18 True Christmas Miracles That Will Restore Your Hope for the Holidays
These true stories prove that a well-timed letter, a handful of pennies, or a single gust of wind can make an ordinary Christmas a cherished memory.
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The mail train's gift: a life-changing Christmas miracle message
My mother told me this true Christmas story from World War I many years ago. Christmas 1917 was coming, but because her brother Archie Clikeman was missing in action and presumed dead, the family was not going to celebrate.
The townspeople of Parker, South Dakota, always joked that the small-town postmaster read all the postcards whenever the mail train came into town. On that Christmas Eve, he lived up to his reputation.
The family was always grateful that the postmaster, instead of waiting for the rural mail to go out the day after Christmas, called my grandmother and told her that Archie was being held as a prisoner of war. Archie even wrote on the postcard that he was well.
Of course, my mother said, that turned out to be the best Christmas ever. Archie came home after the war and lived to a ripe old age. —Kay Johnson, Parker, South Dakota. Read some stories of people making their own Christmas miracles with these tales of Christmas kindness.
A season for Mercy
Polly, my stepmom, suggested the sweetest name: Mercy. We soon learned it was just what this new boxer pup would need.
My parents’ rambunctious dog would bolt out of bed and go-go-go all day long. So when they brought home a Christmas tree, they expected chaos. To their astonishment, Mercy didn’t seem to care. She paid zero attention to the tree suddenly growing in her living room. Nor did she react to the fancy presents under it, including a wrapped box of Milk-Bones.
Dad and Polly were wary; they’d never had a dog that didn’t force them to move everything to higher ground as if they were expecting a flood. But Mercy seemed oblivious.
A few days before Christmas, Polly awoke early, as usual. She passed the dimly lit living room and then stopped cold. Glancing back into the room, she saw that every last present was gone. Only the tree was still there.
Had they been robbed? Why hadn’t Mercy barked? Where was she? Had the burglars taken her? Her thoughts frantic, Polly noticed a scrap of ribbon on the floor. Then a bit of torn wrapping paper a few feet away. Some glitter beyond that. The clues all made a trail leading toward the back door.
Polly flipped the switch, bathing the backyard in light. The perpetrator’s head lifted and froze. Alarm and guilt made her eyes wide. Oh, yes, it was Mercy.
She lay under her favorite tree in a fluffy nest of shredded wrapping paper, chewed-up boxes, and curling bits of ribbon. Presents, pawed from their packages, were strewn among tattered bows. Beautifully wrapped boxes had gaping holes. Fragments of tissue paper mixed with the last remaining evidence of gifts.
Clearly Mercy’s self-control had failed. She’d silently carried one package after another out the doggy door so she could pillage in private. Anything edible was gone, including cookies, chocolates, candy canes, and four pounds of Milk-Bones.
Nature took pity on Mercy, and she survived her midnight snack. My parents were so grateful, they laughed off the ruined presents. Only one problem remained. With all the gift tags destroyed, how could they send out thank-you cards?
Mercy presented the problem, so Mercy provided the answer. A few days later, Polly returned to her easy chair to find Mercy guiltily licking a plate where a doughnut had just been. Polly snapped a picture of the shamefaced pooch and used it to make thank-you notes. The caption read, “Thank you for the ??” Inside, the whole story was explained. We all had to laugh. And everyone shared the sweet reminder that amid all the gift-giving, it’s really a season for Mercy. —Teresa Ambord Anderson, from Country Woman. Mercy definitely deserves a spot on this list of adorable pets filled with Christmas spirit.
Our pennies made all the difference
Many years ago, when I was making 75 cents an hour, my three children asked for bicycles for Christmas, but I couldn’t afford them.
So that January, I put three bikes on layaway. I paid all through the year, but a week before Christmas, I still owed $14.50. The Saturday before Christmas, my son Ricky asked how much I needed. When I told him, he asked if he could pour the pennies out of the penny jug we kept.
I said, “Son, I don’t care, but I know there’s not $14.50 worth of pennies in there.”
Ricky poured them out, counted them, and said, “Mom, there’s $15.50 worth of pennies.” Ecstatic, I told him to count out $1 for gas so I could go get the bikes.
I’ve always thought of this as our little Christmas miracle. It was as blessed a Christmas as anyone could ever have. —Dot Williams, Canton, Georgia. For some serious Christmas spirit, check out the best Christmas town in every state.
Ice and snow pelted the window of the office where I was working. As the wind howled, I wondered how I would get home. The 12-mile route took me up and down steep hills and around treacherous turns. I whispered a prayer for safety.
My old green Blazer was doing well over the ice-crusted roadway, dodging the snowdrifts. But as I ascended one of the steepest and scariest hills, I noticed the tires were slipping, and my trusty SUV was having difficulty climbing the grade.
