Ho! Ho! Ho! The 10th Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!

⭐️Deck the Halls! ⭐️ Light the menorah! ⭐️ Fill the Kikombe cha Umoja! ⭐️

It’s time for . . .

THE 10TH ANNUAL HOLIDAY CONTEST!!!

~ for children’s writers ~

The Contest:  Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Helper!

Your helper can be one helper, or a pair, or a group or a bevy or a herd of helpers. Your helpers can be children, animals, elves, aliens, unicorns, fairies . . . whatever your heart desires. He/she/they can help bake, decorate, shovel snow, wrap gifts, clean the house, entertain guests, feed the hungry, comfort the lonely, bring the holiday spirit to those who have lost it – sky’s the limit 😊 But the focus of the story must be on helping – not just a brief mention in passing that Marla helped Dad set the table in the middle of a story about her frustration at not getting the starring role in the school holiday pageant.

Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season, but is not to exceed 250 words (I know! So much freedom after the Halloweensie Contest 😊 )  (It can be as short as you like (the judges will be grateful 😊 , you are welcome and encouraged to write shorter, but no more than 250!  Title not included in word count.)  The field is wide open!  Have fun!  The more creative the better!  No illustration notes please. (And yes, if you feel compelled to submit more than one entry you may, just remember you’re competing against yourself!)

Post:  Your entry should be posted between right now this very second and Wednesday December 9th at 11:59 PM EST, in ONE of the following three ways:

  1. Post your entry on your own blog and enter your post-specific link (not your main blog URL) to the link list below, OR
  2. Paste your entry in the comment section below (please include your byline since if your posting handle is something like MamaWritesByNightlight I will have no idea who you are 😊), OR
  3. If you have trouble pasting your entry in the comment section for any reason (which unfortunately does happen!) you can email it to me at susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and I will post it for you. If you email it, please copy and paste your entry into the body of the email NO ATTACHMENTS – they will not be opened. Please include your title and byline at the top of your entry. (And since there have been many questions about this byline means who it’s by, for example, The Hanukkah Helper by Janie Simcox.)

Please submit your entry only ONCE! If you add it to the blog link list, and the comments, and email me to post it, things get very confusing!  I try to stay as glued to my desk as possible, but sometimes I have to get up so if I don’t respond to your email or approve your post immediately, don’t panic!  I’ll get to it as soon as I can!

There will be no regular posts (Tuesday Debut, Would You Read It, or Perfect Picture Book) for the duration of the contest so this post with the links and comments will stay up for everyone to visit and enjoy until I post the finalists. 

The Judging:  My lovely assistants and I will narrow down the entrants to approximately 10 finalists (depending on the number of entries – if we get a lower turnout we’ll post fewer finalists, a higher turnout possibly one or two more.)  In the interest of finishing up the contest in a timely fashion so everyone can go about their holidays, we will do our best to post the finalists here by Monday December 14th for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed on Wednesday December 16th at 5 PM EST.  Whoever gets the most votes will be first and so on down to tenth place (or wherever we place to), and the winners will be announced on Thursday December 17th. (These dates are subject to adjustment if it takes the judges longer than we anticipate to get the judging completed.)

Judging criteria will be as follows:

  • 1. Kid-appeal! – These stories are intended for a young audience (ages 12 and under), so we’re looking for stories that children will enjoy and relate to.
  • 2.  Holiday Helpers! – the rules state a Holiday Helper story, so it must be crystal clear that the story is about someone helping someone else in some way during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or whatever seasonal winter holiday you choose.  The story must center on helping  – the help must not be just an offhand mention/reference in a story about something else.
  • 3. Quality of story – entries must tell a story, including a main character of some kind and a true story arc even if it’s tiny 😊  Entries must not be merely descriptions or mood pieces.
  • 4. Quality of Writing: check your spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.  If you’re going to rhyme, give us your best 😊  Overall writing quality and use of language are also important.
  • 5. Originality and creativity – because that is often what sets one story above another.
  • 6. PLEASE FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! Large numbers of entries make it easy to cut entries that haven’t been entered as we asked.

The Prizes!:  The prize list is completely and totally awesome! Read! Covet! Write your best! 😊

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and Critique by Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez of Olswanger Literary! Although she is currently closed to submissions (making this prize EXTRA special!) a look at her wish list will give you an idea of what she likes.

Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez

A 12×12 Silver Membership (valued at $177 but worth so much more!) generously donated by author and 12×12 founder and queen, Julie Hedlund! 12×12 is a fantastic, educational, supportive community with TONS to offer its members, including interesting and informational webinars of all kinds, access to forums and critiques, and the chance to submit to agents. If you’re not familiar with it, you can learn all about it HERE. Julie is the author of A Troop Is A Group of Monkeys (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013), My Love For You Is The Sun (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2014), and the forthcoming Over, Bear! Under, Where? (Philomel Books, Fall 2021)

Julie Hedlund
Photo credit Kim Huggins

A Picture Book Manuscript Read and On The Spot Critique by prolific author Laura Purdie Salas! Laura offers a 50-minute on on-the-spot critique via Zoom for one picture book manuscript of up to 600 words (fiction or nonfiction, rhyming or prose or poetry). She will read it out loud to the writer and then do a critique right then and answer questions. Laura is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, prose, her own submissions and work for hire – she’s done it all! She is also the author of a number of fantastic books for writers which are often given as prizes here. Some of her books include A Leaf Can Be (Millbrook Press 2012), Clover Kitty Goes To Kittygarten (Two Lions 2020), Snowman – Cold = Puddle (Charlesbridge 2019), If You Were The Moon (Millbrook Press 2017), Making A Living Writing Books For Kids (CreateSpace 2017), and Picture Books The Write Way (CreateSpace 2014)

Rate Your Story owner, Picture Book Mechanic, and author Lynne Marie is offering 4 amazing prizes!

A 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

Another 1/2 hour Zoom Session Picture Book Manuscript Consultation/Critique from ThePictureBookMechanic.com

A Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

[From the Rate Your Story site] “A SPEED PASS allows a Non-Member to submit to Rate Your Story, as well as a Member to submit additional items to best serve the rating and feedback needs of our writing community.

We have a variety of Speedpass options, including pitches, query letters, art or a single manuscript at any time for a rating + guaranteed comments*, and it will be returned in less than 7 days’ time. Should you require a faster turnaround, fast pass options may be purchased to facilitate that.” 

Another Rate Your Story Speedpass from RateYourStory.org

Lynne Marie is the accomplished author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019)  and  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019) and two others forthcoming.


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique (fiction, rhyme or prose) by accomplished author Laura Sassi, author of Goodnight, Ark (Zonderkidz 2014) , Goodnight, Manger (Zonderkidz 2015), Diva Delores And The Opera House Mouse (Sterling 2018), Love Is Kind (Zonderkidz 2018), and the forthcoming Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep (Beaming Books, February 2021)

A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by talented author Sandra Sutter, whose delightful books include The REAL Farmer In The Dell (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, March 2019) and Stan’s Frightful Halloween (Clearfork Publishing/Spork, September 2020)


A Picture Book Manuscript Critique by gifted author and former Holiday Contest prize winner, Jenna Waldman, author of the forthcoming Larry’s Latkes (October 2021) (originally written for the Holiday Contest!) and Shark-bot Shalom (August 2021) She is on twitter at @SarafinaDesign

Author Jenna Waldman


Personalized, signed copies of For Spacious Skies (Albert Whitman, April 2020) and The Queen And The First Christmas Tree (Albert Whitman, October 2018) by award-winning author Nancy Churnin.



Personalized, signed copies of The Night Baafore Christmas (WorthyKids 2019) by Dawn Young and Louis (HMH Books For Young Readers 2020) by Tom Lichtenheld, illustrated by Julie Rowan-Zoch. The Night Baafore Christmas will be signed by Dawn, the author. Louis will be signed by Julie, the illustrator.



Two Picture Books (TBD) donated by Darshana Khiani, whose own picture book How To Wear A Sari is forthcoming from Versify in June 2021.


Please join me in thanking these very generous authors and other writing professionals for contributing their books and writing expertise as prizes by visiting their websites and blogs, considering their books and services for holiday or other gift purchases, rating and/or reviewing their books on GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else if you like them, and supporting them in any other way you can dream up! 😊

This is the part in the proceedings where I would normally post my sample to entertain and encourage you. Ahem. Seems I’ve been a little over-scheduled with life lately, and my sample isn’t quite finished. . . If I can get it done whilst running the contest I’ll pop it in here. If not, you guys have the hang of these contest by now and you don’t really need my example! 😊

I know you guys are going to come up with great stories, and I’m so looking forward to reading them all! 😊

***UPDATE 12/8/20*** – I’m late adding this in and it would have benefited greatly from more time to work and a slightly longer word count, but. . .

A Little Christmas Joy (249 words)

Cara longed to play in the snow.
She wanted to open her mouth and feel the cold snowflakes melt on her tongue.
She wanted to lie on her back and make snow angels.
But Cara wasn’t allowed outside alone, and everyone was busy inside because it was Christmas Eve.
“So many presents to wrap!” Mom said.
“I’ll help!” said Cara.
She handed Mom scissors and tape, and pressed her finger to the crossed ribbon so Mom could tie a snug bow.
“This tree needs decorating!” said Dad.
“I’ll help!” said Cara.
She hung pepperminty candy canes from the fragrant-needled boughs wherever she felt spaces.
“So much cookie dough to bake!” said Cara’s big sister.
“I’ll help!” said Cara.  She grinned and scooped a fingerful of dough from the bowl into her mouth.
The whole day passed, and Cara never got to play in the snow.
She carefully placed cookies and milk on the hearth for Santa, along with apples for the reindeer.
When Santa arrived, he saw everything Cara had helped with – the presents, the tree, the cookies – and her snow boots waiting hopefully by the back door.
He smiled and whispered, “You help everyone else.  It’s time you got a little special help yourself.”
When Cara awoke, her gift was beside her.  A wet nose, a wagging tail, and a note in Braille on her collar that read: Hi Cara!  I’m Joy, your Guiding Eyes. I can’t wait to take you out to play in the snow!

