The weather was frosty and cold. It was growing dark, and a heavy snow had begun to fall. It was Christmas Eve. A little girl wandered in the darkening streets. She wore ragged clothes, and she carried a bundle of matches in her hand.
All day, the Little Match Girl had been trying to sell her matches. “A penny for a match!” she had called in a small, pitiful voice to shoppers on the streets. But the people just glanced at her and then hurried on their way. Now it was almost night. The poor girl had not sold a single match.
As she walked along, the Little Match Girl grew very cold. She wore only an old, thin pair of slippers. She had no socks, for she could not afford them. Suddenly, a voice bellowed, “Out of my way!” At that moment, she heard the thundering sound of horses’ hooves.
She scurried across the street, barely managing to get out of the way of a large carriage pulled by two enormous horses. When she stopped to catch her breath, the Little Match Girl looked down at her feet. In fleeing the carriage and horses, she had lost her slippers. Now the Little Match Girl had no shoes at all.
The Little Match Girl wandered through the streets as the hour grew later and later. Up ahead, she saw a light shining through the window of one of the houses.
The Little Match Girl looked in the window and saw a table spread with a white tablecloth and set with candles and silver. On the table was a grand Christmas feast -- a fat goose stuffed with the traditional apples and nuts, cakes and pies of all sorts, puddings, and every imaginable fruit. The Little Match Girl had never beheld such a feast.
A family came into the room and sat down at the table. The little girl wished that she could join the mother, father, and three young ones who were about to eat this beautiful Christmas dinner. How hungry she was! The Little Match Girl sighed and turned away, then continued down the street. Soon she saw a light shining from the window of another house.
This time when she looked inside, the Little Match Girl saw an extraordinarily lovely Christmas tree. There was a gold star at the top, and candles flickered on the branches. Gaily wrapped packages were piled beneath the tree. While the Little Match Girl watched, a group of joyous girls and boys entered the room.
They clapped their hands with delight when they saw the tree and all the presents. How the Little Match Girl wished she could have laughed and played with the children around the Christmas tree! As she turned away from the window, the Little Match Girl heard singing from a group of carolers nearby:
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright. . . .
The Little Match Girl thought the music so beautiful that she followed the carolers down the street listening to their song:
‘Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy Infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
When they finished singing, the carolers were invited to come inside a brightly lit kitchen. Standing near the door, the Little Match Girl could smell bread baking inside. Once again, she was all alone. Now it was growing late, and the Little Match Girl was very cold. To keep warm, she decided to light one of her matches.
She struck the match, and the light flared. In the bright glow of the match, she imagined herself sitting at a table eating a Christmas feast just like the one she had seen through the lighted window. The Little Match Girl was eating Christmas goose, with pudding and fruit and cake and pie. How warm and full and happy she was!
Just then, the match went out. The bright light was gone, and the Little Match Girl was alone again in the dark. She shivered with cold.
The Little Match Girl decided to light a second match to try to get warm again. She struck the match, and once more a warm glow and bright light appeared. In the light from this match, she saw herself with the boys and girls around the Christmas tree. She was about to open a Christmas gift wrapped in red paper and tied with a gold ribbon. She was anxious to see what might be inside.
Just then, the match burned out. Suddenly, everything was dark, and again the Little Match Girl was cold and alone. Except for the light from streetlamps, the night was utterly dark, and the Little Match Girl grew so cold that she decided to light the entire bundle of matches.
When she struck all her matches, the whole world suddenly seemed to light up. Stars shot down from the sky. The Little Match Girl felt warm and wonderful. As she looked around, the Little Match Girl had an amazing vision. She saw an angel dressed all in white. The angel was smiling and coming toward her with outstretched arms.
The angel picked the Little Match Girl up in her arms and smiled upon the small face. The angel started to walk, carrying the Little Match Girl. “Where are we going?” asked the girl. “I am taking you to a place where you will never be cold,” the angel replied as they rose slowly into the night sky. “It is a place always filled with light and warmth. We will go where there are only laughter and smiles, and where you will never be hungry again.”
The next morning, those who emerged from their houses saw the bundle of burnt matches lying in the snow. They wondered what had happened. What they could not know was that the Little Match Girl had gone to a place where she would always be warm and loved and happy -- so happy that every single day would seem just like Christmas!
The Little Match Girl finally found her way “home.” In that same home, The Littlest Angel experiences many ups and downs that ultimately teach her to grow. Continue to the next page to read our final inspirational story -- 'The Littlest Angel.'