bits of the looking-glass- that magic mirror, of which we have spoken- the ugly glass which made everything great and good appear small and ugly, while all that was wicked and bad became more visible, and every little fault could be plainly seen. Poor little Kay had also received a small grain in his heart, which very quickly turned to a lump of ice. He felt no more pain, but the glass was there still. "Why do you cry?" said he at last; "it makes you look ugly. There is nothing the matter with me now. Oh, see!" he cried suddenly, "that rose is worm-eaten, and this one is quite crooked. After all they are ugly roses, just like the box in which they stand," and then he kicked the boxes with his foot, and pulled off the two roses.
"Kay, what are you doing?" cried the little girl; and then, when he saw how frightened she was, he tore off another rose, and jumped through his own window away from little Gerda.
When she afterwards brought out the picture book, he said, "It was only fit for babies in long clothes," and when grandmother told any stories, he would interrupt her with "but;" or, when he could manage it, he would get behind her chair, put on a pair of spectacles, and imitate her very cleverly, to make people laugh. By-and-by he began to mimic the speech and gait of persons in the street. All that was peculiar or disagreeable in a person he would imitate directly, and people said, "That boy will be very clever; he has a remarkable genius." But it was the piece of glass in his eye, and the coldness in his heart, that made him act like this. He would even tease little Gerda, who loved him with all her heart. His games, too, were quite different; they were not so childish. One winter's day, when it snowed, he brought out a burning-glass, then he held out the tail of his blue coat, and let the snow-flakes fall upon it. "Look in this glass, Gerda," said he; and she saw how every flake of snow was magnified, and looked like a beautiful flower or a glittering star. "Is it not clever?" said Kay, "and much more interesting than looking at real flowers. There is not a single fault in it, and the snow-flakes are quite perfect till they begin to melt."
Soon after Kay made his appearance in large thick gloves, and with his sledge at his back. He called up stairs to Gerda, "I've got to leave to go into the great square, where the other boys play and ride." And away he went.
In the great square, the boldest among the boys would often tie their sledges to the country people's carts, and go with them a good way. This was capital. But while they were all amusing themselves, and Kay with them, a great sledge came by; it was painted white, and in it sat some one wrapped in a rough white fur, and wearing a white cap. The sledge drove twice round the square, and Kay fastened his own little sledge to it, so that when it went away, he followed with it. It went faster and faster right through the next street, and then the person who drove turned round and nodded pleasantly to Kay, just as if they were acquainted with each other, but whenever Kay wished to loosen his little sledge the driver nodded again, so Kay sat still, and they drove out through the town gate. Then the snow began to fall so heavily that the little boy could not see a hand's breadth before him, but still they drove on; then he suddenly loosened the cord so that the large sled might go on without him, but it was of no use, his little carriage held fast, and away they went like the wind. Then he called out loudly, but nobody heard him, while the snow beat upon him, and the sledge flew onwards. Every now and then it gave a jump as if it were going over hedges and ditches. The boy was frightened, and tried to say a prayer, but he could remember nothing but the multiplication table.
The snow-flakes became larger and larger, till they appeared like great white chickens. All at once they sprang on one side, the great sledge stopped, and the person who had driven it rose up. The fur and the cap, which were made entirely of snow, fell off, and he saw a lady, tall and white, it was the Snow Queen.
"We have driven well," said she, "but why do you tremble? here, creep into my warm fur." Then she seated him beside her in the sledge, and as she wrapped the fur round him he felt as if he were sinking into a snow drift.
"Are you still cold," she asked, as she kissed him on the forehead. The kiss was colder than ice; it went quite through to his heart, which was already almost a lump of ice; he felt as if he were going to die, but only for a moment; he soon seemed quite well again, and did not notice the cold around him.
"My sledge! don't forget my sledge," was his first thought, and then he looked and saw that it was bound fast to one of the white chickens, which flew behind him with the sledge at its back. The Snow Queen kissed little Kay again, and by this time he had forgotten little Gerda, his grandmother, and all at home.
"Now you must have no more kisses," she said, "or I should kiss you to death."
Kay looked at her, and saw that she was so beautiful, he could not imagine a more lovely and intelligent face; she did not now seem to be made of ice, as when he had seen her through his window, and she had nodded to him. In his eyes she was perfect, and she did not feel at all afraid. He told her he could do mental arithmetic, as far as fractions, and that he knew the number of square miles and the number of inhabitants in the country. And she always smiled so that he thought he did not know enough yet, and she looked round the vast expanse as she flew higher and higher with him upon a black cloud, while the storm blew and howled as if it were singing old songs. They flew over woods and lakes, over sea and land; below them roared the wild wind; the wolves howled and the snow crackled; over them flew the black screaming crows, and above all shone the moon, clear and bright,- and so Kay passed through the long winter's night, and by day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.
OF THE PALACE OF THE SNOW QUEEN AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE AT LAST
The walls of the palace were formed of drifted snow, and the windows and doors of the cutting winds. There were more than a hundred rooms in it, all as if they had been formed with snow blown together. The largest of them extended for several miles; they were all lighted up by the vivid light of the aurora, and they were so large and empty, so icy cold and glittering! There were no amusements here, not even a little bear's ball, when the storm might have been the music, and the bears could have danced on their hind legs, and shown their good manners. There were no pleasant games of snap-dragon, or touch, or even a gossip over the tea-table, for the young-lady foxes. Empty, vast, and cold were the halls of the Snow Queen. The flickering flame of the northern lights could be plainly seen, whether they rose high or low in the heavens, from every part of the castle. In the midst of its empty, endless hall of snow was a frozen lake, broken on its surface into a thousand forms; each piece resembled another, from being in itself perfect as a work of art, and in the centre of this lake sat the Snow Queen, when she was at home. She called the lake "The Mirror of Reason," and said that it was the best, and indeed the only one in the world.