*** There you have it 😊 ***

With so many great prizes up for grabs I hope there will be a lot of entries – the more the merrier!  And you’ve still got a couple days to write, so you can squeeze in under the wire if you haven’t written yet.  Feel free to spread the word to your writing friends as well.  And your reading friends – parents, teachers, etc.  The more people who read and enjoy your stories, the better!!!

Contest Entrants, remember to add your post-specific link to the google form below so we can all come read your awesome stories!  (Post-specific means not your main blog url, but the actual url of the post that has your story in it – otherwise if you post again before the contest ends, your link will take readers… and judges!… to the wrong place!)

Eager Readers – just go along the list of links, click on them, and enjoy the stories! And don’t miss the fabulous entries that are posted in the comments below!  The titles are listed and linked just below the link list at the bottom of the post and will take you directly to the stories!


Happy Writing and Happy Holidays!!!🎄⭐️ ✡️❄️☃️🕎

Don’t miss the 119!!! fabulous entries that are posted in the comments below!  The titles are linked and will take you directly to the stories!

  1. Ivy’s Christmas Wish – Anne Reilly
  2. Decorating The Tree – Gabrielle Cardwell
  3. Not Too Little – Marty Findley
  4. Christmas AngelBrenda Whitehead
  5. Decorations DeputyNicola Thackrey
  6. A Super ScooperEllen Turcio
  7. A Cranky ChristmasStacey Miller
  8. Sylvia KittySusan Drew
  9. Bug Academy Christmas Pageant Kathiann Weatherbee
  10. Calma The Llama Mattie Noall
  11. Don’t Let The Cat Help Decorate The TreeLu Pierro
  12. BigFoot’s SurpriseNatalie Cohn
  13. A Fine IdeaJill Proctor
  14. Holly The Holiday HelperAshley Congdon
  15. Ollie’s Christmas VisitsMarilyn Wolpin
  16. A Dust Bunny’s ChristmasMarty Bellis
  17. Naserian – A Maasai The Holiday HelperKetan Ram
  18. Who Will Do It? (April Helps Out)Elizabeth Westra
  19. Bambini ChristmasMartha Holguin
  20. Holiday HelpersShariffa Keshavjee
  21. A Servant’s HeartEllen Crosby
  22. Snail’s Starry NightBecky Loescher
  23. Sandy Claws’ HelpersSusan E. Schipper
  24. Dear SantaDawn Young
  25. Christmas NeighborLinda Staszak
  26. Sugar’s SpinMegan & Rob Hunnicut
  27. Elf And The PixiesVicky Langdon
  28. The Signed ConfessionCristina Raymer
  29. The Reverse Advent CalendarAnne Lipton
  30. Holiday Helper ExtraordinaireSusan Summers
  31. Home For ChristmasP. J. Purtee
  32. Three Christmas CamelsDeb Robertson
  33. Reindeer ShoesKatherine Rahoy
  34. A Little Holiday HelpNina Nolan
  35. Christmas Is For EveryoneGerry Lynne Baker
  36. The Best Christmas HelperJean Hall
  37. Gingerbread Construction CrewAshlee Hashman
  38. A Swedish Pageant And The Mystery Of The Missing MeatballsKathryn Rammell
  39. Christmas SmilesAlli Strauss
  40. A Hanukah DetourSandra Budiansky
  41. The Oldest ElfJim Chaize
  42. Santa’s HelpersE. Elle Bea
  43. La Navidad I’ll Never ForgetCarmen Gilbert
  44. I’m Helping For The Holidays (No, You’re Not)Krista Harrington
  45. Have A New Year!Karen Keesling
  46. Not Too Small At AllSarah Hawklyn
  47. To Celebrate We Mix It UpSarah Hawklyn
  48. Christmas GiftsDonna Kurtz
  49. Colin’s Christmas TreatSally Yorke Viney
  50. App-y Christmas!Paul Kurtz
  51. Santa’s Elves Need Helpers Too Katie Brandyberry
  52. The Red CabooseStephanie Cullen
  53. Christmas In GermanyElizabeth Meyer Zu Heringdorf
  54. Leo And The Tree LadyAnn Malaspina
  55. The Sleigh-Awake BandLaura Bower
  56. Baba’s Christmas WishTaylor Gardner
  57. A Dear, Dear BoyDarcee A. Freier
  58. Changing The WorldKathleen Campbell
  59. The Christmas Cookie CatastropheLynn Camacho
  60. Grandma’s Christmas Helper, A COVID Alphabet StorySarah Hetu-Radny
  61. Baia’s Bags Of BlessingsElyse Trevers
  62. Chanukah HelpersMarla Yablon
  63. The Farmyard NativityKrystal Snead
  64. Sprinkles For SantaCindy Sommer
  65. The Crocheted StarBeverly Warren
  66. The Toymaker And The Christmas TomteCathrene Valente Youngquist
  67. New Year’s CheerMia Geiger
  68. Santa’s Surprise HelperLiz Kehrli
  69. Holiday Helpers Galore! Isabel Cruz Rodgriguez
  70. Nothing To GiveMaria Marianayagam
  71. Oy To The World: An Ode To 2020Mary Vander Plas
  72. Gingerbread CommotionJC Kelly
  73. Hummus For SantaLeila Boukarim
  74. Island Santa – Anne Sawan
  75. Samosas For Santa Namita Moolani Mehra
  76. Beaver’s GiftDeb Buschman
  77. Let It Grow! Let It Grow! Let It Grow!Allison Strick
  78. Star Light, Star BrightEstelle Grace Tudor
  79. Candy And Cain’s Big JobBecky Kimbrough
  80. Santa KnowsDiane Hanington
  81. The Best Christmas EverDiane Hanington
  82. Little LightPatti Tomarelli
  83. Runny-Nosed RudolphSarah Hetu-Radny
  84. Ask SantaJennifer Reichow
  85. Not Counting On Sweet Treats This YearLinda Hofke
  86. The Runaway Reindeer Caroline Perry
  87. Flossy’s Fairy Fail Laura Howard
  88. The Christmas TreeCynthia Stacey
  89. The Greatest GiftLisa Khan
  90. Adorable, Not AbominableKimberly Lee
  91. Maya’s LightKaryn Curtis
  92. Tiffani And The Talking TreeCourtney Ryan
  93. Santa’s HelpersMeghan Wallace
  94. Missing MagicDarci Nielson
  95. One Cold ChristmasToni Hawks Floyd
  96. Merry MarsmasMegan Walvoord
  97. Me Do It! Simon Yeend
  98. ‘Twas A Night On A FarmPenelope McNally
  99. Winter Welcome Jessica Whipple
  100. A Not-So-Helpful Helper Liv Gehlbach
  101. The Kindness CrewMichelle S. Kennedy
  102. Christmas For The Birds Elizabeth Volkmann
  103. Christmas ShelterRita Russell
  104. Princess ObliviousBill Canterbury
  105. A Forest ChristmasBarbara Keevil Parker
  106. Little Donkey, The Christmas HelperJacqui Boulter
  107. Cam’s ChristmasAnn Gray
  108. Santa’s Helper Mary Rudzinski
  109. “For The Girl Who Has Everything”Bill Canterbury
  110. Buon The ChristmouseGeorgette Kaftan
  111. Great Aunt MaccaBeaDanielle Sharkan
  112. Blue and Boots and the Christmas SpiritKatie Schwartz
  113. Santa’s SlumberJennifer Lowe
  114. The Holiday Helper ThingCindy L. Jeklin
  115. Holiday HelpersBonnie Anderson
  116. GRA’MERE’S COOKIESLoren Hackney

557 thoughts on “Ho! Ho! Ho! The 10th Annual Holiday Contest Is HERE!

  1. Anne Reilly says:

    *IVY’S CHRISTMAS WISH*

    by Anne Reilly

    Ivy’s tree was an outdoor tree— round and plain and very, very green. Green leaves, green stems, and green not-quite-ripe-yet fruit.

    Not at all like the sparkly, color-burst tree that towered and twinkled downtown.

    On Christmas Eve, as Ivy filled bird feeders and water bowls by the tree, she whispered a Christmas Wish—

    *I wish I had a twinkly, sparkly tree of my own!*

    Outside, as Ivy slept, Spider spun her webby garlands, Squirrel and Chipmunk tucked nuts and pinecones into branches, and Owl stuck nest twigs at odd angles atop the tree.

    All night long the Moon and Stars sprinkled moonbeams and stardust, as Jack Frost flocked the tree with a trillion tiny crystals.

    At dawn, Robin and Chickadee scattered winterberries from overhead.

    And the tree itself added a final touch…

    On Christmas morning Ivy awoke to happy birdsong, a treat-filled stocking…

    …and, outside her window, the scent of citrus and her Christmas Wish come true.

    Many thanks for posting this and for the competition – how fun!

    Sincerely.

    Anne

    Anne Reilly

    annereillywrites@gmail.com

  2. gabriellecardwell says:

    Decorating the Tree

    By Gabrielle Cardwell

    Time to decorate the tree,
    Mama, Lily, Ben and me.

    Baubles, tinsel, lights all ready.
    Careful, try to keep it steady.

    Christmas lights strung up by Ben.
    Lily hangs the baubles, then….

    it must be my turn next, but no.
    Lily gets another go.

    Mama sings and strums guitar,
    Ben and Lily hang the star.

    It isn’t fair. It isn’t right.
    I haven’t had a turn all night.

    I seize my moment. Now’s my chance.
    I tug the tinsel, dash and dance.

    Uh oh! The tree begins to fall,
    tinsel, baubles, lights and all.

    It crashes, smashes to the ground.
    Broken baubles all around.

    “Naughty Puppy,” Mama cries.
    Disappointment fills her eyes.

    I tried to help, but must confess,
    instead, I made a Christmas mess.

  3. viviankirkfield says:

    Hello Gabrielle…this is lovely! Great rhyme and rhythm…and I thought for sure it was a kid who was feeling left out…and then Mama cries, ‘Naughty Puppy”…what a great surprise ending…at least for me. Humor and heart – this entry has them both…well done!

  4. martyfindley says:

    Susanna-Here is my entry for the Holiday Contest. Thank you for making this happen! It is so much fun!

    NOT TOO LITTLE By Marty Findley

    Word Count: 243 words

    I tried to help bake While Mom answered the door But SPLAT! Cookie dough spilled All over the floor!

