Between the garland and holly, the cinnamon and turkey, there's something about Christmas that makes it more magical and memorable than any other time of the year. With family and friends gathered around, we share recollections of the past and create new stories to recount for years to come.
We asked Deseret Book authors for their most memorable Christmas stories, and they shared with us these amazing (and true!) seasonal anecdotes.
Josi Kilpack, author ofLemon Tart, Rocky Road, and other LDS culinary mysteries
One school teacher’s salary. Nine children ages 2 to 20. Four sets of braces to date. Shoes, jeans, Sunday clothes, winter coats, an ongoing remodeling project, and all the other relentless expenses of childrearing.
For years, my parents had been saving up for carpet—a third of the house was subflooring. Carpet was expensive, but my parents were amazing home economists, and slowly the carpet account grew. However, each time the money in the account was nearly enough, another child was ready for braces. Because the monthly budget could not hold another payment, the carpet account was emptied, braces were put in place, and Mom and Dad started over again. If only we kids had inherited our mother’s naturally straight teeth.
December: Dad got the mail and brought it inside while grumbling about bills and Christmas and the gosh-darned carpet that, once again, would not grace our floors come the New Year. It was nothing we hadn’t heard before. We let him continue as he opened one bill after another. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Kids chattered around the table as he opened the mail. Suddenly, Dad went still. He told us to listen. He cleared his throat and read the letter in his hand while putting a smaller, rectangular piece of paper on the table top in front of him.
Dear Mr. Schofield,
Last year I took a drawing class from you through continuing education. I learned a great deal and enjoyed your class very much.
My mother passed away recently, and I have decided to share a portion of my inheritance with people who made an impact on my life. You are one of the people who came to mind as I recalled your talking about your large family. I hope this money brightens your holiday season.
If I were to tell you my name, you would not know who I was, but I know who you are, and I appreciate the good you do.
A Grateful Student
Five years of saving. Priorities. Four beautifully orthodontiated smiles. Warm feet. Full bellies. Children’s hearts that would one day understand the daily sacrifices our parents made. An anonymous, giving heart that surely made its mother very proud.
And carpet for Christmas.
Includes all twelve volumes of Josi Kilpack’s Culinary Mystery series.
- Lemon Tart
- English Trifle
- Devil’s Food Cake
- Key Lime Pie
- Blackberry Crumble
- Pumpkin Roll
- Banana Spilt
- Tres Leches Cupcakes
- Baked Alaska
- Rocky Road
- Fortune Cookie
- Wedding Cake
A Teacher's Christmas
Brad Wilcox, BYU professor, author of Because of the Messiah in a Manger, and Time Out for Women presenter
Illustration ©Jonathan Bartlett
When Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was president of Brigham Young University, he once wrote a Christmas message to the students and faculty at the end of fall semester. He said, “I wish for you some contact with a child . . . [to see] the awe and wonder and wide-eyed delight with which a child greets Christmas—and Christ” (Daily Universe, December 12, 1983). That wish comes true for me every year since I have dedicated most of my life to teaching children and mentoring others who teach them.
I recall one year there was in my sixth-grade class a young boy named James who had been born with a heart problem. He’d had his first open-heart surgery when he was only in first grade, and now he was scheduled for another. On the day he received the news, he was quite discouraged. What horrible news to come right at Christmas time! He dragged through the day, and I wanted to help him feel better.
When the final bell rang, I asked James to stay and help me put away some supplies. It gave us a chance to talk as we worked. I said, “James, your parents wrote me a note telling me about the surgery. What is going to happen?”
He said, “They are going to open my chest, open up my heart, and then take out the valve that doesn’t work and replace it with a pig valve.”
I asked, “How do you feel about that?”
He replied, “I think it’s gross! I don’t want a pig valve. I think that’s sick. I want a bionic valve!”
“What happens if the pig valve doesn’t work?”
“Then,” he said matter-of-factly, “I guess I’ll just die.”
The classroom was silent. I looked into the eyes of my young student and said, “Don’t die, James. You can have my heart.”
“No, Mr. Wilcox.” He smiled—the first smile I’d seen all day. “I can’t take your heart. You have a good heart. I love your heart.” I had wanted to lift James. I had wanted to help him and love him, but being the Christ-like child he was, he lifted me. He helped me. He loved me.