Little Kay was quite blue with cold, indeed almost black, but he did not feel it; for the Snow Queen had kissed away the icy shiverings, and his heart was already a lump of ice. He dragged some sharp, flat pieces of ice to and fro, and placed them together in all kinds of positions, as if he wished to make something out of them; just as we try to form various figures with little tablets of wood which we call "a Chinese puzzle." Kay's fingers were very artistic; it was the icy game of reason at which he played, and in his eyes the figures were very remarkable, and of the highest importance; this opinion was owing to the piece of glass still sticking in his eye. He composed many complete figures, forming different words, but there was one word he never could manage to form, although he wished it very much. It was the word "Eternity." The Snow Queen had said to him, "When you can find out this, you shall be your own master, and I will give you the whole world and a new pair of skates." But he could not accomplish it.
"Now I must hasten away to warmer countries," said the Snow Queen. "I will go and look into the black craters of the tops of the burning mountains, Etna and Vesuvius, as they are called,- I shall make them look white, which will be good for them, and for the lemons and the grapes." And away flew the Snow Queen, leaving little Kay quite alone in the great hall which was so many miles in length; so he sat and looked at his pieces of ice, and was thinking so deeply, and sat so still, that any one might have supposed he was frozen.
Just at this moment it happened that little Gerda came through the great door of the castle. Cutting winds were raging around her, but she offered up a prayer and the winds sank down as if they were going to sleep; and she went on till she came to the large empty hall, and caught sight of Kay; she knew him directly; she flew to him and threw her arms round his neck, and held him fast, while she exclaimed, "Kay, dear little Kay, I have found you at last."
But he sat quite still, stiff and cold.
Then little Gerda wept hot tears, which fell on his breast, and penetrated into his heart, and thawed the lump of ice, and washed away the little piece of glass which had stuck there. Then he looked at her, and she sang-
"Roses bloom and cease to be, But we shall the Christ-child see."
Then Kay burst into tears, and he wept so that the splinter of glass swam out of his eye. Then he recognized Gerda, and said, joyfully, "Gerda, dear little Gerda, where have you been all this time, and where have I been?" And he looked all around him, and said, "How cold it is, and how large and empty it all looks," and he clung to Gerda, and she laughed and wept for joy. It was so pleasing to see them that the pieces of ice even danced about; and when they were tired and went to lie down, they formed themselves into the letters of the word which the Snow Queen had said he must find out before he could be his own master, and have the whole world and a pair of new skates. Then Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they became blooming; and she kissed his eyes, and they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and his feet, and then he became quite healthy and cheerful. The Snow Queen might come home now when she pleased, for there stood his certainty of freedom, in the word she wanted, written in shining letters of ice.
Then they took each other by the hand, and went forth from the great palace of ice. They spoke of the grandmother, and of the roses on the roof, and as they went on the winds were at rest, and the sun burst forth. When they arrived at the bush with red berries, there stood the reindeer waiting for them, and he had brought another young reindeer with him, whose udders were full, and the children drank her warm milk and kissed her on the mouth. Then they carried Kay and Gerda first to the Finland woman, where they warmed themselves thoroughly in the hot room, and she gave them directions about their journey home. Next they went to the Lapland woman, who had made some new clothes for them, and put their sleighs in order. Both the reindeer ran by their side, and followed them as far as the boundaries of the country, where the first green leaves were budding. And here they took leave of the two reindeer and the Lapland woman, and all said- Farewell. Then the birds began to twitter, and the forest too was full of green young leaves; and out of it came a beautiful horse, which Gerda remembered, for it was one which had drawn the golden coach. A young girl was riding upon it, with a shining red cap on her head, and pistols in her belt. It was the little robber-maiden, who had got tired of staying at home; she was going first to the north, and if that did not suit her, she meant to try some other part of the world. She knew Gerda directly, and Gerda remembered her: it was a joyful meeting.
"You are a fine fellow to go gadding about in this way," said she to little Kay, "I should like to know whether you deserve that any one should go to the end of the world to find you."
But Gerda patted her cheeks, and asked after the prince and princess.
"They are gone to foreign countries," said the robber-girl.
"And the crow?" asked Gerda.
"Oh, the crow is dead," she replied; "his tame sweetheart is now a widow, and wears a bit of black worsted round her leg. She mourns very pitifully, but it is all stuff. But now tell me how you managed to get him back."
Then Gerda and Kay told her all about it.
"Snip, snap, snare! it's all right at last," said the robber-girl.
Then she took both their hands, and promised that if ever she should pass through the town, she would call and pay them a visit. And then she rode away into the wide world. But Gerda and Kay went hand-in-hand towards home; and as they advanced, spring appeared more lovely with its green verdure and its beautiful flowers. Very soon they recognized the large town where they lived, and the tall steeples of the churches, in which the sweet bells were ringing a merry peal as they entered it, and found their way to their grandmother's door. They went upstairs into the little room, where all looked just as it used to do. The old clock was going "tick, tick," and the hands pointed to the time of day, but as they passed through the door into the room they perceived that they were both grown up, and become a man and woman. The roses out on the roof were in full bloom, and peeped in at the window; and there stood the little chairs, on which they had sat when children; and Kay and Gerda seated themselves each on their own chair, and held each other by the hand, while the cold empty grandeur of the Snow Queen's palace vanished from their memories like a painful dream. The grandmother sat in God's bright sunshine, and she read aloud from the Bible, "Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God." And Kay and Gerda looked into each other's eyes, and all at once understood the words of the old song,
"Roses bloom and cease to be, But we shall the Christ-child see."
And they both sat there, grown up, yet children at heart; and it was summer,- warm, beautiful summer.
What Christmas Is As We Grow Older
By Charles Dickens
Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes complete.
And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable milestone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it?
No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer in our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness, and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers, to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!
Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to heaven!
Welcome everything! Welcome alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, in your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is, sits openhearted!
Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces toward that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved among us. In the Blessed Name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, the people who were dear to us!
The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred Tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather; there are flaming logs heaped high; there are joyful faces; there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the household gods, but be those memories admitted with tender encouragement! They are of Time and all the comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.
by Charles Dickens
Once upon a time -- of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve -- old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already -- it had not been light all day -- and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.
The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.
'A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!' cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
'Bah!' said Scrooge, 'Humbug!'
He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
'Christmas a humbug, uncle!' said Scrooge's nephew. 'You don't mean that, I am sure?'
'I do,' said Scrooge. 'Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.'
'Come, then,' returned the nephew gaily. 'What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough.'
Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, 'Bah!' again; and followed it up with 'Humbug!'