I decided it was time to switch to four-wheel drive. I pulled the lever back, just like my husband had taught me. Slowly the tires gripped the road, and the top of the hill came within sight.
But at the crest, the vehicle just stopped. I pushed and pulled the lever—nothing happened. I was stuck, with snow and ice pellets swirling.
Now what? Even though I had met no one on this lonely stretch of road, I silently asked that someone might come to help. After a few minutes, I spied an old, rattling pickup truck. A smiling young man I’d never seen before in our small rural community rolled down his window and asked if I needed help. I assured him that I did. He stepped into the wintery madness and showed me how to maneuver the four-wheel-drive shifting gear, locking it into place.
In no time, I had the Blazer moving toward home. When I thanked the stranger and asked if he lived around the area, he just said, “Oh, over yonder.” Do I believe in angels? You betcha! —R. Elaine Sherry, New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from Country Extra
Santa found us on the road
At Christmastime, in 1961, our family was on the way from Seattle to a new assignment on the East Coast, and we checked into a motel in Watertown, South Dakota. It was not the best time to travel with young children, who were concerned about Santa finding us on the road.
We headed into town to find a store, and as our car approached an intersection, there was a Santa right in the crosswalk! He held up his hand for us to stop, and we rolled down our windows.
Santa poked his head through a window and said to our kids, “Oh, there you are! I was wondering where I’d find you tonight.”
Naturally, the kids were thrilled to pieces. They made sure we told Santa which motel we were staying at so he could find them. My wife and I had tucked away gifts for the trip, as we knew we wouldn’t have time to shop along the way.
The cartop carrier and out-of-state license plate might have been a giveaway, but whatever it was, that Santa really made Christmas 1961 a memorable one for our kids. —Dave Grinstead, Bellingham, Washington. Movies are another great way to experience Christmas miracles—these are the 40 best Christmas movies of all time, ranked.
An unlikely angel
It was 1999. A few days after Christmas, a black dog with a little white around his mouth wandered onto the front porch and settled in as if he’d lived here all his life.
Whenever anyone left the house to do chores or walk next door to my brother-in-law’s house, the black dog followed. He’d patiently wait until we were done, follow us home and lie down on the porch.
Inside, the house was full of sadness and quiet conversation. My 91-year-old father-in-law, Jim Cravens, was gravely ill. The family had gathered to see to his care, to cook and to welcome visitors. Jim and his wife, Dorothy, were beloved pillars of the community.
This curious visitor gave us something new to talk about, a wonderful distraction. Whose dog was he? Did someone drop him off along the road? Did he intend to stay? Either way, it would be dark soon, and he would be cold. Jim sat in the rocking chair by the front window where he could watch the happy black dog’s comings and goings.
We called the radio station, animal shelter, newspaper, sheriff and several neighboring farms about a lost dog. Meanwhile, we made him comfortable on the porch with food, water, and a blanket. The days leading up to New Year brought no news, and we were all just content that our companion had stayed around.
My father-in-law said he wanted to live long enough to see the new millennium, and he did. He passed away Jan. 2. That was the day the black dog left. Then the weather turned cold, and snow fell every day for the rest of the winter, it seemed.
Some time later we heard that the black dog was a rescued dog living with a family about a mile and a half from the farm. They named him Bogart. The following summer Bogart returned to see us again. When his owners came to pick him up, we told them about his angelic Christmas visit, how he had comforted our family with his cheerful companionship. We wanted them to know how much that meant. —Suzanne Cravens, Pine Island, Minnesota, from Farm & Ranch Living
Fate threw a tree at us
During the hustle and bustle of Christmastime 1958, we told our children, ages 3 and 4, about the beautiful Christmas tree we would have in a few days. On Christmas Eve, at the bakery we had recently purchased, we counted the receipts, cleaned the shop and headed for home with our two sleepy children.
Suddenly, we remembered we had not gotten a tree. We looked for a vendor who might have a tree left, to no avail.
About a mile from home, we stopped for a red light. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew, and something hit the front of our truck. My husband went out to investigate.
The next thing I knew, my husband was throwing a good-sized evergreen into the back of the truck. He went into the mom-and-pop store at the corner where we were and asked the proprietor how much he wanted for the tree. He said he wasn’t selling Christmas trees that year.
It was a Christmas miracle! We never did find out how the tree got in the middle of the road, but somehow we feel we know. Incidentally, it was the most beautiful tree we have ever had. —Gertrude Albert, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here are some heartwarming true Christmas stories of kids meeting Santa Claus.
A bundle of Nativity nerves
Three years ago, our neighbors decided to host a live Nativity. They spread fresh straw in their barn, mounted a star in the rafters and built a makeshift cradle in the manger. We got a call: Could we loan them a lamb? We said we’d love to help, but in December lambs are pretty much full-grown sheep. They are not handled, either, so they are somewhat wild full-grown sheep. We were afraid that when the children started doing what children do, the sheep might change their peaceful Nativity into a rollicking rodeo.
