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Andersen's Fairy Tales

Andersen's Fairy Tales

by Andersen, Hans Christian

Christmas

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Christmas isn't just a holiday about Santa Claus and eggnog lattes in Andersen's tales, it's a time of connection with your family and with God. Hopefully.

Andersen's tale, "The Little Match Girl," takes place on New Year's Eve. But its poor little protagonist keeps having visions of Christmas Eve: a roasted goose and "a Christmas tree that was much larger and more beautifully decorated than the one she had seen through the glass doors at the rich merchant's on Christmas Eve" (39.7). These accessories symbolize the kind of warm, loving, and well-fed family that the little match girl lacks, which is pretty sad if you think about it.

Christmas is also time when important events go down. No, we're not talking about a rumble with your terrible chemistry lab partner in the school parking lot. Andersen's got bigger fish to fry. For example, "The Pine Tree" is narrated from the perspective of a—you guessed it—pine tree. And this tree is always wishing it were bigger, taller, and sturdier; in short, the darn tree can't give up on trying to be perfect and just live in the moment, man. But when it's harvested and sold to a family as a Christmas tree, the pine tree's dreams are, briefly, realized. Huzzah!

The tree is decorated and it anticipates the arrival of Christmas Eve:

The poor tree had a bark-ache from anticipation, which for a tree is as annoying as headache is to a human being. Finally evening did come, and the candles were lit. Oh, how beautiful it looked. The poor tree trembled with emotion. (28.29-30)

After Christmas, after being adored by everyone there, the tree is discarded and finally burned. It happiest memory is "the glory of Christmas Eve"(28.77).

Like the pine tree, we all have a time like Christmas in our lives, when everything is coming up roses… Er, wait, that might not be good for us if we're in Andersen's world. How 'bout, everything is coming up new computers and sporting equipment and video games. And hopefully, unlike many of Andersen's characters, you get to enjoy all those shiny presents because you've got a pretty fab family to share your personal Christmas-time with.

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