'Don't be cross, uncle.' said the nephew.
'What else can I be,' returned the uncle, 'when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas. What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in them through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,' said Scrooge indignantly,'every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!'
'Uncle!' pleaded the nephew.
'Nephew!' returned the uncle, sternly, 'keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.'
'Keep it!' repeated Scrooge's nephew. 'But you don't keep it.'
'Let me leave it alone, then,' said Scrooge. 'Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!'
'There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,' returned the nephew. 'Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'
The clerk in the tank involuntarily applauded. Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever.
'Let me hear another sound from you,' said Scrooge, 'and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation! You're quite a powerful speaker, sir,' he added, turning to his nephew. 'I wonder you don't go into Parliament.'
'Don't be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow.'
Scrooge said that he would see him-yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.
'But why?' cried Scrooge's nephew. 'Why?'
'Why did you get married?' said Scrooge.
'Because I fell in love.'
'Because you fell in love!' growled Scrooge, as if that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas. 'Good afternoon!'
'Nay, uncle, but you never came to see me before that happened. Why give it as a reason for not coming now?'
'Good afternoon,' said Scrooge.
'I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?'
Good afternoon,' said Scrooge.
'I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I'll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!'
'Good afternoon.' said Scrooge.
'And A Happy New Year!'
'Good afternoon!' said Scrooge.
His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greeting of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned them cordially.
What Is Percy doing to the Jones' cat, Samantha? Percy is tying a red balloon to sleeping Samantha's tail. He quickly hides behind a book on the bookcase to see Samantha's reaction. Upon awakening, Samantha runs around in circles, trying to catch the balloon. Hearing Percy's giggles, she realizes she's been fooled again. Samantha chases Percy into the mouse hole, but he's too quick for her!
It's suppertime. Quick as a flash, Percy is out of the mouse hole. He returns, pushing a green grape across the floor with each paw and clenching another between his teeth. Momma mouse claps her paws in delight, saying, "Goodie. We'll have grapes for dessert." Poppa mouse looks disgusted, shrugs his shoulders and returns to the book he's reading.
Poppa wishes Percy would behave like a regular mouse instead of gathering objects from the Jones' family. Momma mouse enjoys helping Percy fashion furniture from different objects. Her favorite was the sardine tin bathtub.
The next morning, Momma sent Percy to get some fabric scraps from Mrs. Jones' sewing basket. Mrs. Jones was the neighborhood seamstress. Mr. Jones was a retired sheriff. Percy returned with scraps of pink checked and blue fabric as well as white lace. Momma made a lace trimmed pink checked apron and blue tobacco pouch. These were gifts to thank the Jones for all the objects Percy had taken from their home. Percy laid them on Mrs. Jones' favorite chair.
Later that evening, Mrs. Jones decided to finish sewing the christening dress for the neighbor's newborn daughter. She discovered the gifts on her chair and wondered who had sewn them. The delicate stitches were beautiful!
A spool of thread fell from Mrs. Jones' lap, rolling across the floor. It ended up half in and half out of the mouse hole. Bending to pick it up, Mrs. Jones noticed a peculiar arch in the corner wall. Lying on her stomach, and using a flashlight, Mrs. Jones discovered a mouse family asleep on tiny beds. Around the room were small pieces of furniture, fashioned from objects missing from her home for months. Now Mrs. Jones knew who had sewn the gifts.
She attached a note next to the mouse hole which read:
Thank you for the beautiful gifts. Why don't you and your family join us for Thanksgiving dinner? Mrs. Jones
The family talked about it and decided to accept the invitation. Percy left a note on Mrs. Jones' chair:
Mrs. Jones, We would love to come to Thanksgiving dinner. I'll bring a jar of grape jam. Thank you. Millie Mouse
Fall was here. Leaves were changing to golden yellow and red. The air was crispy cool. Thanksgiving had finally arrived. Mrs. Jones had purchased a toy tea set for the mouse family's meal.
The mouse family was busy dressing in their best clothes. Momma wore a red velvet dress. Percy and Poppa had black knit pants and white dress shirts. They wore black bow ties. Two-year-old Gus wore a sailor suit. Suddenly, one of Poppa's suspenders broke. Quickly Percy was out of the mouse hole, returning minutes later with a safety pin to re-attach Poppa's suspender. This was a day of thankfulness. Poppa hugged Percy saying, "I guess being a packrat has some good points. You be what you were meant to be."
The mouse family admired the table in front of them. It was covered with a white lace tablecloth. Candlelight flickered, adding a festive touch to the delicious meal. The toy plates were filled with turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce. There were cups of tea. They finished the meal with pumpkin pie and spoons of momma's grape jam. Everyone chattered merrily, getting to know each other.
Thanksgiving was over, and Christmas was only a few weeks away. Percy and his family put up a Christmas tree. It was beautiful, but something was missing. Percy ran out of the mouse hole, returning with one Mr. Jones' sheriff's badges for the treetop. Suddenly, a flash of light shone on the tree. The Jones called into the mouse hole, "Merry Christmas, everyone."
An Adventure With Grandma
I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"
My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.
Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."
"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous, cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about every- thing. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. 'Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.
I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten- dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.
I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out or recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!
I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes," I re- lied shyly. "It's .... for Bobby." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.
That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) and write, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it -- Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers.
Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."
I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.
Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.
Christmas Eve 1881
Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.
It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.
After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what..
Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high side boards on.
After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood - the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?" You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what?
Yeah," I said, "Why?"
"I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt." That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. Shoes, they're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."
We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern.
We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?" "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt, could we come in for a bit?"
Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.
"We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children - sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.
"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as
much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak.
My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.
I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."
In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.
Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.
Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.
At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away.
Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, May the Lord bless you, I know for certain that He will."
Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough. Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that, but on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."
I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.
For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.
Go to Bed Early, Because
Santa Claus is coming on a cold Christmas Eve night wearing his red suit, black belt, boot's and his beard and hair so pretty and white.
He is sure to go to every house, with his bag full of toy's, to give to every little girl, and to all the little boy's.
He'll come down the chimney with soot on his face, but he won't be happy, till he leaves toy's all over the place.