    I tried putting lights On the tree for my Dad But I couldn’t reach high enough It was so sad!

    “You’re still just too little To help us right now But maybe next year You can help us somehow!”

    “Too little, too little That’s all that I hear I don’t want to wait Until Christmas next year!”

    Too little, too little, Too little I’m not! I know I can help I just need the right spot!

    Then Christmas Eve came We had all gone to bed. We were all in our dreams Cookies danced through my head

    My daddy snoozed, snoring Mom mumbled in sleep And my little brother Was counting his sheep

    When out of my slumber I woke with a yelp A clamorous crash! Someone needed my help!

    I bounded from bed And raced into the den As the clock struck twelve I caught sight of HIM!

    He was setting the Christmas tree Back up and then… I saw it was Santa! White beard on his chin!

    “I’m just bit late Do a favor for me? Fill up the stockings? Put gifts ‘round the tree?”

    “Yes sir!” I shouted! “Just leave it to me!” “Thanks for the help,” Santa shouted with glee!

    Up the chimney he went And jumped into his sleigh “Great helper!” I heard As he went on his way!

  5. Brenda Whitehead (@BrendaW_Prof) says:

    (My main entry is posted on my blog, but I just couldn’t resist posting this second entry that’s so close to my heart. 🙂

    CHRISTMAS ANGEL
    By Brenda Whitehead
    (246 words)

    It was happening again. Mama crying at the kitchen table. Papa trying to comfort her.
    Mama called it the Christmas layoff. Papa called it business.
    “People just don’t build houses in the winter, boo.”
    It was just not fair. Goodbye, Christmas fund. Hello, Christmas-layoff supply of beans and canned spinach.
    YUCK.

    At dinner that night, Papa dropped the final bomb: “Munchkins, things are extra tight this year. We just won’t be able to get a tree.”
    NO CHRISTMAS TREE??
    The little ones started crying. Mama hid her face. Papa walked outside.
    I walked out to join him.
    Papa sighed. “We could certainly use a Christmas angel this year, boo. But we’ll be okay, right?”
    I nodded and leaned in for one of his famous hugs.
    Papa smiled. “You’re my real Christmas angel, boo. You make my heart fly.”

    THAT’S IT!!

    After everyone was in bed, I switched on my flashlight and counted my paper-route money.
    $157. Six months of hard work…
    But images of the teary eyes at the dinner table made up my mind.
    I slipped an envelope from the hallway desk and crept outside to deliver my secret gift.

    The next day, I watched as mama flipped through the mail. She paused. She opened the envelope. She cried. But this time they were happy tears.

    We got a tree. We got some presents. We even got a reprieve from beans and spinach!
    But getting to be a Christmas angel? That made my heart fly.

  6. Nicola Thackrey (@NicolaT071) says:

    DECORATIONS DEPUTY (249 words)

    “Now everyone…RELAX!” sighed the mayor of Sleigh Bell City,
    “Oh, what a Christmas Eve! Well done, my Festive Frills Committee!
    Thanks to elf efficiency and dazzling dedication,
    We’ve made sure every home on Earth is decked in decoration!”

    The deputy named Dash burst in, and cried “I’m sorry chief!
    I’m getting some reports about a sneaky winter thief!
    Our garlands, bows and stars are gone! Everything’s been taken!
    I’m off to set things right before the boys and girls awaken!”

    Dash flew first to Finland, laying thick white winter snow,
    Then he skipped along to Sweden, setting twinkly lights aglow.
    He bounced on by to Belgium – bringing baubles, big and round,
    Then hopped over to Holland, lighting candles all around.
    In Scotland he saw Santa who was filling every stocking,
    “Ho-ho! I’ve heard the news, I say! This really is quite shocking!”
    Dash took some trees to Calgary, with presents underneath.
    Then wooshed towards Wisconsin with a giant jolly wreath.

    It felt hotter down in Houston, Dash knew something wasn’t right,
    The culprit snatched some tinsel and gave Dash an awful fright!
    It hurried up the chimney, water trickled and it dripped,
    Dash chased him to the roof – ran through a puddle, and they slipped!

    Dash looked around to face him but immediately froze,
    The robbers eyes slid down his face, beside his carrot nose.
    He struggled free and tried to flee – Dash laughed and shouted “STOP!”
    “There’s no escaping now, Snowman! You’re melting by the drop!”

  7. ellenturcio says:

    A Super Scooper
    By Ellen Turcio
    (250 words)

    Marvin Welvandersloot III walked into the reindeer barn and did not believe his eyes.
    “Great jingling bells! How did those magical marvels make such a beastly mess!” the elf snorted.
    The big poop piles put the Reindeer Pooper Scooper helper’s plan in danger.

    Every Welvandersloot before him was a Christmas Eve Sleigh Scooper.
    Marvin had to be too!
    This was his chance to earn it, but now he was behind the behinds!

    So, Marvin grabbed the Superscoop 8000 and started scooping.
    “Blitzen must’ve gotten into the spice cake again, I smell cloves,” he muttered as he scooped. And scooped. And… scooped.

    Marvin was still just three stalls in, knee-deep in poop, when he heard the Head Helper coming to check everyone’s progress.
    The other helpers already finished buffing the bells and refilling the feed buckets.
    He’d never finish before she arrived.

    And then he saw it.
    The shadow of Prancer’s poop pile on the back wall looked just like a reindeer!
    Ahh-HA!

    Marvin got to work shaping each poopy reindeer figure in all nine vacant stalls.
    Dancer’s likeness looked especially dapper.
    Marvin spread hay on the bare floors and hoped for the best.

    The Head Helper hurried through the barn.
    “Marvin, I’ve never seen a helper work so hard. You’ll make a great Sleigh Scooper this year,” she winked.

    “Oh, and Marvin,” she said as she walked away, “after you finish in here, go check with Reggie. He could use your help on the ice sculptures for the holiday party…”

  8. stacey miller says:

    A Cranky Christmas

    By Stacey Miller

    (244 words)

    Grump loathed lots of things…
    Fun.
    Joy.
    And laughter.
    But there was one thing that really got his warts popping…

    …Christmas!
    “It’s full of icky cheer, sicky goodness, and urgh…
    soppy kindness,” said Grump as he sulked in his swamp.
    That night he was rudely awakened by…

    Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrp!
    “Whose bottom is burping?” cried Grump.
    “It is I Farter Christmas and I’ve come to help you enjoy a Cranky Christmas.”
    “What the gunky goo is that?” asked Grump.
    “Why It’s mud pies,
    snot snow and…
    …crusty carols,” cried Farter Christmas.
    “Rubbish,” said Grump.
    “It’s cranky crackers,
    slimy sprouts and…

    …Rude-dolph the red-rumped reindeer,” chuckled Farter Christmas.
    “Boring,” yawned Grump.
    “What about a ride on my sludgy sleigh?” asked Farter Christmas.
    “Will you leave me alone if I do?” said Grump.
    “I poopy promise,” said Farter Christmas.
    Grump slumped in the sleigh.

    As they whizzed and fizzed, Farter Christmas flung pongy presents to all the little Grumplins.
    Grump watched all their grubby faces glow.
    Suddenly a wiggly warmth swept from his stinky feet to his hairy head.
    And a smile oozed out of his moany mouth.
    “Argh! I’ve caught icky cheer,” he cried. “Quick I need to get home before it spreads.”
    But it was too late…

    “I think my work here is done,” said Farter Christmas.
    But Grump didn’t have time to grumble or gripe he was too busy helping the Grumplins make snot-men, sing crusty carols, and eat mountains of mud pies.

    The End

  9. Susan.drew (@_susandrew) says:

    SYLVIA KITTY
    by Susan Drew

    It would be just Sylvia, Mama, and Freddie Kitty for Christmas.

    They all missed Papa Kitty who was out to sea again.

    What could Sylvia do to help out Mama?

    Vacuum? Dishes? Go to the market? She wasn’t big enough for those chores.

    She heard Freddie cry. It wasn’t his typical meow.

    She looked in his crib. No Freddie. The MEowing got louder.

    He wasn’t in the bathtub. The MEOWing got louder.

    It was coming from the living room! The MEOWING was really loud!

    There was Freddie, at the top of the Christmas Tree!

    One paw was stuck to Angel Kitty’s dress.

    Another paw was hanging onto the top branch for dear life.

    Sylvia yelled. “Hang on! I’ll get you!”

    She went straight up the trunk, but the lights and ornaments kept getting in her way.

    She had to be careful not to break any of Mama’s favorite ornaments.

    Freddie was MEEOOOWWIING even louder.

    Mama darted into the room.

    “Oh no, Freddie!” Mama put both front paws over her eyes. Her whole body was shaking.

    Sylvia kept climbing. Past the candy canes, the handcut snowflakes, and the popcorn strings.

    “I got you Freddie,” she said. She eased Freddie onto her back.

    She slowly backed down the tree until she reached the floor where Mama was waiting.

    “Sylvia, I’m so grateful you were here to save the day!” Mama said.

    Sylvia was proud that she had found her own way to help.

  10. Kathiann Weatherbee (@WeatherbeeBooks) says:

    Bug Academy Christmas Pageant
    By Kathiann Weatherbee

    Fly burst into the gym of Bug Academy.
    “Spider, I’ve been looking for you!…What are you doing?!”
    “Oh, I’m just working on my lines.”
    “I need help with my lines for the Christmas pageant tonight too! Let’s work together!”
    “I don’t have any lines in the pageant, Fly…I’m cast as a tree. I’m working on drag lines for ropes class. I can crawl up, but I can’t repel down. But c’mon, it’s getting late. We’ll rehearse on the way.”
    Fireflies lit the village square with warm light, and a stage was set up in the middle. Everyone buzzed with excitement. A band of crickets played carols on the street corner, and Ant’s Imported Food Truck sold hot chocolate and popcorn.
    Spider, in his tree costume, took his place near the back of the stage as he watched Fly in the spotlight. Fly stumbled over a word and the audience quietly chuckled. Then he missed a line, and the laughter grew.
    Spider squirmed with embarrassment for his best friend. Suddenly he crawled right out of his costume and left it standing in its place. He grabbed a script and scampered up the back of the curtain. Drag lines didn’t come easily for Spider, but Fly needed him! Spider inhaled and slowly let go. He did it – dangling above Fly’s head, just out of view! He whispered Fly’s next line. Fly looked up and smiled. Not only had Spider finally conquered drag lines, but he also saved the pageant.