No problem, our neighbors said. It’ll all be just fine.
We did have one ewe that had been at the fair, so she’d had a halter on at least once in her life. Our grandson, Jordan, knew how to lead a sheep and agreed to be her shepherd. We prayed for the best.
On the day of the event, my husband, Jerry, went to the corral to catch the ewe, who was not pleased about it. Finally, the halter was secure, the sheep loaded in the pickup and headed for the neighbors’ barn, and Jerry and I had our fingers firmly crossed.
As he handed the rope to Jordan, Jerry reminded him to keep her head up and keep a short rope. As an afterthought, he suggested that if the sheep began to baa, Jordan might put his hand gently over her mouth. Meanwhile, in the Nativity, the wise men and women gazed with wonder and awe at the shining star in heaven as the young Mary and Joseph entered the stable with the pretend babe and laid him in the manger. Jerry and I wondered if a pretend sheep might have been a good idea, too, but it was a little late for that.
As the violins began playing “Silent Night,” Jordan led the sheep into the stable. Miraculously, as if sensing the solemnity of the occasion, she quietly walked up to the manger and looked in. We held our breath, but she never made a sound.
She didn’t so much as move a muscle during the entire narration for both performances. At the end, all the children hurried up to pet and hug her. Some had never seen a sheep. Our ewe just stood there, calm and respectful, as the children adored her.
When Jerry unloaded her into the corral, she returned to her old self. The moment the gate was down, she leaped from the truck, bounded down the chute and rocketed over to her sheep friends, baaing all the way. Maybe she was eager to tell them about the miracle of the Christmas story, but she’d given us a little miracle of her own that day! —Barbara Buchanan, Tremonton, Utah, from Country
Our carols hit the right ears
I was with a small group of young guys and gals caroling on Christmas Eve, in 1942 San Diego, California. We wandered downtown to Broadway, the main street, and stopped at a block of green grass with a fountain on the plaza.
The streets were streaming with aimless servicemen, all missing the joy and solace of being home for Christmas.
We began singing familiar Christmas songs, and in a short time, the volume increased markedly. I climbed up onto the rim of the fountain to an astonishing sight—a sea of servicemen on the plaza singing with all their hearts. When a song ended, I started another, just beginning the words, and it was immediately picked up.
We sang every traditional song I could think of and didn’t leave the servicemen until near midnight, carrying a beautiful memory with us. —Winnie Phillips Stark, Modesto, California. Find out our choices for the 20 best Christmas songs, ranked.
It takes a village
Johnny and I, along with our two young sons, Barry and Doyle, lived in a small rural community in southern Alabama in 1959. We had bought Barry a bicycle and Doyle a tricycle for Christmas, and had hidden them in the carport, where Johnny would assemble them on Christmas Eve after the kids were asleep.
But on Christmas Eve day, Johnny had to go to Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile, an hour away, to repair a Thunderbird F-100 Super Sabre jet. I had my hands full with baking, preparing for Christmas dinner and caring for two energetic boys.
Just as I was making my favorite frosting for the chocolate cake, a neighbor knocked on the door. Beatrice was the only person on our road with a telephone. The base had called to say that a heavy torque wrench had come apart in Johnny’s hand, knocking his elbow out of joint and chipping the bone. My sister-in-law Ruth and her husband, Otto, took me to the hospital while my mother-in-law stayed with the children.
We got there to find Johnny with a cast on his arm, raring to get home despite the doctor’s orders that he stay. It was Christmas Eve, Johnny argued, and he had bikes to assemble for his boys. The doctor said he’d consider dismissing him the next morning if Johnny could find someone to drive him home.
On Christmas morning, Johnny contacted the base and was told everyone was off duty; there was no one to drive him home. Then he tried the motor pool. They said orders would have to come from higher up, so Johnny kept making calls. At last, a big blue car with the Air Force insignia rolled up to the hospital asking for the man who needed a lift home so he could put together Christmas bikes for his boys.
Johnny’s mother and I were putting dinner on the table when we heard the car. We were thrilled to see Johnny, his arm in a sling, getting out, assisted by a uniformed Air Force officer. With Otto’s help, Johnny assembled the boys’ gifts, and they all had a jolly time playing together that afternoon.
Johnny would later require two surgeries on his arm, but those were in the future. That cold Christmas Day, our hearts were full of gratitude for the many people who had gone the extra mile to bring us together on the holiday. —Jeanette Dyess Ryan, Robertsdale, Alabama. See some more true Christmas stories in images, not words, with these 31 vintage photos of Christmases past.