When he gets to the last house that he has on his list, he'll know that you've been good, because you sent him a letter saying that you promised you would.
The Christmas tree was lit with colors of blue, green, and red, the snowflakes were falling, while you were fast asleep and cozy in your bed.
Old Saint Nick saw that you and your family were warm and safe, so he called for his Reindeer, then jumped in his sled.
Don't worry about Santa Claus, because he's going to be alright.
So, to all of our precious children, don't shed any tears because Santa Claus will be coming back, this same time, next year.
Olive the Orphan Reindeer
By Michael Christie
The storm in the Barrens raged around the little reindeer with a nose like an olive.
She'd lost her mother and father and brothers and sisters.
The night wind shrieked. The snowflakes stung her eyes.
"Mommy! Daddy! Where are you?"
But no one could hear.
And now - danger! - wolves.
She could smell them. They were close. Maybe they ate my family, she thought, and want me too.
So the little reindeer ran as fast as she could.
In the fierce storm she didn't know where she was going. She just knew she had to get away.
The wolves chased her, but she soon left them far behind.
Even when she no longer picked up their scent, she ran and ran.
Finally she came to the North Pole.
Santa And Mrs. Claus
Gasping for breath, she found herself in front of Santa and Mrs. Claus's house. Night here was calm and peaceful.
She saw them arm in arm on their doorstep. They were looking at the stars.
Santa Claus laughed when he saw the tired little reindeer.
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Look, my dear. A reindeer with an olive for a nose! Goodness! Welcome to the North Pole, little one."
Mrs. Claus smiled. "Well, aren't you just the cutest thing though! We'll have to call you Olive. Right, Santa?" Santa nodded. "Do you like cookies, Olive?"
"I don't know, ma'am," she said.
"Well, try this," said Mrs. Claus. She gave Olive a cookie. "It's raisin and oatmeal fresh from my bakery."
Olive found it tasty. While she nibbled on it, Mrs. Claus tied a blue bow on her head.
"There, Olive!" Mrs. Claus said, giving her a big hug. "You just needed a mite sprucing up."
"I hope you can stay a while, Olive," said Santa.
Olive felt there was little chance she'd see her family again, so she decided to make the North Pole her home.
As the years passed and she got bigger, Olive became one of the best skaters among the spare reindeer. She always won the friendly races against them at Candy Cane Pond.
Olive also had important jobs to do during the Christmas season.
She looked through the magic telescope to see which boys and girls were naughty or nice, and reported their names to Number One, the chief elf.
She hauled boxes of presents to Santa Claus's sleigh on the runway.
She delivered muffins from Mrs. Claus's bakery to the hospital.
In the toy factory she checked for broken toys coming off a line in Quality Control.
She liked these jobs, but the job Olive wanted more than anything was to be on Santa's team.
Will I be picked some day? she wondered.
A Foolish Dream
It was Christmas Eve again. As always Olive wished she could go on the Big Trip. Many of her spare reindeer pals had gone. Why not me? she thought. But maybe that was a foolish dream.
Only this morning an elf had shouted, "You over there - no, not you, Jingles - the other reindeer. Yes, you, pimento nose. Give us some help."
But at dusk when Olive got off shift, she began to do some serious thinking.
Maybe it wasn't a foolish dream at all. What did that smart alec elf know anyway?
So she decided right then to visit Santa and ask him if she could join the team.
A Meeting With Santa
As she stood in front of Santa's house, Olive wasn't so sure of herself.
"Just who do you think you are?" she said.
But she'd come this far so what did she have to lose? All Santa could do was say no.
She hesitated then tapped at Santa's door.
She waited. No answer.
She tapped again.
No one was home.
She sighed. "Oh, well, I tried."
Just as Olive was about to leave, the door burst open.
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Well, well, look who it is!" Santa said. He had only one boot on. "I'm just getting ready to go over to Mission Control to check things out before the Big Trip. What can I do for you, Olive?"
"Hi, Santa. I thought I'd ask if there, uh, was - was -"
"Was what, Olive?"
"Well - anything I could do."
Santa thought. "No, I can't think of anything."
"What did you have in mind?"
"Well - uh - well -"
Olive was tongue-tied.
"Please, I'm really in a hurry," Santa said. "Well?"
When he hears what I want he'll laugh at me, Olive thought. That's worse than a simple no. She just blinked.
"I can't think of a thing you could do," Santa said.
"Well, I just thought I'd, you know, ask anyway."
Santa shrugged. "Thank you for asking, Olive."
"You're welcome, Santa."
She left and Santa scratched his head.
"What a strange conversation," he muttered.
Take-off time was ninety-seven minutes away.
Best to forget about the Big Trip, Olive felt, by keeping busy. Maybe Mrs. Claus wanted some muffins taken to the hospital.
She headed for the bakery.
Magnificent smells drifted from it: mincemeat tarts, chocolate cakes, jelly doughnuts, date squares, brownies, buns, bread, all kinds of muffins and cookies.
"Hi, Olive. That nose of yours sure works mighty fine," Mrs. Claus said. "Here's a nice warm raisin and oatmeal cookie just for you."
"No thank you, Mrs. Claus," Olive said. "I'm not hungry. I just came over to see if you wanted some muffins taken over to the hospital."
"I'm sorry, Olive, we made the muffin delivery this afternoon when you were at the toy factory."
Mrs. Claus gave Olive a close look. "What's the matter, Olive? Why the glum looking face?"
Olive pawed at the ground. "Well - it's nothing. Nothing."
Mrs. Claus fixed Olive's blue bow. It was crooked. "Something is bothering you. Tell me, Olive, don't be shy with me. We girls have to stick together. What is it?"
"It's nothing, Mrs. Claus. I'd better go now and see if they need me one last time at the toy factory."
Olive trotted off.
"You're my favorite reindeer you know. I'm always around if you need me," Mrs. Claus called after her.
At the toy factory Olive's best friend, Boomer, the chubby harness elf, sat on a crate by the shipping dock. He munched on a peanut butter sandwich.
"Hi, Olive!" Boomer shouted. He liked to shout rather than talk.
"Hi, Boomer. Do they need any more help inside?"
"Not now. They're just tying up some loose ends. We're ready."
"Oh." She wasn't needed here either.