    (250 Words)

  11. Mattie Noall says:

    Calma the Llama
    By Mattie Noall

    Calma was an ordinary llama. She wasn’t special except she was clean.
    The city of Bethlehem was busy and crowded today. Caesar Augustus was taxing the people. The stable was crowded too.
    Calma watched the city, She saw a couple. They looked poor, but seemed to glow.
    The wife was going to have a baby soon.
    They came towards the stable.
    The animals moved out of their way as they came into the stable.
    “I don’t know about this Mary,” said the husband.
    “What choice do we have Joseph?” asked Mary.
    “None,” said Joseph.
    As Joseph helped Mary, Calma wanted to be near Mary. Calma pressed in closer. Joseph tried to shoo her away.
    “Let the llama come close to me. She looks clean. She may be able to comfort me,” said Mary.
    Calma laid next to Mary and she wrapped her arms around Calma’s.
    Through the birth, Mary buried her face in Calma’s neck. Sometimes Mary would squeeze too hard. A peaceful feeling kept Calma calm. There was anticipation in the air.
    Soon there was the cry of a baby. Joseph gently wrapped the baby and handed him to Mary.
    Calma got up and went outside. Something bright in the sky caught her eye. A new star had appeared. It was brighter than any star she had ever seen. She realized then what she had witnessed. She was not just an ordinary llama, she had seen the birth of a King. She would remember this day forever.

  12. lupierro (@lupierro) says:

    DON’T LET THE CAT HELP DECORATE THE TREE
    by Lu Pierro

    Listen my children and you shall hear why you NEVER, EVER allow the cat to help you decorate the Christmas tree. It all began long, long ago when we had the week of Cat Mess.
    On the first day of Christmas my kitty gave to me a hairball in a fir tree.
    On the second day of Christmas my kitty gave to me two naughty elves, and a hairball in a fir tree.
    On the third day of Christmas my kitty gave to me three blind mice, two naughty elves, and a hairball in a fir tree.
    On the fourth day of Christmas my kitty gave to me four slimy snails, three blind mice, two naughty elves, and a hairball in a fir tree.
    On the fifth day of Christmas my kitty gave to me five wiggly worms, four slimy snails, three blind mice, two naughty elves ,,and a hairball in a fir tree.
    On the sixth day of Christmas my kitty gave to me six parrots squawking, five wiggly worms, four slimy snails, three blind mice, two naughty elves, and a hairball in a fir tree.
    On the seventh day of Christmas my kitty brought to me:Seven snakes a slithering, six parrots squawking, five balls of yarn, four slimy snails, three blind mice, two naughty elves. and a hairball in a fir tree.
    (236 words)

  13. nataliecohn0258 says:

    BigFoot”s Surprise

    by Natalie Cohn (249 words)

    “Let’s get this tree up before BigFoot comes back,” said Jack Rabbit.

    A tiny chipmunk family scurried up, popcorn garland hanging from their mouths. Birds lifted ornaments to cover the bare branches. Owl caught stardust and formed a glistening tree topper.

    “BigFoot will be surprised! He had a rough year. All those BigFoot hunters tracking him didn’t help,” Jack Rabbit said, adjusting the tree skirt.

    Porcupine waddled in, lights tangled in his quills. “Sorry!”

    “Jack Rabbit shot up in the air, “He’ll be back any minute! We must untangle you.”

    “We’ll help!” tweeted the Blue Jays. “Bigfoot saved us when we fell out of our nests.”

    The birds got to work. The sound of feet crunching echoed through the woods. All the animals scrambled to get the finishing touches done, but Porcupine was still all tied up.

    “I got an idea,” said Owl. He flew off, searching for ribbon. Returned in a huff, he wrapped up Porcupine, who stood graciously under the tree. “Now, light him up!”

    “Hey, friends,” BigFoot said. “I don’t think I have the energy for Christmas. I’m exhausted.” He placed his muddy boots next to a log. “Guess I’m ready to place the—.”

    Stunned by the display, a huge grin crept across his face. He saw Porcupine with a massive bow on his head lit up along with the tree. “It’s beautiful! Would you like me to unwrap you?”

    Porcupine nodded.

    “Now, I don’t have to put the tree up this year. Thank you, guys!”

  14. Jill Richards Proctor says:

    A FINE IDEA

    by Jilll Proctor
    249 Words
    (Target Age: 10-12 yrs.)

    “Let me cut down the tree this year!” “No, let me!” “No, it’s my turn!” Voices rang out, and no one could agree.
    As an axe was raised, a child cried out, “Why must we chop down a tree to celebrate life?”
    “I would like to help save the tree, said a rancher. I can dig it up with my backhoe!”
    “That’s a fine idea!” agreed some of the townspeople.
    And the tree was planted in the town’s square.
    “Let’s decorate it with my pearly white lights!” “No, my homegrown cranberries and popped corn!” “No, my handmade ribbons and bows!” Voices rang out, but no one could agree.
    The child spoke again.
    “We can all help. Let’s each hang something that gives us joy!”
    “That’s a fine idea!” agreed many of the townspeople.
    The child hung a likeness of his dog. Others hung baubles of loved ones, and some of their favorite places and things.
    “Who shall place the star atop the tree?”
    “Let it be the child!” someone shouted.
    “That’s a fine idea!” agreed most of the townspeople.
    The tallest among them helped raise the child high in the sky, and the youngest helper hooked the star to the top of the tree.
    The star lit up the cool night sky, and the townspeople clapped their hands with joy.
    “Let’s sing!” cried the child.
    “That’s a fine idea!” agreed all of the townspeople.
    And their voices rang out in harmony, thanks to the help of the wise child.

  15. Ashley Congdon (@AshleyCCongdon) says:

    Holly the Holiday Helper

    by Ashley Congdon

    WC: 249

    Holly was the number-one helper at the Holiday Helper Hotline. Not one case went unhelped. 

    From big helps . . .

    “You need to find three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree? Happy to help!” 

    To small helps . . . 

    “North Pole Pizza? Happy to help. I’ll direct your call.” 

    To silly helps . . .

    “I can fill in for Sheep Three for rehearsals. Don’t worry a-baa-out it. Happy to help!”

    Holly lit up every time she saw her name at the top of the Helper Board. 

    Riiinnng.

    “Thank you for calling the Holiday Helper Hotline. This is Holly. How may I help you?” 

    “Ho. Ho. Help! The reins ripped! Rudolph! Watch out for that tree!”

    Beeeeep. 

    “Santa?! He hung up. I can’t have an unhelped case. I’ll search all of Tinseltown.”

    Holly dashed out the door to St. Nick Circle.

    “Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen . . .”

    “Santa’s reindeer!”

    “But do you recall . . .”

    “Oh bells. Just carolers.” 

    Dong.

    “My helper shift is almost over. Where’s Santa?” 

    Holly raced to Townsquare.

    “Ho ho ho.” 

    “Santa!”

    “Photo with Santa here!”

    “Oh bells. Just a Santa stand-in.” 

    Dong.

    “Thirty minutes left!”

    Holly darted downtown. 

    No reindeer.

    No Santa. 

    Dooonnng.

    Holly sulked in the snow. 

    “One unhelped case. But worst of all, Christmas may be ruined because I couldn’t help Santa.”

    Jingle. Jingle. Jingle. 

    “Could it be? Santa?!” 

    Holly sprinted to see. Her work day was done, but she was ALWAYS happy to help. 

    “Merry Christmas Santa! I’m Holly. How may I help?”

  16. mwolpin says:

    My entries above are not linking properly so here is my entry below:

    OLLIE’S CHRISTMAS VISITS
    by Marilyn Wolpin (mwolpin@optonline.net)

    Author’s Note: This story was inspired by a real-life 14-year old blind and deaf golden retriever named Oliver who spends his days visiting his neighbors. The people in the poem are pure fiction.

    Christmas day at break of dawn
    Ollie barks, “Please let me out.”
    Down the steps, across the lawn
    He’s starting on his route.

    Ollie has a job today:
    Help bring on a smile,
    In his very special way:
    His friendship for a while.

    Almost there – around the bend,
    She’s waiting at the door.
    Gray-haired Mrs. Townsend,
    He’ll make her smile – and more!

    With outstretched arms
    She hugs her friend –
    A dog with charms
    That never end.

    Ollie’s done.
    It’s time to go.
    Another one
    Is lonely, so –

    Off he goes,
    Around the block.
    Ollie knows
    He’s on the clock.

    Mr. Tom is lonely
    He needs a visit bad.
    Here comes happy Ollie
    A smile shows Tom is glad.

    Tom shares a delicious treat
    and throws a bouncing ball.
    He says, “Ollie, you’re so sweet
    to make this special call.”

    But Ollie has more work to do,
    Another lonesome friend to greet.
    A green backyard to cut through
    And just across the street.

    Mr. Charles lives all alone.
    No children or a mate.
    He never chatters on the phone.
    Ollie bustles through the gate.

    Mr. Charles wheels to the door,
    And ushers his guest in.
    Ollie helps him with a chore,
    And watches his friend grin.

    Christmas day is fading fast.
    Ollie’s jobs are done.
    Helping’s fun. He had a blast!
    He heads home on the run.

    Ollie’s finished spreading joy.
    But he needs mom’s help now.
    Hugs, rubs, and “Who’s a good boy?”
    And a bowl of puppy chow.

  17. marty says:

    A DUST BUNNY’S CHRISTMAS
    by Marty Bellis (martymi6@aol.com)
    250 words

    Little dust bunny watched from his corner as the Gray family bustled about, preparing for Christmas.

    He saw them decorate their tiny tree with paper chains and a single string of lights.

    He smelled the aroma of momma’s baking – a pan of gingerbread.

    The children begged to taste it. But momma said they must wait. It was their one special Christmas treat.

    He heard momma and papa talking after the children went to bed, worrying about the lack of presents and the disappointment it would bring.

    Little dust bunny longed to help, but what could he do?

    The next day, he watched the children make snowflakes to tape to the windows.

    “I wish it would snow,” said the boy. “Snow makes everything sparkle.”

