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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A brother’s work of love
Because of my father’s poor health during World War II, our family moved from a tenant farm in Virginia hills to the city of Harrisonburg so my mother could work in a silk mill making parachutes for the boys overseas. On Christmas Eve, I felt lonely and misplaced as I listened to the strange city noises, so different from the familiar sounds of the countryside. Much to my dismay, the family had been so busy moving that we had no tree to decorate. As a 5-year-old, I yearned for a real tree; my older brothers had always enjoyed selecting a cedar or pine from the nearby woods when we lived on the farm.
My brother Gary sensed that something was bothering me and asked, “What’s the matter, Janie? Why are you so sad?”
“We don’t have a tree and It’s Christmas Eve,” I replied. “Where will Santa leave our presents?” To soothe my nostalgic tears, my older brother found a large paper sack, upon which he drew a beautiful green Christmas tree with big red and blue bulbs and bright yellow tinsel.
“This will have to do this year,” Gary explained. “I’m sure Santa will understand.” The next morning, I received a tiny toy phone from Santa and homemade popcorn balls from Mother and Daddy, but my special gift was my brother’s work of love: the paper tree hanging on the wall. — Jane Allen, Arab, Alabama. Ready to get your Christmas cheer on? Head to the best Christmas market in every state.
The Christmas tree angel
Zigzag Mountain Art/Shutterstock
My father, Joe Sarna, worked hard as a union plumber during the day and then would spend evenings and weekends on his beloved Christmas tree farm in the small town of Jefferson, Ohio.
Every year when December 1 arrived, Dad would get as excited as a kid waiting for Santa Claus. He would walk through the fields of Douglas fir, Scotch pine, blue spruce, and noble pine, searching for the tallest, prettiest trees. He would deliver the trees to the churches in town—every church, not just his family’s church. He would do this at nighttime, leaving each tree at the front door.
He never left a note to say they were from Sarna’s Tree Farm. He would tell my brothers, sisters and me that if you did a good deed and advertised it in any way, it didn’t really count as a good deed. He made us kids promise not to tell anyone where the trees had come from. Dad delighted in knowing the pastors and church members were spending a lot of time guessing about the origin of the trees.
If a pastor asked Dad if he had been the one who had left such a beautiful tree for their church, my father would play dumb, ask, “What tree?” or change the subject.
When my father passed away in 1989, many of the pastors came to his funeral to pay respects. When I talked with them, I discovered every one of them knew my father had been their Christmas tree angel. —Dot Saurer, Santee, California, from Country. Learn the history behind Christmas trees and your other favorite Christmas traditions.
The miracle of Angel Station
When Angelica, New York’s post office was threatened with closure in the 1980s, resident Pat Kaake came up with a plan to save it. Angelica already had lost its neighborhood school in favor of a modern building a few miles outside of town, and the nearest hospitals were 15 miles away in either direction. In Pat’s mind, it was paramount to keep a functioning post office. So she turned to the angels for help.
“At Christmas time I would hear on the news about towns named Snow or Bethlehem having celebrations,” says Pat, who had moved to the tiny village from the big city. “I thought it was a wonderful idea, so I said, ‘Why couldn’t we do the same thing with Angelica?’’’
Pat, who is an artist, created a postal cancellation design featuring an Angelica angel. Staying true to the nature of her adopted home, she drew her angels in a folksy fashion and submitted her proposal to the U.S. Postal Service. Once approved, the drawing was carved into a postmark cancellation stamp that could be used for one day only.
The postmistress had another idea to make the day even more special—calling the post office Angel Station.
The massive uptick in mail volume saved Angelica’s post office from closure and keeps the doors open today. Now it’s tradition that on the first Friday in December, folks come to Angelica to mail their Christmas cards. A carved wooden angel flies near the ceiling. In the corner, a Christmas tree twinkles. Village supporters sit at tables that are topped with bowls of punch and platters of decorated cookies, offering hot chocolate or coffee to those who are mailing cards.
Post offices may close in other parts of the country, but this tiny one endures, thanks to Pat and the miracle of Angel Station. —A.J. Sors, Wellsville, New York, from Country. Experience some Christmas miracles like Angel Station’s at these small American towns filled with Christmas spirit.
Tumbleweed, oh tumbleweed
In the late 1940s we were living in a little country town called Monta Vista near San Jose, California. Dad worked on and off, so we were generally low on money. But this particular year we had no funds for a Christmas tree.
The tradition Mom loved the most was decorating the Christmas tree, which always stood in a place of honor in our living room. Come Thanksgiving, she would start dragging out boxes filled with all kinds of decorations.
