It’s freezing, snowing and getting dark. This is the last day of the year – New Year’s Eve. On this cold and dark night, a cute little girl was walking barefoot in the street. She came out of the house wearing a pair of slippers, but what’s the use?
It was a big pair of slippers – so big that her mother always wore them. As she crossed the road, two carriages came running so fast that she ran away with her shoes. One couldn’t find anything, the other asked a boy to pick it up and run away. He said that he could use it as a cradle when he had children in the future.
The little girl had to walk barefoot, her feet were red and blue with cold. In her old apron she carried many matches and a handful. No one had bought her a match or given her a coin all day.
Poor little girl! She trembled forward, cold and hungry. Snowflakes fell on her long golden hair, which rolled over her shoulders and looked beautiful, but she didn’t notice. Lights were shining through every window, and there was a roast goose smell in the street, because it was New Year’s Eve, which she could not forget.
She sat down in the corner of a house and huddled her legs. She felt colder. She dared not go home because she didn’t sell a match and earned any money. Dad would beat her. Besides, the house is as cold as the street. There was only a roof over their heads, and although the biggest crack had been blocked with grass and rags, the wind could still fill in.
Her little hands were almost frozen stiff. Ah, even a small match is good for her! Dare she take one out of a bunch of matches and wipe it on the wall to warm her little hands? She finally pulled out one. Chi! Matches are on fire, flames are coming out! She folded her little hand over the fire. How warm and bright the fire is, like a little candle. This is a strange fire!
The little girl felt like she was sitting in front of a big stove with shining copper feet and handles. It was burning vigorously and warm. How comfortable it was! Hey, what’s going on here? She had just put her foot out to warm it up, and the match went out and the stove disappeared. She sat there with only one burnt matchstick in her hand.
She wiped another one. The match was on fire and there was a light. The light fell on the wall, where it suddenly became as transparent as gauze, and she could see the room all the time. The table was covered with snow-white tablecloths, delicate plates and bowls, and the roast goose filled with apples and plums was smelling.
Even better, the goose jumped off the plate, with knives and forks on its back, and swayed across the floor, all the way to the poor little girl. Then the match went out again, and there was only a thick and cold wall in front of her.
She struck another match. This time, she was sitting under a beautiful Christmas tree. This Christmas tree is bigger and more beautiful than what she saw through the glass doors of wealthy businessmen last Christmas. Thousands of bright candles were burning on the verdant branches, and many beautiful color pictures were blinking at her as they were hanging in the shop windows.
The little girl reached out to the picture. Then the match went out again. The candlelight on the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, and eventually became the stars twinkling in the sky. A star fell and a long red light was drawn in the sky.
“Somebody’s dying.” Said the little girl. The only grandmother who loved her told her when she was alive that when a star fell, a soul would go to God.
She rubbed another match on the wall. This time, the matches lit up all around. Grandma appeared in the light, so gentle, so loving. “Grandma!” The little girl cried out, “Ah! Please take me away! I know that once the match goes out, you will disappear, just like the warm stove, the fragrant roast goose, and the beautiful Christmas tree!
She quickly wiped a large bunch of matches to keep Grandma. A large bunch of matches glowed as brightly as in the daytime. Grandma has never been so tall and beautiful as she is now. Grandma held the little girl in her arms. They flew away in the light and joy, higher and higher, to a place where there was no cold, no hunger, no pain.
The next morning, the little girl sat in the corner with red cheeks and a smile on her mouth. She died, frozen to death on New Year’s Eve. The New Year sun rose and shone on her little body. The little girl sat there holding a burnt matchstick in her hand.
“She wants to warm herself up.” People say. Nobody knows how many beautiful things she has seen, how happy she has been, and goes with her grandmother to the happiness of the New Year.