One cold, snowy night on New Year's Eve, a poor little matchgirl wandered the streets. She shivered in the bitter wind, for she had no hat to cover her head. Her too-big shoes had fallen off when she had to dash across the street to avoid being hit by a horse-drawn carriage. No one had bought a match from her all day long. She feared that her papa would beat her if she came back without a penny. So instead of going home, she huddled in a deserted street corner.
Trying to warm her freezing fingers, the little girl struck one of her precious matches. As the light shone bright and warm, she saw a beautiful vision - a lovely stove with a blazing fire. She reached out to warm herself, but the vision disappeared as the match burned out. Again she struck a match. This time she saw a table filled with a delicious Christmas dinner. The next match showed her a beautiful Christmas tree. As the little girl struck yet another match, she saw a star falling in the night sky. "When a star falls, a soul is going up to God," her grandmother used to tell her. Suddenly she saw her grandmother, the most beautiful vision yet. The little match girl wanted to keep her grandmother with her, so she kept striking match after match. Her grandmother wrapped her in her arms and lifted her up above the earth where was "no more cold, no hunger, and no pain - for they were with God."
(Warning! This is the sad part.) The next morning, on New Year's Day, they found the little match girl in that same corner, frozen to death. All of her matches had been burned up. People thought that she had used up her matches to keep warm. No one knew the matches had also warmed her heart with glorious visions.
My daughter thinks this is one of the saddest stories ever. She prefers the happier fairytales written by Hans Christian Andersen, like Thumbelina
, The Ugly Duckling
and The Emperor's New Clothes
(see links below).