This story is for the 2014 Story Advent Calendar Blog Hop. It is a traditional-sounding fairy tale in the manner of the Grimm Brothers. I hope it is appropriate for the Blog Hop.
The Christmas Gift
There are many places to which the Christmas season brings magic, but none more so than the land of Halcynia.
It was in this land that Ellora lived with her three daughters. Their names were Chloe, Zoe, and for some reason, Sarah. Chloe and Zoe were the youngest, and got along very well together. Sarah was the center of trouble in the house, always teasing her sisters and treating them badly. When the three were together, there was usually a problem, and Sarah was the cause.
One day, just before Christmas, there was a terrible fight, and Ellora pulled Sarah aside.
"You will leave this house and not return until Christmas day. For every stranger you meet that has less than you, you will give them something of your own. You will do so until a stranger offers you a gift so wonderful it is beyond compare. On Christmas, you shall return and share it with your sisters. If you fail, I will ask you to leave this house forever."
"But it's so cold outside and I have no place to stay! And Christmas is three days away! How will I survive?"
"You will have your warm coat and I will give you some bread—but that is all. It should be enough for three days."
So Sarah left her house and began her journey.
On the first day, she met a poor girl who had no coat, so Sarah took off her own coat and gave it to her. The girl thanked Sarah, and as she began to walk away, Sarah asked the girl if she had a gift for her. The girl told Sarah she had nothing but the old clothes she wore and the coat she had just received.
As Sarah continued on her way, she grumbled about how cold it was. She tore a strip of cloth from her long dress to use as a scarf.
On the second day, Sarah met a man who had no food. She took the bread she had left and offered it to him. The man thanked Sarah, and as he started to walk away, Sarah asked if he had a gift for her. The man told Sarah he had nothing but the old clothes he wore and the bread he had just received.
As Sarah continued on her way, she grumbled about how hungry she was and about the hunger pains in her stomach.
On the third day, as Sarah was passing near some shops, a man ran by and dropped a small bag on the road ahead of her. An old man and woman saw the bag and picked it up. They found it contained several gold coins.
"It must have been stolen," the old man said. "We must find who this belongs to."
Only moments later, three soldiers came by on horseback. Seeing the man with the bag of coins, the officer in charge said, "He must be the thief. Arrest him!"
Though the man protested, it was not until Sarah told the soldiers what had happened that they let him go and took off in pursuit of the real thief.
As the man thanked her, Sarah said, "I am supposed to give you a gift, but I have nothing left."
"You have told the truth and saved me from the soldiers. That is more than enough." The old man thanked her again, and they parted ways.
As evening approached, Sarah hunted for a place to sleep out of the cold winter wind. She finally huddled under a large tree by the road, nestling into the fallen leaves for warmth. She was shivering and dreaming of the fireplace in her house when the old man and woman passed by again.
"It is the girl who saved you from the soldiers," the woman said to her husband. "With no coat in this cold weather, she could fall ill—or worse—unless we help."
The old man was puzzled. "What can we do?"
"I have both a coat and a shawl. She may have my shawl. It isn't much, but it may keep her warm enough until the sun rises."
The old woman wrapped the shawl around Sarah's shoulders and smiled at her. The shawl was old and tattered, but Sarah curled up within it, and soon her shivering stopped.
When Sarah woke, it was Christmas morning, and she had no gift to share with her sisters but the old shawl. When she arrived back at her house, she prayed her mother would take pity on her and not make her leave home forever.
Standing before her mother, she said, "I have failed. I did as you asked, but I received no precious gift and I have nothing to share with my sisters. I will pack what I have and leave."
"Wait," Ellora said. "Where did you get this shawl?"
Sarah told how the old woman had wrapped the shawl around her to protect her from the cold.
"Don't you understand, Sarah? Her gift was not this tattered shawl. The gift she gave you was your life. There is nothing more precious than that."
With those words, a sparkle of light grew within Sarah's eyes. "I think I do, but you said I must share this gift with my sisters. How can I share my life?"
"It is the easiest thing in the world, but you must decide how. In the meantime, here is your Christmas gift."
"You have a gift for me?"
"Of course, Sarah. You may open it, if you wish."
She opened the box to find it filled with her favorite cookies, all decorated with sugar and spices. Sarah started to take a cookie when she stopped. She turned to her sisters and said, "There is enough here for everyone," and offered them her gift. They all sat in front of the fire and told stories, enjoying a peaceful Christmas together for the first time.
And so it was for every Christmas, and every day, thereafter.
© 2012-2014 K. R. Smith All rights reserved