Mom was almost in mourning about not having a tree that year. We tried to cheer her up but nothing seemed to work. As the holiday got closer, she retreated to her bedroom. There, being a woman of strong faith, she began to pray, leaving the situation in God’s hands.
A few days before Christmas, we awoke to an ecstatic mother singing Christmas carols and looking for the decorations. “Mom,” I asked her, “why are you so happy all of a sudden?” She said, “Come see what God did.”
I went out to the back porch with her. A gigantic tumbleweed had blown up against the garage door in the middle of the night. But Mom didn’t see a tumbleweed. She saw a beautiful Christmas tree.
We couldn’t get it through the front or back doors, so we opened both the French doors on the side of the house and brought the “tree” in that way. Somehow the two of us got it fastened to the Christmas tree stand, and we set it up in the living room.
Then we sat down at the dining room table and began to cut strips of construction paper, gluing the ends together to form a chain of bright colors. Mom made popcorn for us to string together with needles and thread. The branches of the tumbleweed were much too brittle to support lights, so we tied just one string close to the trunk where the lights would shine upward.
We all stood back and looked at our tree. My mom began to cry softly. I heard her say under her breath, “Thank you, God, for providing us with a tree to bless us this Christmas.” It’s a memory that continues to bless me every year. —Bill Sparling, Sequim, Washington, from Country
The more the merrier
Our neighbor John Burns stood with his head down and a worn suitcase in each hand. A young boy with brown eyes and dark hair stood to his right. A fair-haired young girl stood to his left. “I just went through a very bad divorce. I lost my job. And I seriously don’t know what to do.”
He paused and cleared his throat. “I was wondering if you would take Brian and Amy. I don’t want them to end up in foster care again, and I couldn’t help noticing that your kids seem real happy.”
In the silence that followed, the world seemed to stop and hold its breath. Our neighbor stared at the ground. The children’s big, sad eyes were glued on my husband Ron’s.
It was 3 weeks before Christmas 1980. Oregon was suffering yet another recession, and this man wasn’t the only one who’d lost his job. Ron had been laid off just before Thanksgiving.
“Well, I sure don’t see why not,” Ron replied in his easygoing way.
I felt like someone was standing on my chest. My heart pounded in my ears. But I didn’t say a word.
After we finally got everyone in bed that night, my thoughts turned to this unsettling day. How could John leave his children? Would he return? When? My mind raced with questions that I couldn’t answer.
Beside me, Ron snored peacefully in the darkness. He was a worker, not a worrier. He got up before dawn to care for our sheep or to work in the orchard before going off to haul mobile homes (when there were some to haul). When Ron got home at night, he’d eat a quick supper, then go off to fix fences, haul hay or repair equipment.
But the man always found time for his children. And regardless of whatever else you could say about John Burns, he had made a wise choice in asking Ron to take care of his kids.
The short days of December raced toward Christmas. Our kids, Nanci, 12; Randy, 11; and Melodie, 10, shared rooms, beds, clothes, toys, and parents. They made the best of it, and we were proud of them.
My mother always remembered us at Christmas, and her package arrived from Anchorage, Alaska, in mid-December. I opened the box and rewrapped the gifts, making five out of three.
I called Ron’s mother in Albany, about 40 miles away, to tell her we’d be bringing five children to her house for Christmas this year. She chuckled kindheartedly and said that would be just fine. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
On Christmas Day, Ron’s brother, Doug, met us at the door of their parents’ old farmhouse with a jolly, “Merry Christmas!” Inside, we were greeted with the cozy warmth of a wood stove, big hugs and laughter. The celebration was simple. It was about belonging. It was love.
All five kids fell asleep on the long drive home. I was hoping the water pipes in the house didn’t freeze, when a tear slid down my cheek. Why couldn’t we give our children nice Christmas gifts like bicycles and new sleds? It wasn’t fair. If only Ron hadn’t been laid off.
Just then, two little arms went around my neck. Nanci whispered into my ear, “I love you, Mom.” I looked over at Ron to find Melodie hugging him.
Brian and Amy were now awake and looking over the front seat as Melodie sang, “We wish you a merry Christmas…” and the other children joined in.
“That was a great Christmas!” Randy and Brian yelled in unison.
“Bro, give me five!” Randy laughed as the rest of us joined in.
Ron’s eyes met mine. He gave me a smile I’ll never forget, then we continued up our mountain, leaving tracks in the new-fallen snow. —Madison Rothchild, Dallas, Oregon, Country. Here are some tips for celebrating the holidays with a blended family.