    They gathered pinecones to fill a bowl for a centerpiece.

    “I wish we had glitter for the pinecones,” said his sister. “Then they’d sparkle.”

    They wrapped their gifts in brown paper decorated with crayon drawings.

    “No sparkly ribbon,” the girl sighed.

    That evening, the family gathered to sing carols, read Christmas stories.

    Dust bunny thought it was the most magical evening ever.

    Once everyone was in bed, he knew what he would do.

    He had just one thing to give.

    But he remembered his grandpa saying they came from a long line of illustrious stars and comets. Maybe it would be enough.

    Whoosh, swoosh, swirl!

    The Grays awoke to find stardust … glittering here, sparkling there, transforming everything.

    “It’s magic,” said the children.

    “Merry Christmas,” whispered dust bunny.

  18. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR KETAN

    Naserian – A Maasai Holiday Helper
    by Ketan Ram
    word count = 237
    (Vocabulary for the story: Maasai Mara: the land or territory of the
    Maasai Tribe in Kenya. Boma: a small grouping of extended Maasai
    families and their huts. Shuka: a warm plaid blanket worn by Maasai.
    Mzee – a word of respect used for elders.)
    *********************************************************************************
    The Maasai Mara turned bone cold this December. In every Maasai boma,
    young and old were wrapped in shukas and huddled around bonfires.
    Naserian, aged 7, had only known December to be wonderfully sunny and
    warm. Christmas involved feasting on a freshly roasted kill, with
    Maasai jumping, singing, dancing, story-telling and other merriment
    well into the night. Naserian was determined not to let the cold
    weather get in the way of her favorite holiday.

    She went to speak to Mzee Naeku, the boma elder, “Mzee, why is it so
    cold this December?”

    Naeku replied knowingly, “We have forgotten to laugh! At dawn of every
    day, go to a clearing, look up at the clouds and ask our ancestors for
    forgiveness.”

    Naserian followed Naeku’s advice but the cold held fast. It was now
    the day before Christmas and Naserian woke before dawn’s animal
    chorus. In the quiet, it came to her … Naserian would make the
    ancestors laugh! Excited, she leaped out of bed, ran to the clearing,
    looked up at dark sky and began telling her funny jokes and stories.
    Soon, she herself burst into laughter. Her laughter was contagious and
    woke the boma. They ran to the clearing and joined in the fun. Soon a
    rich orange sun emerged on the horizon and lifted the clouds to reveal
    a glorious blue sky. It worked! Naserian helped make Maasai Christmas
    the warm festive holiday she knew and loved.

  19. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR ELIZABETH

    WHO WILL DO IT?
    (April Helps Out)
    About 249 Words
    by
    Elizabeth Westra

    Who will do it? April wondered. Daddy’s sick. Maybe Mommy will. April heard her baby brother coo as Mommy fed him. Mommy sang a lullaby. Then Mommy’s feet swished down the hall, and the bathroom light clicked on. Water gushed from the faucet. The light clicked off, and Mommy’s slippers swished to their bedroom.

    She’s not going to do it. Somebody has to, but It’s dark and scary downstairs. April slid from bed onto the cool floor, then got her flashlight. She tiptoed to the door, opened it and peeked out. No one there. She clicked her flashlight on, entered the hall and crept down the shadowy staircase. The flashlight shook. She clutched the banister and descended into darkness.

    She checked the front door first. Everything okay. She circled the living room, shining her light on each window. Windows locked.

    Footsteps on the stairs made April’s heart leap. She whirled and squealed. Only Mommy.

    “What are you doing?” asked Mommy.

    “C.c..checking doors and windows,” April said.

    “Why?” asked Mommy.

    “To see if they’re locked. Daddy does to make sure we’re safe for the night. Daddy’s sick, and you didn’t check. So I did.”

    Mommy smiled. “Daddy will be happy.”

    April followed Mommy into their bedroom. “How you feeling, Daddy?” “Better.” Daddy smiled.

    “April checked doors and windows for you,” Mommy said.

    “Thank you, sweetie.” Daddy gave her a prickly whisker kiss. “I’ll sleep better now.”

    Later, April snuggled into bed murmuring, “Now we’re safe for the night.”

  20. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR MARTHA

    Bambini Christmas
    By Martha Holguin (234 words)

    Five days before Christmas…near the Arctic North Pole.

    Lived eleven Bambini’s all snug…in their abode.

    The door blew wide open…much to their surprise.

    An old lady stood puzzled, “Where am I,” she cried.

    Four days before Christmas…near the Arctic North Pole.

    An old lady lay sleeping, snoring galore.

    Three days before Christmas…a thumpity thump arrived.

    Christmas jingles and jangles herald outside.

    “Ho… Ho…Ho,” roared a voice with such passion.

    The old lady woke to a sounding commotion.

    “Could it be St. Nickolas?” she blurted the notion.

    “Greetings St. Nickolas,” said Mrs. Claus.

    “You fell off the sleigh,” replied Mr. Claus.

    Two days before Christmas. . .and into the night.

    Bambini’s are helpers like Elves on Christmas night.

    Morning arrived with a knock, knock, knock, knock.

    “Gifts…at our doorstep?” Bambini’s implied.

    “No! they said, “A little Bambino alone and bewildered on a cold winter night.”

    “Welcome Bambino to our humble abode,” Bambini’s declared.

    Merry and cheerfully dancing together, Bambino shouted “This is the best Christmas gift ever.”

    “Bambini’s became Elves on this very day…Santa’s little helpers,” revered Santa Claus in a grandeur fashion.

    Mr. and Mrs. Claus declared “a Bambini Christmas tonight to honor this day.”

    The evening began with eight reindeer, a sleigh, and a midnight plight.

    A red bundle of joy filled with toys also in flight with Saint Nick belting a holler, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

  21. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR SHARIFFA

    Holiday Helpers

    “Mummy, with Covid upon us. What will the Kibera children do this Xmas?

    No party, nor gifts or Xmas tree?” Ayla asked

    Ayla and her friends got together.

    “ Sharing is caring.” Said Ayla

    “If we mask and distance could we have a party?The Kibera children live in a shack under the bridge. They looked forward to their Xmas treat.” Said Sitara

    Ayla, her pet monkey, Momo and their friends made a list.

    “ We found a perfect Xmas tree. “ said Sasha

    Everyone was busy making shiny baubles, colourful beads for the tree. So many helping hands. Cookies like Xmas trees, crescent moon and stars. Balloons blown up. Extra masks too.

    “ Dad, can you drive us to Kibera on Xmas day? “Ayden and Iman asked.

    “Yes, indeed, the children deserve a party.” He said

    All was ready on Xmas eve. Dad went off to fill up the car. Alas there was no fuel. Not enough to drive to Kibera. The children, in tears, disappointed. Oh no! We have to find a way.

    The neighborhood got together. All the spare fuel went into the tank. Just as the sun was setting, they had enough fuel. Every helping hand matters.

    Early on Xmas day, off they set.

    The Kibera children, lined the road, delighted with the colourful balloons waving from the car.

    The Xmas tree was up. Momo the monkey climbed to the top and hung up the shimmering star. Everyone sang, danced and celebrated. Sharing IS caring.

  22. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR ELLEN

    A Servant’s Heart
    By Ellen Crosby

    “Mom, what does a servant’s heart look like?”
    She turns with a smile. “Good question! I think taking a walk around Christmastown might help us figure that out!”
    Out the door we go.
    There’s Justine volunteering at the homeless shelter and serving food to the hungry.
    There’s Derek playing his guitar for the residents in the nursing home just to brighten their day.
    There’s Cody mowing lawns for his neighbors for FREE!
    There’s Kathy walking dogs for the pet adoption agency.
    There’s Corinna and Ruth devotedly cleaning their church.
    There’s Stanley visiting people who can’t leave their homes.
    There’s Timmy buying groceries for those who can’t afford to buy their own.
    There’s Susie handing out beautiful hats and mittens she crocheted for children who don’t have them.
    And look, there’s Freddie and Melissa spending their time helping at a day camp for special needs kids.
    Mom says we can keep walking, but I think I understand.
    “Can you answer your own question?” Mom’s eyes twinkles.
    I nod my head. A servant’s heart is a beautiful thing. It believes in the best and has faith that in doing good, blessings abound. It laughs and cries right along with those that are helped. It can be infectious by the example it sets. The greatest example of a servant’s heart is the heart of Jesus. We celebrate His birth right now at Christmastime, but those with His servant’s heart celebrate Him all year around by lending a helping hand.

      • Ellen Crosby says:

        Thank you, Laurie! I appreciate your encouraging words! That means a lot since I am continuing to hone my writing. I really loved reading all the stories … so entertaining, but also helps me aspire to keep writing and develop my creative chops more.

  23. bfloescher@yahoo.com says:

    Snail’s Starry Night
    by Becky Loescher
    249 words

    The forest was a’chatter with excitement as the creatures prepared for their performance of The Story of Christmas. Everyone agreed Miss ’Possum should be Mary. Fox announced he would play Joseph. Of course, the woods’ newest, tiniest mouseling would be baby Jesus. The rabbits hopped around, excited. “We’ll play the shepherds, and the chipmunks, our sheep!” Three raccoons called out, “We’ll be the three wise men!” “Dear me,” said star-nosed Mole, their Director. “What part could Snail play?” Snail called, “I’ll help! I’ll make the star!” Mole’s eyes grew big. No one said a word. Snail’s help often ended in disaster. But Snail had already glided off to find star materials.
    The animals gathered forest treasures for decorations…a small evergreen tree, pine cones, red holly berries, and bright yellow-gold toadstools. Soon Snail returned with twigs, moss and milkweed pods and got to work. But whenever she moved, her sticky slime stuck to what she worked on. The twigs stuck together in shapes unlike any star. The moss fell apart. Milkweed puffs flew everywhere, sticking to everything.
    The forest creatures were waiting for the play to begin. Snail wailed, “I can’t make a star!” Mole rushed over, slipped on Snail’s shimmery trail, and fell…KER-PLUNK…flat on his star-nose. As he raised his head, the audience gasped—Mole’s starry nose sparkled in the moonlight. He scurried to the rock above the shepherds in the field. The forest creatures cheered, “Look! The STAR!” And the littlest helper’s joyful smile warmed their holy night!

