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Origins of Christmas Stories


With Christmas comes the familiar chill of the December air and the sound of children caroling. Other than that, it’s time to bring back some of the most famous Christmas stories of all time.


The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

In the bitter cold, she has only three matches to keep her warm. The rest she would have to sell; otherwise, her father would beat her. As she lit the first match, a Christmas tree appears. Eager to see it again, she lights the second match, this time seeing a holiday feast. She looks up at the sky, hesitating to light her final match, and sees a shooting star. She then remembers her grandmother, who once told her that a shooting star in the sky means that someone is about to die. She lights the third match and sees a vision of her already-dead grandmother, the only person who has ever treated her with love. To keep the vision of her grandmother alive, she lights more. After the matches run out, she dies from the cold, with her grandmother carrying her soul to heaven.

The tale was inspired by Andersen’s mother, who as a child was sent out to the streets to beg. Many versions of the story altered the ending, having a kind family rescue her from the cold. Andersen, however, intended the original ending to be a happy one, indicating that the little girl never has to live in poverty again and is reunited with her grandmother.


The Elves and the Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm

This story tells the tale of a poor shoemaker and his wife. After cutting up the last piece of leather they have for one final pair of shoes, the shoemaker retires to bed, thinking about the workday he was about to face. To his surprise, the pieces of leather were mysteriously made into an impeccable pair of shoes overnight. The pair was bought at a very high price by a gentleman, and the shoemaker was able to buy leather for two more pairs. He cuts up the leather again and wakes up to them fully made into shoes. This keeps happening, with the amount of shoes made multiplied each time. Eventually, the shoemaker and his wife become richer, and they decide to find out who had been helping them all this time. So they cut up leather for another pair of shoes and hid behind the counter to find out who their helpers were. When midnight strikes, two elves wearing tattered clothes enter the shop and get to work with the leather. The wife then comes up with the idea to leave the elves food and little clothes to find the following night. After that, they never returned.

The Elves and the Shoemaker is a rare Brothers Grimm story in the sense that it has a happy ending. This specific type of elf from England and Scotland, a brownie, is a kind of elf that is said to be intended to work for mankind, and when presented with clothes, they are either insulted, flattered, or freed from their obligation. They also disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter old miser, is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. As a businessman, Scrooge shows no kindness and makes his employees work through the holidays without pay. The ghosts pay him a visit in an attempt to change his ways. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge his boyhood, reminding him of his gentle and innocent self. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge how his employees are celebrating Christmas in hardship, unlike himself. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge Christmas one year from now, where they are mourning the death of one of his employees. Come Christmas morning, Scrooge wakes up a generous and compassionate man who embodies the spirit of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol is one of Dickens’s most famous stories, and it has been adapted and recreated countless times. The story is loosely based on Gabriel Grubb, a character from one of Dickens’s first stories The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton. In the story, a gravedigger is kidnapped by goblins and forced to change his ways after declaring not to make Christmas merry.


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