"What's eating you, Olive? Huh? You look really sad."
"Well, it's just that I'd love to go on the Big Trip," Olive said.
"Hey, come on! You'll make it one day."
"Oh, I don't know about that, Boomer."
"You will. You're fast. You always win the races on Candy Cane Pond. And you're strong too."
"I'm just a nobody. After all these years I'm still called the other reindeer."
"Aw, come on! Mrs. Claus for one doesn't call you that," Boomer said. "Tell her what you want."
"Mrs. Claus doesn't do the hiring."
"No, but I'm sure she's got some clout with Santa."
"I just talked to Mrs. Claus and I couldn't tell her about - about my dream. I just couldn't."
"Huh? Why not?"
"Well - I -"
Boomer waved his sandwich in the air. "Sweet potaters, Olive! You can't just wait for something to happen. And that's what you're doing.
"I know, Boomer, I know." She wouldn't mention her visit with Santa Claus or Boomer would get really steamed. "But I just don't like to be - pushy."
Boomer snorted. "Pushy? Pushy! You really tick me off sometimes. You know that? The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Things won't come to you. And -"
"And what, Boomer?"
Boomer stared at his sandwich. "The Big Trip is only eighty-nine minutes away. But I have to say you can forget it just like the other ones. It's too late."
Olive gulped. Maybe I should have said something to Mrs. Claus, she thought. I'll be staying behind again.
The Numbers Aren't Good
Meanwhile Santa Claus, Number One, the chief elf, and Chip, the computer ace, were going over a few things in the Planning Room at Mission Control.
They studied a wall map. Mittens, Santa's orange cat, was on Santa's shoulders. He seemed interested in the map too.
"Santa, the numbers aren't good," Chip said. "We have a record number of kids this year and we just don't have enough reindeer power."
Santa chuckled. "Chip, you worry too much. I have a great team, but we can always add one or two of the spare reindeer."
Mrs. Claus passed by. She cupped her ear to listen.
"One or two won't do it, Santa, even if we had them," Number One said. "Dr. Winters called me just before you arrived. An odd thing. The spare reindeer are in the hospital sick."
Santa gasped. "Oh, dear! All of them at once? That's terrible!"
"And the sleigh is loaded to overflowing," Chip said. "If we added any more toys we couldn't lift off. Lots of toys have to be left behind." He looked at his calculator. "The numbers aren't good."
"They certainly aren't, Chip," Santa said.
"Many places must be missed." Chip pointed at the map with a baseball bat. "Here, here, and here. And there."
Santa Claus sank into an armchair with his head in his hands. Mittens almost fell off his shoulders.
"But we can't let down any children," Santa moaned. "We can't! You're the computer expert, Chip. Think of something. Anything! We leave in fifty-six minutes. There must be something we can do."
Chip threw up his hands. "There isn't, Santa, and that's a fact."
After she heard this, Mrs. Claus hurried over to the hospital.
In the hospital ward the spare reindeer lay in beds. With thermometers in their mouths were Speedy, Jingles, Flash, Igloo, Spinner, Rascal, Bingo, and Pokey.
Dr. Winters took out the thermometers and read them.
"Hmmm," he said. "I can't see anything the matter with any of you." He looked at his watch. "It's Christmas Eve with forty-three minutes 'til take-off. What if Santa needs some of you? Then what?"
"Then that'll be too bad," Pokey stated. "We're not going back to that gloomy old stable."
"Not until somebody paints it," said Flash.
"Hah! So that's it," Dr. Winters said. "Blackmail!"
"That's a mean thing to say," said Bingo. "But we're not going back to that stable. So there!"
"Get up! Get up!" Dr. Winters yelled. "Where's your pride? Where's your courage? Where's your loyalty? Get up! Immediately! This is nonsense! This is - uh, please. With jam on it. Well?"
But the reindeer just snuggled in their beds and answered with snores.
They weren't going anywhere.
Not A Very Nice Idea
Mrs. Claus rushed into the ward. She was alarmed by what she saw.
"What's going on, Doctor?"
Dr. Winters shook his head. "I never thought I'd hear myself say this, Mrs. Claus. Never in a million years. But what we've got here is a bunch of fakers who want to sleep all day long in nice comfy beds. In short, they're on strike!"
Mrs. Claus thought. "I think I've got an idea. It's not a very nice one, but -"
She whispered into Dr. Winters' ear.
The reindeer squinted at them. What were they up to?
The doctor's eyes gleamed as he held up a hypodermic needle.
He gave it a squirt. The reindeer stirred.
"Now this might smart a little, you reindeer, but it's for your own good," Dr. Winters said.
The reindeer shot up in bed.
"Don't be alarmed," Dr. Winters said. "You'll just experience some - er - ha! ha! ha! - mild discomfort."
"I feel a lot better, Dr. Winters," Jingles said.
"M-m-me too," Pokey stuttered.
"See you, Dr. Winters," said Igloo, bolting for the door.
"Don't call us, we'll call you," said the rest as they clomped after Igloo.
Mrs. Claus and Dr. Winters split their sides as the reindeer stampeded down the corridor.
Take-off was seconds away.
From the runway red, gold, green, and blue fireworks lit the North Pole sky with fantastic patterns.
Two elves at the front of the sleigh blew a trumpet fanfare.
Tah-tah tah tah-tah tah tah. Tah-Tah.
Boomer sprinkled Santa's reindeer from his bag of magic sparkles. The sparkles gave them the power to fly.
Chip and Number One looked on with frowns. Everyone was nervous except for the reindeer.
"I'm all set chief," said Dasher, and pawed at the ground.
"Me too," said Dancer, and shook his bells.
"Let's go, Santa," said Comet.
From the front of Santa's team came a red glow and a giggle.
The reindeer loved Christmas Eve. Santa didn't have the heart to tell them thousands of children would be given a miss on this one.
He slumped in his sleigh. Even his beard seemed to droop.
Olive watched from a rise.
Although she wanted to forget about the Big Trip, she just couldn't help coming to see the show. She especially loved the fireworks.
She heard the reindeer's excited voices. Oh, how she wished she could be one of them.
But I'll always be the other reindeer who stays behind, she thought.
Olive turned away.