  24. seschipper says:

    Susanna, here is my entry for the 10th Annual Holiday Contest! Sending a huge thank you to you and all of the generous Prize donors! Happy Holidays!!

    Sandy Claws’ Helpers

    By Susan E. Schipper
    seschipper@comcast.net

    Down deep in the sea past where waves crash,
    Far away from where little kids splash
    Sandy Claws and her helpers each year
    Work hard to make gifts that spread lots of cheer!

    But this year was different Sandy’s Sea Shop was bare!
    No helpers could be found she looked everywhere.
    Christmas was coming, just a few days away
    She sat down and sobbed filled with dismay!

    Sandy Claws knew she could not disappoint
    She picked herself up, joint by joint.
    Candy cane algae is always a treat
    And she needed some paint for the new coral reef!

    Sea stars to be shined, decorations to be hung
    Sandy’s sea sleigh bells just had to be rung!
    But she could not do it without any help.
    Then suddenly she heard her friend Kelp!

    In the underwater forest she followed the sound.
    Much to her surprise here’s what Sandy found.
    Her Holiday Helpers were scurrying about
    Preparing for Christmas without a doubt!

    Sea Urchin was stitching her sack
    Jellyfish was hurrying to make yummy snacks!
    Octopus’ legs were all very busy
    He was working so quickly she feared he’d get dizzy!

    Sandy rushed to see her helpers, everyone was there,
    Now she no longer had to despair!
    They tried to make Christmas easy for Sandy this year
    Working together to create Christmas cheer!

    Christmas was spectacular under the sea
    Sandy and helpers were thrilled as can be.
    Singing merrily, everything was right!
    “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

  25. Dawn Young says:

    Susanna, Thank you so much for all you and the wonderful prize donors do for our writing community. Happy Holidays!

    Dawn Young
    246 words

    DEAR SANTA

    Dear Santa,

    It’s me Joey. You remember me, last year I asked for a bike, stuff to build a
    treehouse, and a puppy. Benji is getting big and learning to shake hands. He is my best friend! Thank you, Santa!

    This year I would like a different kind of gift. I need fifteen blankets! I bet you think our house is cold or that I like to sleep in my treehouse. But that’s not why I need the blankets.

    Last Saturday my family drove around our town looking at Christmas lights. Along the way we saw people sitting or sleeping on the ground. My Dad told me that these people were down on their luck and didn’t have a house to live in.

    This made me sad. I can’t stop thinking about one family I saw living in the park. There was a mom, dad and two boys. I know the older boy, Nathan. He goes to my school. I didn’t know his family was homeless.

    About the blankets, I want my family to make goodie bags and deliver them and the blankets to the people on the streets. I told my mom and dad about seeing Nathan and asked if we could please help his family.

    Guess what? Dad went and talked to Nathan’s dad. Our church is going to help them get a house! Mom said we can invite them over for Christmas dinner! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    Love,
    Joey

    P.S. Benji would like a bone!

  26. Linda Staszak says:

    Thanks for doing this! It’s so much fun!

    CHRISTMAS NEIGHBOR
    By Linda Staszak 240 words

    Every December, the house at 25 Holly Lane glowed and smelled like cinnamon.
    And Mr. Jingle sat in his special sleigh and passed out cocoa and cookies.
    But this year he was sick. Mrs. Jingle spent every day at the hospital, and the little house sat dark and quiet and lonely.
    Peter, who lived next door, shoveled snow from his neighbors’ driveway.
    He chipped ice off their steps.
    And he played with their lonely cats.
    One day, he peeked in their back yard shed and found boxes of lights and ornaments.
    Peter knew what he had to do–he strung the lights, hung garland, and tied bows until the little house looked happy again.
    But there was one thing left—the sleigh. It was so heavy, but somehow he dragged it into the front yard right where it should be. Mrs. Jingle would be so surprised.
    And she was.
    When she saw her festive house, tears trickled down her cheeks.
    “I think Mr. Jingle knew what you did. Look,” she said.
    The car door opened, and Mr. Jingle gingerly stepped out.
    “Ho, ho, ho. I knew you’d have everything ready for me,” Mr. Jingle said. He trudged through the snow to his sleigh and climbed in.
    The neighborhood came alive. Holiday lights twinkled. Snowflakes sparkled. Laughter floated on the air.
    Peter’s eyes were big as saucers, and his smile lit up the night.
    “Merry Christmas,” was all he could say.

  27. Megan Hunnicutt says:

    Sugar’s Spin
    by Megan and Rob Hunnicutt

    Sugar lay perfectly still on the plate.
    She had done it, landed THE job, and tonight was the night.
    She would be Santa’s cookie.
    Sugar had heard stories of others who had been chosen.
    But they were always gingerbread men or store-bought cookies.
    Not this time.
    Sugar was just an average break and bake cookie.
    Icing spread thick over her by Marian,
    Sprinkles added by the tiny yet troublesome Peter.
    Sure, she was somewhat misshapen by tiny hands,
    And Peter may have nibbled on her a bit,
    But out of all the cookies made that morning,
    They chose her.
    Now she lay on the shiny plate perfectly still.
    Waiting.
    And then…
    The smell of peppermint filled the room.
    He was here!
    Santa’s face appeared over the plate.
    Sugar held her breath.
    “Well, you are too special to eat!” He said with a smile.
    Suddenly she felt the plate spin,
    He gave her a magical wink, and Sugar heard jingle bells.
    “Okay then, off of that plate and into the sleigh,
    We have work to do, new little elf.”
    Sugar sat up.
    She looked down at her new feet,
    Tucked into green shoes with bells on the toes,
    She swished her new red dress,
    And felt her pointed ears,
    Santa had made Sugar into an elf!
    She was one of Santa’s elves!
    Her life would never be the same.
    So whatever you do, don’t forget to leave cookies for Santa this Christmas Eve!
    He needs all the help he can get.

  28. Vicky Langdon (@VickyJLangdon) says:

    Elf and the Pixies
    By Vicky Langdon

    Everything was ready for the Christmas play. Songs learnt. Costumes made. “Two sleeps to go!” chirped the children. Elf’s frown had grown with each magic-thieving cuddle from these children. Now he sat on his shelf with a mischievous glint in his eye.
    The next morning glittery chaos greeted the children. Torn angel wings dangled by a thread. Shredded wool had fallen like snow. “Everything’s ruined!” the children cried. Elf wore a crooked smile.
    With down-turned faces, the children gathered scraps of costume. A floppy angel’s halo, a torn sheep’s tail, a single donkey’s ear. Finally, a tidy room crowded with silence.
    Children back home. Elf alone in the room. Mischief on his mind. Suddenly tiny sparks lit up the darkness. He batted at them. They pinched, pulled and plonked him down. “Pixies!” muttered Elf as they wound fairy lights around his arms.
    Elf wriggled, growled and narrowed his eyes. The pixies giggled and spun around the tattered costumes. All at once, they were still. Elf blinked at the shiny new outfits. He stamped his feet but the pixies sprinkled him with pixie dust and he fell fast asleep.
    Children’s laughter broke Elf’s slumber. His arms were free again so he crossed them and scowled. The room was alive with chatter and cheer. It jingled joy into Elf’s ear. He forgave the children. His magic lived on – he could still fly to Santa each night.
    Wobbly singing. Perfect costumes. Giant smiles. The play spread glitter and sparkle into Elf’s heart.

  29. Cristina Raymer (@craymer328) says:

    The Signed Confession
    By, Cristina Raymer
    Word Count: 247

    Dear Santa,

    We have a problem. My big sister, Mary, recently got added to your Naughty List; a HUGE mistake on your end and once you know the true events that transpired, you will understand why.

    You see, it all started when Miss Hills assigned her Christmas Story Contest. The winner would win this super duper, crazy awesome, multi-colored notebook. I really, REALLY wanted this notebook, so I worked hard ALL WEEK on my story. The winner? Booger-eating, toenail picking Jimmy who wrote his story the morning it was due. THAT MORNING! To make matters worse, during recess, Jimmy kept bragging in my face about winning while carelessly tossing around the beautiful notebook. I couldn’t help myself. I slugged him right in the mouth. Mary witnessed everything and came running to my aid. To save me from getting into trouble, she claimed responsibility for my criminal offense and convinced Jimmy to go along with her confession.

    Well, when Mom found out, she FLIPPED. Now, Mary can’t eat any Christmas cookies and Mary LOVES Christmas cookies. I wanted to confess, but Mary stopped me and said it was a worthy sacrifice.Then, Mom informed her of your updated Naughty List.

    Now, I’m doing the only thing I can do. I’m giving you a legally signed document confirming that I punched Jimmy, NOT Mary. I willingly accept the Naughty List punishment and you may give all my toys to Jimmy as compensation for his swollen lip.

    Sincerely,

    Lindsay Jones

  30. anneuro says:

    The Reverse Advent Calendar
    by Anne Lipton (249 words)

    I love Advent calendars. You know, those countdown-to-Christmas calendars with twenty-four slots filled with chocolate, candy, or other treats. I love Advent calendars so much that last year I ate ours all in one sitting.

    I’d love to say I’m sorry, but it was delicious. I’m only sorry for what happened afterwards. Mom was so upset.

    But the doctor said I was going to be fine. And I was, at least until Thanksgiving, when Mom announced: “We’re not going to have an Advent Calendar this year.”

    I yelped in dismay.

    No Advent Calendar = No chocolate = No treats.

    “No chocolate,” Mom underscored.

    My gut clenched, both at the memory of last December and my heartbreakingly chocolate-free Christmas Future. I gave Mom my best puppy-dog eyes, but she shook her head. “This year, we’re doing a Reverse Advent Calendar. We’ll make treats and give them away every day until Christmas.”

    I emitted a low whine, my heart sinking to the floor.

    The sweet and spicy aromas of gingerbread and sugar cookies soon revived me, and I helped Mom make peppermint bark, of course.

    Every day before Christmas, we visited friends, neighbors, and essential workers to deliver our treats. I was such a good boy. I didn’t eat any. (And believe me, the struggle was real.)

    Until one day, Mom made dog biscuits, and we took them all to the animal shelter. All except one. Or three. Dogs can’t count!