A tiny piece of tinsel
Growing up, we never had an artificial Christmas tree—or a cut one, for that matter. Instead, about a week before Christmas, my parents would haul in a balled or potted evergreen that we’d add to the landscape after the holidays. After we maneuvered the heavy tree into the house, Mother would conceal the bulky container with white flannel to make it look like snow. Daddy would string the lights, and over the tree’s boughs, my sister and I would drape red and green paper chains, strings of popcorn and cranberries, and other baubles we fashioned out of shiny red, green, silver and blue milk-bottle caps. Then we would hang tinsel—weaving one strand at a time between the needles—until our tree sparkled.
On a warm Saturday morning after New Year’s Day, we’d all go into the backyard, pick a site and plant our Christmas tree, making sure to water it thoroughly to protect it against the January freezes that were sure to come. Each year, the yard got a little woodsier as we continued to add new spruce or pine specimens.
One summer afternoon—some 40 years later—I drove by that childhood home and slowed down to savor the memories. The new owners were working in their yard, but when they saw me they stopped and came over to talk. When I told them that I had grown up there, they took me on a tour. The porch, front door, and fireplace looked exactly the same. When we walked into the backyard, I caught my breath and fought back a tear. I was standing in a forest. The couple explained they were from California and had been drawn to the home because of the huge evergreens out back.
When I walked over to admire a Colorado blue spruce, a glint of silver caught my eye. I could hardly believe it, but sure enough, a strand of weathered tinsel was still wrapped around a branch, sparkling in the sun.
Somehow, through almost half a century of Oklahoma heat and cold, that remnant of our holiday tradition survived, much like my fond memories of our backyard Christmas trees—memories that have become more treasured with each passing year. —Vivian Stewart, Piedmont, Oklahoma, from Country Woman
The Christmas loan
My wife’s grandparents Harm and Dena Basche emigrated from Germany to Wirock, Minnesota, back in 1913. Dena worked hard to learn English, and made sure all her children learned it. But Harm resisted learning any more English than what he picked up at the local feed store.
That’s where he heard about a 300-acre farm for rent. Harm checked out the farm and found that it had good soil, a stream and a furnished four-bedroom house. For $500, Harm could rent the place for 5 years with an option to buy—draft horses and farm implements included.
Harm and Dena had saved $205, so Harm put on his best clothes, shined his shoes and set off to borrow $295. The first banker said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t understand you. Are you an American citizen?” The second banker said, “You’ll have to learn English if you want to borrow money here.”
Harm came home unhappy and confused. “In Germany, I go to bank, shake hands and get money. They don’t ask questions like that,” he said.
Dena patiently explained that he’d just have to learn to speak English. Reluctantly, he agreed. But each evening his family helped him. The oldest child played the part of the banker. The other children critiqued how Harm handled himself.
They practiced all through October and November, and on December 10 they decided he was ready. That’s also when Dena surprised him by announcing that the kids had earned $40 doing odd jobs around town, so they needed to borrow only $255. All the children cheered and went to bed feeling proud.
That night, Dena suggested that Harm borrow $300 anyway, so they could give the children a nice Christmas for all their hard work. Harm happily agreed.
The next morning, he shined his shoes and headed into the Farmers and Merchants State Bank. After shaking hands with the banker, Harm said, “I would like to borrow $300 to rent a farm for 5 years from Mr. Clifton Anderson. It is 300 acres, good soil, and a stream.”
The banker replied that he agreed it was a good farm. Then he said, “Mr. Basche, I hear you have a large family, and I like to help folks with large families. How many children do you have?”
“I have one and a half dozen,” Harm answered.
“Wow, 18 children!” the banker said. “You really do need the money. Just sign here.”
Apparently, Harm hadn’t quite mastered English numbers, because he meant to say one plus a half dozen—or seven. Still, the banker lent him the $300. Harm and Dena rented the farm and the family had a very merry Christmas. —Lewis Martin Talmadge, Athens, Tennessee, from Farm & Ranch Living. We definitely got a laugh from this one—plus, here are some funny Christmas cartoons for hilarious holidays.
Twelve days of Christmas
During the Christmas season in 2012, my husband, Ken, and I came home from church and noticed something on the front porch. We walked over to it and saw it was a basket of goodies wrapped and tied with a beautiful bow. The attached note read “On the first day of Christmas.” We were thrilled someone was thinking of us, especially after losing our daughter in September.
The next night, we checked and sure enough, there was a “second day of Christmas” gift. Try as we might, we couldn’t catch the elf or elves who left those gifts and the ones that followed over the next nine nights.
Finally, on the twelfth night, the elves knocked on our door. Our friend Charlotte Everett and her children Parker and Reese stood there. They were the Christmas angels who made our holiday so very special. They’ll never know how much it meant to us. —Theresa Nordmann, Fairfeld, Illinois, from Country.