She'd seen enough. A tear trickled down her cheek.
Suddenly there were cries of alarm. And...
What Boomer Did
The sleigh had crashed.
Santa Claus floundered in the snow.
The reindeer sprawled on the runway.
Boxes of presents were scattered everywhere.
Olive galloped to the overturned sleigh. Boomer stood near it.
"Oh, no! This is awful! A disaster!" Olive cried. "What happened, Boomer?"
Boomer grinned. "I overloaded the sleigh when nobody was looking. I put a set of barbells across the back of the runners.
"What! But why?"
"You want to go with them, don't you?"
"Shh! Of course I want to go, but -"
"Well, if the team can't get airborne then you're in. You're in!"
"But - but -"
"Oh-oh!" Boomer clasped his mouth. "Look who's coming."
No Time To Lose
Number One, the chief elf, marched towards them. His face was red with anger.
"I heard all that, Boomer. Oh, Santa! Santa!" he called. "I think there is something you should know."
Santa struggled to his feet and brushed snow off himself.
"What's going on here?" Santa said.
"Tell Santa Claus the disgraceful thing you did, Boomer," Number One ordered. "Go on."
Boomer hung his head. "I overloaded the sleigh with some barbells. I'm sorry, Santa, I really am. But please forget what I did and give Olive a chance to go with you. That's why I did it. Olive is as fast as greased lightning."
Santa shook his head. The accident had confused him.
"Olive?" he said. "Olive?" Then it dawned. "Yes, Olive! I was just talking to you. So you want to help deliver the presents, do you, Olive?"
"Oh, yes, Santa. That's really why I came to see you."
Boomer gave Olive a surprised look. "Huh? You did?"
Santa stroked his beard. "So that was it! But why didn't you say so? Oh, never mind. We've got no time to lose. Come along, Olive."
But Olive didn't move. "I'd love to, Santa, but I don't think it would be fair to go after this. If not for Boomer, you'd all be in the sky by now."
Boomer looked upwards with clenched teeth. "Olive, you're going to blow it."
"Hmm, I see," Santa said. "I see."
For a while no one knew what to say.
Finally Number One spoke up. He'd cooled off.
"Santa, may I say something?" he said. "Although I do not approve of such a deed, I think Boomer is a well meaning fellow. He has served us well for many years. Perhaps we can overlook what he did."
Santa nodded. "I agree, Number One. Everybody is entitled to a mistake. We'll give Boomer a second chance. So, Olive? Do you want to come? Yes or no?"
Olive could hardly believe it. Was her dream about to come true?
"Whoopee!" she shouted. "You'll see I'm really fast and strong, Santa."
Santa's eyes twinkled. He patted Olive on the head.
"Don't worry, Olive," Santa said. "I've had my eyes on you and I know how fast and strong you are. You were going to be on the team sooner or later. So as of now, you're officially hired."
Chip, the computer ace, joined them. He was studying his calculator and he didn't look happy.
"I hate to be a wet blanket, Santa, but this won't change much," he said. "With the help of this other reindeer - pardon, Olive - we can make Los Angeles just before sun up. But many other places will still get left out."
Santa sighed. "I know, I know, I hadn't forgotten, Chip. How could I? All those children will be heart-broken. They'll never forgive me. But - but there's nothing we can do."
Mrs. Claus's Surprise
At that moment they heard a whistle in the distance. It came from Mrs. Claus.
She wore a red-and-white Santa outfit. And she was driving a team made up of the eight spare reindeer.
"Hee-hah! Giddy-up, my honeys!" Mrs. Claus urged.
The spare reindeer looked as fit as ever. They came at full steam. Snow swirled around their pounding hooves.
Santa's mouth fell open as Mrs. Claus pulled up beside him.
"Mrs. Claus! Good gracious! What a surprise!" Santa said. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, dear, I heard you had a problem," Mrs. Claus said.
"We do, we do. A whopper. But I thought all the spare reindeer were in the hospital."
Mrs. Claus smiled. "They were. Flat on their backs until Dr. Winters came up with a - cure, you might say. And then I did a little dickering about giving their stable a new paint job. You really should see it, dear."
"We can talk about that later, my dear. But right now I'd like to know why you're here."
"Well, I thought we could load up my sleigh and I'll - go with you. If you don't mind."
Santa clapped his hands. "Mind? Why should I mind? That's a terrific idea! You really want to go, don't you, my dear?"
"It would be a hoot. A real hoot."
"All these years and you've never once said anything."
"Well, wouldn't a passenger have made the sleigh too heavy?" Mrs. Claus said. "So? What do you say?"
The Big Trip
Santa turned to Boomer.
"Quick, Boomer! Hitch up Olive to Mrs. Claus's team. That will give us nine reindeer each."
Boomer saluted. "Right away, Santa!"
Boomer hitched Olive in the lead.
A dozen elves gathered up the scattered toys. Another dozen brought the ones left over in the toy factory.
The sleighs were quickly loaded.
Boomer sprinkled Mrs. Claus's reindeer with the magic sparkles.
For a moment the reindeer rose and floated on air. Mrs. Claus's team was now ready to fly.
"Up and at 'em, Olive!" whooped Mrs. Claus. "Ho-ho! Ho-ho!"
Santa winked. "You've got the words, my dear, but, well, the tune needs some work."
Then with a merry "Ho! Ho! Ho!" and a "Ho-ho! Ho-ho!" Santa and Mrs. Claus whooshed off into the twinkling stars and over the moon.
The elves jumped up and down and cheered the two sleighs in the sky. "Yippee! Yippee!"
A few toasted each other with mugs of hot chocolate.
As she led Mrs. Claus's team, Olive held her head up high.
All the boys and girls got their presents on time and they were delighted.
So was Olive. And she did such a super job that from then on she made the Big Trip with Mrs. Claus every Christmas Eve.
Now, of course, everyone knows Olive the other reindeer.
Olive's Secret Journey
By Michael Christie
Olive was homesick for her birthplace of the Barrens. She was just a fawn when a storm there separated her from her parents and eight brothers and sisters.
She decided to search for them although the journey could be dangerous.
Olive didn't want anyone to worry so she kept her plan a secret. Even Santa and Mrs. Claus didn't know. However, it would be rude to leave without saying goodbye.