  31. susaninez0905 says:

    Holiday Helper Extraordinaire
    By: Susan Summers
    WC: 242

    I start my ‘holiday help’ list by whisking up batter.
    Splat!
    I roll the dough and make lots of fun shapes.
    I bake the cookies and let them cool.
    Job number one: done!
    Who cares if there’s flour dusting the whole kitchen?

    Next, I grab carrots and put them in the blender.
    BUZZZ.
    Whirr.
    Orange foam appears.
    The reindeer smoothies are a success!
    Job number two: through!
    There’s carrot juice on the ceiling. No big deal.

    I run and grab a bag of glitter, stuffing my hand inside.
    Spinning and swirling I send handfuls of the stuff throughout the workshop.
    It twinkles like starlight.
    Perfect!
    Job number three: glee!
    So what if I got a little bit carried away.

    The other elves are gasping.
    “Surprise!” I shout.
    They point and stare.
    “Merry Christmas!”
    They are not smiling.
    “Happy Holidays?”

    A shadow appears behind me. A big shadow. It’s him.
    I turn towards Santa giggling; I know he’s gonna love my work.
    “Do you like how I helped?” I ask.
    “It is festive; however, it’s going to take days to clean, and the reindeer are now burping. You need a new job. I have the perfect one.”

    I’m now an ‘Elf on a Shelf’!
    I get to let Santa know if a child is being naughty or nice.
    I can’t believe it!
    I rocked it with my help.
    Unfortunately, I won’t be able to help them anymore, do you think they’ll miss me?

  32. Jill Purtee says:

    Home for Christmas
    by P. J. Purtee (222 words)

    On Christmas Eve, the zookeeper hung her scarf on a peg and departed for the night. A tear trickled down her cheek. She yearned to spend Christmas at home with her family, but instead she would work at the zoo.

    The cardinals had an idea of how to cheer up the zookeeper. They whistled to the animals. “Squawk!”

    The animals could not translate bird chatter, so they ignored the birds and strolled through the zoo in search of holiday cheer.

    They peeked into Santa’s house where children had whispered wishes.

    “Squawk!”

    They strolled amongst snowmen where children’s laughter lingered.

    “Squawk!”

    They roamed through the zoo. Bears snored, tigers roared, and birds soared.

    “Squawk! Squawk!”

    After sunset, the animals slumbered near snow angels and the birds hushed until morning.

    On Christmas day, the zookeeper removed her scarf from the peg and entered the zoo. Animals escorted her past whispers, laughter, roars, and snores.

    The zookeeper halted at the foot of the Christmas tree. Behold . . .

    Cardinals settled on snowy branches and beautified the tree like ruby ornaments. Their songs saturated the air.

    Animals encircled her.

    Whispers, laughter, roars, and snores surrounded her.

    Cardinals whistled, “Chirp-chirp. Chirp-chirp.”

    “Merry Christmas,” the zookeeper answered back. A tear trickled down her cheek. She draped her emerald scarf around the neck of a snowman. She was home.

  33. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR DEB

    Three Christmas Camels
    by Deb Robertson

    “It’s a Christmas gift for Mommy. My teacher would only let me make two, but I want mommy to have three camels like in our book. Will you help me Tilly?”

    “Okay”

    Olivia piled layers of white tissue and a drawing paper on the little table in their bedroom.

    “This will tickle a little” she said as she painted her three-year-old sister’s hand.

    “Now keep your fingers straight”

    “Oops!”

    “Your pinky wiggled.”

    “This time your thumb smudged.”

    “I don’t think I painted your palm.”

    “Let’s try again but on the drawing paper this time.”

    “I can’t!” her little sister stomped.

    “Let’s try it one more time, okay?”

    “Look, you did it! Now you will have a handprint camel for Mommy just like mine.”

    “Let’s go wash your hand while the paint dries.”

    With lots of soap and giggles Tilly left the bathroom with two pink palms

    “Messy!” Tilly said sadly looking at the paint smudged tissue.

    “Yes” Olivia said carefully putting it aside.

    Olivia add details to the print with her felt pen.

    “A camel! A camel!” Tilly clapped.

    Olivia looked back at the tissue, added pen marks, and smiled.

    “Look! We have camel wrapping paper too. You printed it Tilly!”

    Olivia wrapped the three camels together and hid them under the tree.

    “I’m a helper!” Tilly said proudly.

    Olivia gave her little sister a big hug. “Yes, you are a very good helper!”

  34. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR KATHERINE

    Reindeer Shoes
    By Katherine Rahoy
    Word Count: 222

    Georgie was worried.

    “Mom, do reindeer have shoes?” Georgie asked.

    “No, dear.” she answered.

    “But horses have shoes.” said Georgie.

    “You’re right. Horses have shoes to protect their feet.” mom replied.

    “But how will reindeer protect their feet without shoes? What if they hurt their feet?” Georgie questioned. “Then there won’t be any Christmas and without Christmas there won’t be presents. I must do something.”

    Georgie got right to work making posters, “No Xmas without Shoes. Drop off here”. The donations started rolling in.

    On Sunday, Georgie’s mom took him to Old Sam’s Reindeer Farm. The farmer gave him a tour and let him feed the reindeer. Georgie noticed none of the reindeer had shoes.

    “Do reindeer need shoes?” he asked the farmer.

    “Oh no, reindeer don’t need shoes. They have hoofs which act like shoes to protect their feet,” the farmer explained.

    But if reindeer didn’t need shoes. Who did? Georgie had shoes everywhere. What if there wasn’t room for presents and without presents there would be no Christmas. He must do something.

    Georgie looked down at the farmer’s old muddy boots and his shiny new shoes and had an idea.

    “Mom, can we make a stop on the way home?” Georgie asked.

    Georgie smiled as he carried boxes of shoes into the clothing drive. Reindeer shoes really did save Christmas.

  35. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR NINA

    A LITTLE HOLIDAY HELP
    by Nina Nolan

    Everything goes wacko at our house around Christmas. My parents try so hard to make things perfect, they don’t even come close.

    Last year, Mom stayed up all night cooking. She was so tired…

    she fell asleep during dinner. Face first. In her mashed potatoes.

    The year before that, Dad put so many lights on the house…

    he knocked out the power. For the whole block.

    So this year, I wanted to help make Christmas peaceful.

    When Mom tried to pile more ornaments on the tree that already looked like it was about to topple over…

    I sat her down, and said, “Mom, maybe it’s time for a break.”

    Our cat helped…

    He jumped on Mom’s lap. And purred. Loud. Right in her face.

    When Dad tried to put a holiday sweater, with lights…

    on our dog, I said, “Why don’t you take her for a walk instead?”

    Our dog helped…

    she took Dad for a walk.

    At first, I was just glad we made it through Christmas dinner with the power still on, and no potatoes on Mom’s face. Then things got even better.

    After dinner, Mom, Dad, and I snuggled on the couch.

    Our cat and dog curled up in their favorite spot in front of the fireplace.

    Suddenly, their ears perked up and they ran to the window.

    “Look,” I said, “snowflakes.”

    “Perfect,” Mom said.

    “Perfect,” Dad said.

    Then my parents started snoring.

    “Perfect,” I whispered.

  36. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR GERRY

    Christmas Is for Everyone…
    By Gerry Lynne Baker Ó December 7, 2020

    Want to know a secret?
    I’ve heard people say,
    Christmas is for everyone,
    To give something away!

    It’s a special celebration,
    About Jesus, that’s His name,
    He’s our Blessed Savior,
    And it’s for us that he came.

    And if you are a giver,
    You are sure to receive,
    ‘Cause it’s fun and feels good,
    when you aim to please!

    So how do you go about
    Giving, as they say?
    Jesus says by helping others.
    That’s it, so don’t delay!

    I started with my mom,
    In our very own home,
    Dusting and sweeping,
    And made my bed without a groan!

    I visited my neighbors,
    To pass out cookie treats.
    Pretty soon I’d made the rounds,
    With enough for all to eat!

    I emptied my piggy bank,
    At the grocery store,
    To fill the special bucket,
    To buy food to help the poor.

    And my mom said to me,
    It’s not always cash or toys,
    That can bring Christmas joy,
    To other girls and boys.

    She said showing love,
    With a smile and kind word or two,
    Will brighten others’ lives.
    Won’t you try it? I dare you!

    So, I give a great big smile,
    To all I meet and say,
    “Have a very super special,
    Merry Christmas day!”

  37. Jean Matthew Hall says:

    The Best Christmas Helper (242 words)
    Jean Hall (jean@jeanmatthewhall.com)
    “It’s time to exchange presents, everyone!” Dad said.
    Mom, Grandpa, Casey and his sisters gathered around the tree.
    Sophie curled up beside Casey. She wagged her tail and barked. She wiggled her way under the Christmas tree, then reappeared with a small green box in her mouth.
    “No, Sophie! That’s not for you.” Casey handed the box to Dana. “Merry Christmas, Dana!” Sophie crouched. “Arf! Arf!” While Dad handed Mom her gift, Sophie dove under the tree again. She came out dragging a gold box by its shiny ribbon.
    “Sophie! That’s a present for Betsy.” Casey gave the box to Betsy. “Merry Christmas!” Casey said. Sophie sat at Grandpa’s feet. She laid her head on his knee and looked into his face.
    “Be a good girl now, Sophie,” Grandpa said. He patted her head. Sophie scooted under the tree again. Out she came with a box tied with a red bow.
    “No, Sophie!” everyone shouted. Sophie took the gift straight to Mom. She said, “This gift is for me. How did Sophie know that?” Mom stroked Sophie’s head. “Good girl,” Mom said.
    The whole family watched as Sophie brought presents out from under the tree one at a time. After Sophie delivered all the gifts she sat up straight beside the tree, wagged her tail and barked. Everyone laughed.
    “She must be saying, ‘Merry Christmas’” Casey said. He stroked her head. “Good girl, Sophie. You’re the best Christmas helper we’ve ever had.”

  38. ashleehashman says:

    GINGERBREAD CONSTRUCTION CREW
    By Ashlee Hashman

    Even elves can use a hand
    From this sweet and helpful band.
    Gingerbread Construction Crew
    Has the finest job to do.

