A Forgotten Classic: The Christmas Angel

Contributed by Merry Carey

This little book is a forgotten gem of Christmas literature. When it was published in 1910, Living Age magazine reviewed the book by saying, “Not since Charles Dickens laid down his pen forever has there been a prettier Christmas story written, one more full of the real spirit of Christmas or conveying a more seasonable lesson.” High praise, but well deserved.

When you first begin to read the story, you may believe that you’re reading yet another variation on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The main character, old Miss Terry, is a female Scrooge if ever there was one. “What is our Christmas, anyway?” she scoffs. “A time for shopkeepers to sell and for foolish folks to kill themselves in buying. Christmas spirit? No! It is all humbug,—all selfishness, and worry; an unwholesome season of unnatural activities.” She decides that the best way to spend Christmas Eve is by cleaning up for the New Year, beginning with getting rid of the toys from her childhood toy box.

Burning the toys in the fireplace is too tedious, so Miss Terry conceives of a cynical idea. “I will try an experiment,” she decides. “I will prove once for all my point about the ‘Christmas spirit.’ I will drop some of these old toys out on the sidewalk and see what happens. It may be interesting.” One by one, she drops four of the toys out of her window and secretly watches what happens to each one. The scenes that occur seem to confirm that greed and cruelty are indeed lurking behind a false Christmas spirit. She retrieves one toy from the street and places it on her mantelpiece—a pink papier-mâché angel that once topped the Christmas tree when she and her brother, from whom she is estranged, were children. Then, the Angel speaks to Miss Terry . . .

Like Marley and the three spirits in Dickens’ tale, the Angel has a Christmas lesson to teach. Here the story takes its own intriguing twist: the Angel informs Miss Terry that she did not see the end of each little scene she witnessed outside her window! He proceeds to show her the true conclusion of each toy’s miniature drama—conclusions that confirm the existence of true Christmas spirit. It’s no spoiler to say that there is eventually a happy ending, but the route to that happy ending is a thoroughly compelling story that I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.

Surprisingly, this little book has never been adapted into a movie or a radio play. Now that it is in the public domain, perhaps some producer will correct that oversight.

You can download the book or read it online at Project Gutenberg:
The Christmas Angel by Abbie Farwell Brown

If you’d rather have the story read to you, you can download it or listen to the stream at Archive.org:
The Christmas Angel by Abbie Farwell Brown

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