Olive went to their house.
"I'm going on a little holiday," she told Santa.
"Be careful," Santa warned. "I don't like where that remarkable nose of yours has been pointing lately."
"Please don't worry, Santa, I'll be all right," Olive said.
"Don't forget, there aren't just wolves in the Barrens," Santa said.
"No, you'll have to look out for the Gotchas," Mrs. Claus said. "Those lumpy yellow things are scary. So you be careful now, you hear?"
"I will," Olive said. "But who says I'm going to the Barrens? I didn't say that."
Mrs. Claus gave her a look. "Well, we don't want to poke into your business, Olive. Lots of luck wherever you're going. Oh, and maybe you can keep an eye peeled for Boomer. He's been gone with his snowmobile since sun up."
The chubby elf, Boomer, was Olive's best friend.
"He's a good driver, Mrs. Claus, I'm sure he'll be all right," Olive said.
"He missed breakfast and we all know how he loves to eat," said Mrs. Claus. "Now don't you be gone long."
"I won't," Olive said.
Mrs. Claus gave Olive a hug. "Watch your back at all times, Olive."
She knew she hadn't fooled Santa and Mrs. Claus in the least. "I will," said Olive. "Goodbye. Please don't worry."
But maybe I'd better worry, she thought. The Gotchas were a scary bunch.
When Olive got to the Barrens she came up behind a snowshoe hare. It was digging a burrow.
"Hello there," Olive said.
The hare shot up like a rocket.
"Did I scare you?" Olive said.
The hare twitched and its fur stood on end.
"You sure d-d-did," the hare stuttered. "I thought you were one of those sneaky Gotchas."
"I'm sorry. Have you seen any reindeer that look something like - well, me in these parts?"
"You mean with a nose like yours?" said the hare.
"Nope, I haven't."
"What about a large elf?"
And that was that. The hare went back to its digging.
Farther along Olive saw an owl. It was perched on a tree branch.
"Excuse me, but I'm looking for my family," Olive said.
"Who?" the owl said.
The owl glared with eyes the size of doorknobs. "Who?"
"Who? Who? Who?"
The owl flew away.
Olive shook her head. She was getting nowhere fast.
Next Olive saw a seal on an ice floe. It wore a red and yellow scarf and balanced a snowball on its nose.
"Arf! Arf! How's it going, pal?" said the seal. "My name's Cal. What's yours?"
"I thought I had the most talented nose in these parts. But you've got a real prize-winner, Olive. Arf! Arf!"
"Thank you, Cal," Olive said.
"But wait just a cotton-picking minute. Is that really your nose or is it a little ball stuck on your face?"
"No, it's really my nose."
"Arf! Arf! Incredible! Fantastic!"
"Thank you again."
"With a nose like that you could earn barrels of herring at the circus," said Cal. "My brother Hal did really well there. Arf! Arf! Can you catch with it? Want to play catch the snowball?"
"I'd love to, but I don't have time," Olive said. "I'm looking for my mother and father and brothers and sisters. Have you seen them?"
"Wouldn't know them if they came up and bit me."
"Oh, they wouldn't do that, Cal!"
"Just a way of talking."
"Oh. Well, have you seen a large elf wearing ear muffs and red and green knickerbockers? His name is Boomer."
"Oh, Boomer. Why didn't you say so? Hmm, Boomer." Cal thought. "Sorry, no. But try going west if you want to find reindeer. At least the ones who haven't, you know, vanished."
Vanished? Olive didn't want to ask what this meant.
"You've been helpful, Cal. Thank you for your trouble," she said.
"No problem. Keep your nose clean, Olive. Arf! Arf!"
As Olive headed west the sky turned gray. Big wet snowflakes began to fall.
Suddenly she heard a familiar shout in the distance.
It was Boomer.
He'd flipped out of his snowmobile. He lay beside it in a snowbank.
"Help me! Somebody help me!"
"I'm coming, Boomer," Olive shouted back, and ran towards him.
But in her haste she didn't notice the Gotcha.
The lumpy, yellowish thing was peeking from behind a boulder.
Gotchas love olives. Naturally it was charmed by Olive's nose.
Its eyes gleamed and its mouth watered. It smacked its rubbery lips. Yum! Yum!
"Gotcha!" it snarled.
It was fast.
But Olive was faster. With a lightning move she sidestepped the brute and gave it a kick with a hind leg.
"Take that, you big lump!" Olive snapped. She was surprised at how tough she could sound.
"Ouch! Ouch!" yelped the Gotcha, and waddled off.
Boomer was surprised too. "Sweet potaters! Nice move, Olive. But what are you doing here?"
"I'm looking for my mother and father and brothers and sisters."
Boomer laughed. "Well, I guess you found me instead. I haven't a clue where I am and the snowmobile is a total wreck. I also sprained my ankle."
"Climb onto my back," Olive said. "You can help me find my family."
"I'd be glad to." Boomer struggled onto her back. "And I'd also be glad to get out of here right away before any more Gotchas show up."
Olive headed west. She went as fast as she could, but the snow fell like jumbo marshmallows. It got deeper and deeper.
Olive had a strong back, but it was a tough job carrying such a heavy elf.
You should go on a diet, Boomer, she thought.
Olive plodded on for a good hour.
Finally she came to a cave. Its wide mouth was like a killer whale's. Long, sharp icicles like silver teeth were rooted at the top.
"Do we go in, Olive?" Boomer said.
"I don't know," Olive said.
Boomer shivered. "Brrrr! I'm freezing."
"So am I."
"There could be a Gotcha in there bigger and tougher than the one that attacked you," Boomer said.
"There could be a dozen."
Boomer thought. "A dozen? Well, I sure don't want to go in now."
"Neither do I," Olive said.
"So what should we do?"
The wind howled and the snow blinded them.
"We've got to go into the cave," said Olive. "We can't stay here freezing."
Boomer nodded. "You're right."
Olive took a deep breath and they entered the cave.
What lurked in a dark corner ready to spring at them?
The Tunnel On The Right
Inside the cave any kind of loud noise echoed. They found that out right after Boomer burped.
Olive brushed against a spider. A brown one hanging from a sticky thread.