Because of my contact with children, Christmas is always more than gift-wrapped boxes, holly berries, and neighborhood parties. For me, Christmas is love—the pure love of Jesus Christ and a little sixth-grade boy named James.
Born on Christmas Day, Brad Wilcox has always had a special love for Christmas. Everyone knows that the season has become commercialized and saturated by the demands of political correctness. But, as Brad writes, "No matter how many try to take Christ out of Christmas . . . it will always and forever be about the Messiah in a manger."
Because of the Messiah in a manger, we can feel and share His pure love. Because of Him, we have access to grace, immortality, and eternal life. Because of the Messiah in a manger, we follow the star, hear the angels sing, and celebrate the Light of the World at Christmas and always.
Julianne Donaldson, author of Edenbrooke and Blackmoore
Illustration ©Jonathan Bartlett
It all started with a flat tire on my husband’s car. I had driven it for miles before noticing it was flat, and by that time, it was a goner. So I found myself driving my husband to work on a chilly morning at the beginning of December, worrying about how I was going to pay for Christmas and car repairs, stressing about my growing seasonal to-do list, and feeling overwhelmed and mistreated by fate.
While I waited at a stoplight, I noticed a kid with a bike standing by a gas station across the street. He was small—just about the size of my 11-year-old. He was all alone, in the cold. And something about him called to me.
I pulled over and asked him if he needed help. After a brief inspection, it was clear that his bike could not be fixed without a welder. So I lifted his bike into the back of my van and drove him to school.
Isaac didn’t say much, but he was polite. I noticed that he was wearing a light jacket in 30º F weather and that his jeans had holes within the holes. He thanked me when I dropped him off at Northwest Middle School. As I watched him struggle to carry his broken bike into the school, I felt an unmistakable tug on my heart.
When I got home, I called his school and talked to the secretary about him. She confirmed all of my suspicions—that his family was struggling, that Christmas would be hard for them, and that he couldn’t get to school without a bike. She told me, too, that his mother was in the hospital and that there was no adult in the home to come to his rescue.
When I hung up the phone, the tug on my heart had turned into a concrete goal: I wanted to find a bike for Isaac. I wished I could buy him a bike, but I didn’t have the money for it. So I went on Facebook and asked my friends if anyone had a spare bike for a small 8th-grade boy. Nobody did. I called around. I thought about visiting the D.I. Then an idea came to me—I had more than just my friends on Facebook. I had readers as well. So I went back to Facebook, this time on my author page, and I told my readers a little about Isaac and asked if anyone had a spare bike. One reader wrote, “No, but I have five dollars.” Another commented, “I have five dollars too.” “I do too.”
An idea grew within me—an idea so powerful and important that I could not see the ends of it. That night I wrote about Isaac on my blog, and I asked something scary of this unknown group of readers. I asked them to trust me. I told them that if they desired to donate money to Isaac’s cause, then I would make sure it was put to good use.
And then the miracle occurred. People gave. They gave so much. Most of them were strangers to me, but they donated time and money, bags of clothes, a bike ordered and delivered to my door, offers to help, encouragement, and prayers. After two days, the money pouring in was reaching alarming levels. I put a stop to the donations, and then I spent the next three weeks shopping for Isaac’s family for Christmas. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier shopping.
A week before Christmas, my husband and I loaded up the minivan and drove to Northwest Middle School with a new bike, clothes for Isaac and his siblings and his sick mom, groceries, gift cards, and wrapped presents. I also presented the school with the leftover donated money, which they could use for any other students in need.
But Isaac wasn’t at school that day. He was at home taking care of his sick mom. His counselors stood in that cold parking lot and told me that Isaac’s mom was going to die very soon. It would be their last Christmas together as a family. I cried when I heard that. I cried all the way home, and when I think about Isaac, I still find more tears to cry.
I’ve thought a lot about fate since then—about my flat tire and Isaac’s broken bike bringing the two of us together on a day and during a season when we needed each other the most. Isaac needed to know that even though he was alone, he was never forgotten. And I needed to know that there are Isaacs all around us, that generosity from strangers can change the world, and that Christmas is utterly, unfailingly about love.
Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she'll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best-laid plans can go awry.
From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.
Lead image from Getty Images