The spider swung in front of Boomer's nose. When he saw it he lost all control.
"Aiiiieeeeee!" Boomer screamed.
The Gotchas hopped towards them with surprising speed. Their black eyes looked ready to pop out of their lumpy yellow heads.
Their huge mouths were wide open as they screamed too. The echoes in the cave were deafening.
Olive and Boomer just closed their eyes.
We've had it! Olive thought.
The Tunnel On The Left
Without a glance in their direction, the Gotchas hopped by them and out of the cave.
Olive smiled. "Well, what do you know! I think you scared them, Boomer."
Boomer chuckled and blew on his fingertips. "Ho-hum, nothing to it. Sometimes it pays to be a loudmouth. So what now?"
"That's a good question."
"I hate to say this, Olive, but you might not find your family. They could be - could be -"
Olive's eyes welled with tears. "Yes, I know. But I can't quit so soon. Let's try the tunnel on the left this time."
This tunnel sloped downward. The farther they went it grew dimmer.
As they crept along, Boomer clutched Olive's neck. His hands trembled and his stomach gurgled.
"I sure wish I was at the North Pole," he said. "The special today is grilled cheese sandwiches and blackberry pie."
Olive came to a sharp corner. When she turned it she froze.
"Sweet loving potaters!" Boomer cried out.
What they saw was unbelievable.
Is it the dim light? Am I looking into a trick mirror? Olive thought.
Staring back was a family of reindeer.
They all had noses like hers.
Well, not exactly like hers. Some noses were blue and some were green.
Could it be?
Yes, it was her parents and her eight brothers and sisters.
Olive's father had a nose as blue as the sky.
Her mother's nose was a lovely lime green. It had a slight upward tilt, but it wasn't snobbish.
Her brothers' and sisters' noses were blue or green in all kinds of wonderful shades.
They studied each other before breaking out into fits of laughter. Then there were a great many licks and nuzzles exchanged.
"At the North Pole I'm called Olive," Olive said.
"How about that!" her father said.
"That's what we named you," her mother said.
"What else?" her father said. "In our whole family tree nobody has a nose like yours."
Olive gasped. "You mean I'm the only reindeer with a nose like -?"
"Yes, like an olive," her mother said. "You're very lucky."
Lucky? Olive thought. Yes, I am lucky. I'm not just different, I'm one of a kind.
Then she couldn't stop smiling.
Everybody sat down to a meal of celery sticks with peanut butter.
The food got Boomer's full attention. He loved peanut butter.
After the meal Olive told them what she did at the toy factory, and about the friendly skating races with her reindeer friends on Candy Cane Pond.
Her mother and father beamed with pride.
Open-mouthed with amazement were Olive's brothers and sisters: Iggy, Andy, Charlie, and Franky, Cathy, Winnie, Shirley, and Suzie.
"You wouldn't believe how fast and strong Olive is," Boomer said. "She doesn't like to blow her own horn, but she leads Mrs. Claus's team."
"Ooooo!" cried Olive's brothers and sisters.
"No doubt about it, you're something special, Olive," her father said. "So you'd better get back to the North Pole before it gets dark and even more dangerous."
Olive hesitated. "But - but - "
"Now don't argue, Olive. That's where you belong," her mother said. "Lots of people count on you."
"Why don't you come back and live with me?" Olive said.
Her parents shook their heads.
"We all have many close friends here, Olive," her mother said. "We'd miss each other."
So Olive left with a lighter heart and promised she'd visit again soon.
On the return trip the weather had cleared up and the footing was easier.
But Boomer didn't weigh any less. He'd put away a lot of celery and peanut butter.
Boomer, you're like a sackful of wet cement! Olive thought.
But she didn't mind that much. She was feeling too happy.
When they got to the North Pole, Olive took Boomer right to the hospital.
"Stay off that ankle, Boomer," Dr. Winters said. "Give it lots of rest and it'll be as good as new in ten days."
As for Olive she made a visit to the whirlpool.
Then she trotted off to Mrs. Claus's bakery.
"Here's a raisin and oatmeal cookie to munch on, Olive," said Mrs. Claus with a big smile.
At the toy factory Olive met Santa Claus doing his rounds.
"Ho! Ho! Ho! I'm glad you're back, Olive," Santa said. "Mrs. Claus needs you to lead her team on the Big Trip. It's not far away you know."
Later on in the gym there was a Bop 'Til You Drop party to celebrate Olive's and Boomer's safe return.
Mrs. Claus made a chocolate fudge cake that took up a whole table.
"Wow! Look at that!" shouted Boomer.
The cake was formed like a Christmas tree. Its branches were whipped cream with red cherries on the tips. The trunk was crushed filberts and cashews.
By the sandwich and pastry buffet were two troughs of fruit punch. Enough for eighteen reindeer. One trough for Santa's team and the other for Mrs. Claus's team.
Except for Boomer, who was groaning after too much cake, everybody had a great time.
Santa and Mrs. Claus danced the night away. And Olive conducted the elves' band with her one-of-a-kind nose.
She'd never been happier because she knew the North Pole was where she belonged - home.
Click for the top of this page.
Christmas Links check them out Happy Holidays
Frosty The Snowman
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Carol
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Old Time Christmas Music
Stop by our home by Clicking Here.
Christmas with Elvis
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Said the night wind to the little lamb, "Do you see what I see? Way up in the sky, little lamb, Do you see what I see? A star, a star, dancing in the night With a tail as big as a kite, With a tail as big as a kite."
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, "Do you hear what I hear? Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy, Do you hear what I hear? A song, a song high above the trees With a voice as big as the the sea, With a voice as big as the the sea."
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, "Do you know what I know? In your palace warm, mighty king, Do you know what I know? A Child, a Child shivers in the cold-- Let us bring him silver and gold, Let us bring him silver and gold."
Said the king to the people everywhere, "Listen to what I say! Pray for peace, people, everywhere, Listen to what I say! The Child, the Child sleeping in the night He will bring us goodness and light, He will bring us goodness and light."
Go to the top of each page of our website for the menu bar of categories. You will see a drop down menu appear for each category. Click a link to browse or click our Site Map and Categories to find your link.
Me with your feedback on how I can Improve this website.