    Candy cranes all striped in red
    Lifting gumdrops overhead.
    Doughnut dump truck filled to max,
    Loaded up with sugar snacks.

    Brownie backhoe scoops and dips
    Bucketfuls of chocolate chips.
    Frosted flatbed hauls the walls.
    Snowy powdered sugar falls.

    Dozer pushes pastry piles.
    Loader picks up toffee tiles.
    Concrete pumper filled with mousse
    Ices walls that won’t come loose.

    Last of all, this tasty team
    Places peanut brittle beam.
    Now their festive job’s complete
    Time to pause and look, then eat!

  39. kathrynrammell says:

    A SWEDISH PAGEANT AND THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING MEATBALLS
    by Kathryn Rammell

    “Are you excited for the Sankta Lucia pageant?” Aunt Frida asked, guiding Bengt backstage. Bengt nodded excitedly.
    “You get to be a tomten.”
    “A what?”
    “A tomten. Santa’s Helper.”

    Behind the curtain was a flurry of costumes. Star hats, gingerbread jumpsuits, and Santa caps were tossed to star boys, gingerbread girls, and toddler tomtens. The oldest girl wore a white robe, red sash, and had candles in her hair. She was Sankta Lucia.

    Children lined up, the audience quieted, and the choir cleared their throats.

    “Natten går tunga fjät . . .” They sang.

    Sankta Lucia stepped onto the stage. Bengt straightened his Santa hat, ready to follow the line of children. But before he could take a step, a chef burst through the kitchen door, eyes wide and panic in his voice.

    “Someone has stolen the meatballs!”

    Everyone gasped. Sankta Lucia dropped her tray. The star boys began to cry. Stolen the meatballs? Who would do such a thing? We can’t have a Sankta Lucia pageant without meatballs afterwards!

    A wild meatball search ensued. Tablecloths were overturned, purses emptied, and mouths inspected.

    Bengt heard a rustle beneath the Christmas tree. Lifting up a branch, Bengt spotted a wagging tail. Then a collar. Then a snout. A snout covered in meatball gravy.

    Bengt lifted the puppy from beneath the tree and declared, “I’ve found the culprit!”
    “Tomten saves the day!” Everyone cheered.
    “Too bad I couldn’t save the meatballs. . .” Bengt lamented as the puppy licked his nose.
    Aunt Frida laughed. “A true tomten.”

  40. astraus77 says:

    Christmas Smiles
    By Alli Straus

    As the Sarducci family gathered for Christmas dinner, Papa slouched in his recliner by the fireplace. Staring at the empty chair beside him, he sighed, and his shoulders slumped even lower.

    “Why is Papa so sad?” asked Henry.
    “Christmas used to be Grandma’s favorite holiday,” Mom explained.
    Henry crawled into Papa’s lap for a hug. But he didn’t get the usual bear squeeze, just floppy arms and a pat-pat on his shoulders.

    “I wish Grandma was here to put a smile back on Papa’s face.”
    “Impossible, Henry,” said Dad sadly.
    “Maybe we can help make Papa smile.”

    Henry let his parents in on his plan.

    After a bit of scrambling, Mom finally announced, “Dinner is served!”
    Papa shuffled into the dining room and saw a wonderful sight. The table was draped in Grandma’s holiday tablecloth that she crocheted years ago. Papa gasped with delight as he ran his fingers overs the nubby loops.

    “Alexa! Play Winter Wonderland!” said Henry.
    “This was her favorite song,” Papa’s ears perked up.
    “Grandma’s secret recipe,” Mom sing-songed, as she presented a platter of marinated crab, a Grandma Sarducci tradition.
    “Some secret!” Papa guffawed. “we all knew it was just bottled Italian dressing, am I right?”

    And then, Papa smiled!
    Contagious laughter and love took over as they listened to Papa’s joyous mirth.
    “Thank you, Henry,” said Papa, going in for a bear squeeze, “for bringing Grandma’s spirit to our Christmas dinner and helping me find my smile again.”

  41. Sandy Smith Budiansky says:

    A Hanukah Detour
    By Sandra Budiansky

    Riley pulled on her winter coat, her hat, and mittens. She and her mom were walking to her favorite bakery and looking at the Christmas lights.
    In the elevator, Riley pressed the ‘L for Lobby’ button but the elevator stopped on the fifth floor.
    Ms. Gertie, holding on tight to her walker, sloooowly stepped on.
    Ms. Gertie was 101 years old and to be honest, Riley was a little afraid of her, Ms. Gertie was very frail, she also yelled a lot.
    “Hello, hello,” she said to them, without a smile.
    “Ms. Gertie, where are you going in this weather?” Riley’s mom asked.
    “To the store. I need potatoes to make latkes. Tonight’s the first night of Hanukah.”
    “You’re going to freeze!” Riley’s mom said. Ms. Gertie was only wearing a light jacket.
    Ms. Gertie waved her off. Riley noticed there were tennis balls on the feet of the walker. When they reached to lobby, the street lights reflected the snow on the ground.
    “Ms. Gertie, I can go to the store for you,” said Riley.
    “I can go myself, thank you.” Ms. Gertie snapped. “I’m old but not incapable!” This is why Riley was a little afraid of her.
    “We’re heading there now, right Mom?”
    The older woman looked outside, sighed, and handed her the list and cash.
    “Our treat,” Riley’s mom said, handing her the money back. “It’ll be our Hanukah gift to you!”
    “But Mom, we don’t celebrate Hanukah,” Riley whispered.
    “I guess we do today!”

  42. jimchaize1 says:

    The Oldest Elf
    By Jim Chaize

    “Henry, where’s my boots?” asked Santa.
    Santa’s oldest elf had a special assignment on Christmas Eve.
    “Right here, but you better put your pants on first.”
    Santa’s head swiveled. “Where are they?”
    “You’re sitting on them.”
    “Oh, my goodness.”
    Santa slipped into his pants. “I still get nervous, before my big flight,” he confessed.
    Henry helped Santa with his boots. “You’ve done this a hundred times.”
    “I know, but every year it feels like my first.”
    Henry handed Santa his jacket.
    Santa glanced at a mirror. “Something’s still missing.”
    “Your smile … but I think you meant your hat. Here it is.”
    Santa nestled it onto his head.
    “Once I slip down that first chimney, I’ll be fine.”
    Santa checked his pocket watch. “Fifteen minutes, I hope the reindeer will be ready.”
    Henry smiled. “They will. No one wants to disappoint the children.”
    “Especially me,” said Santa.
    He slipped on his glasses and unfurled a long paper. “All these houses in just one night.”
    “It’s truly quite magical,” said Henry. “Oh, I almost forgot this.”
    A silver star sparkled in Santa’s hand. “For atop the first tree.”
    “Now there’s your smile.”
    Santa opened the door. “Thanks for your help, Henry. Will you walk with me to my sleigh?”
    “As your oldest elf and a friend, I’d be honored.”

  43. E. Elle Bea (@EElleBea) says:

    E. Elle Bea’s entry

    Santa’s Helpers
    Word Count: 250

    The night had arrived
    It was Christmas Eve
    Santa sat at his desk
    A moment of reprieve

    Elves dashed all around
    Preparing his sleigh
    All helping to ensure
    A great Christmas Day

    They worked all year long
    Every day and each night
    Making sure that the season
    Was merry and bright

    Santa wanted to reward them
    For everything they do
    He knew without the elves
    Christmas would be so blue

    But before he knew it
    He was up in the sky
    Time was running out
    Thought Santa with a sigh

    Halfway through his trip
    Santa still was thinking
    Unloading presents
    Eating cookies and drinking

    Then Santa read a note
    From a sweet little boy
    Thanking him for his help
    And for making his toy

    “That’s it!” cheered Santa
    Feeling quite jolly
    He grabbed the note
    And left a lolly

    As soon as he arrived
    Back at the North Pole
    Santa called all the elves
    That were on the payroll

    “You elves never stop
    Lending a hand.
    I wanted to give you
    Something quite grand.”

    Then he opened his sack
    It was filled to the top
    With all types of cookies
    From gingerbread to lemon drop

    The elves’ eyes bulged
    At the size of the buffet
    But one stepped forward
    With something to say

    “Thank you so much, sir
    For thinking of us.
    But Christmas is about giving
    The cookies are just a plus.”

    Santa nodded and smiled
    Then pointed to each elf
    “That is true, but today …
    Please help yourself.”

  44. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR CARMEN

    LA NAVIDAD I’LL NEVER FORGET
    (248 words)

    It was Christmas eve.

    I couldn’t wait to decorate the big tree in our front yard. My family did this every year.

    That afternoon papá trudged into the kitchen.

    He placed his lunchbox on the counter, took his hardhat off and looked sadly at my mamá.

    Pedro, qué pasó”? she asked. “What happened?”

    “I lost my job,” my papá said.

    “There were too many of us at the construction site. Some of us had to go.

    Mamá started sobbing. Her shoulders shook.

    At the supper table mamá and papá said we weren’t going to decorate our tree this year. Too sad!

    That night I texted our unhappy news to my friends in the neighborhood.

    Papá was out of work. We wouldn’t be decorating our tree this year.

    Next day, Christmas Day, we heard loud knocking and voices at our front door.

    We swung open the door.

    There were many of our neighbors: the Vargas, the Mirandas, the Molinas, and the Ortegas.

    SURPRISE!! they shouted.

    Behind them stood our tree decorated with poinsettias, angelitos, Talavera Christmas ornaments, little piñatas, red and green sombreros, Mexican papel picado and more!

    “Pedro, we heard you lost your job and that you weren’t going to decorate your tree this year,” said señor Ortega. “Each of us picked some of our favorite ornaments to share with you. We all helped to decorate your tree.”

    “What great helpers,” exclaimed mamá.

    Everybody hugged and laughed!

    ¡Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas!

    And that’s la Navidad I’ll never forget!

  45. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR KRISTA

    I’M HELPING FOR THE HOLIDAYS!
    (NO, YOU’RE NOT)
    By Krista Harrington

    One chilly morning, a little chipmunk awoke.

    I love the holidays! I’m going to spread Christmas joy to all!

    Oh no, said Bear.

    Need help with your list?

    I’m an expert with Excel!

    I’m more of a Post-It kind of guy.

    Let’s hang the lights! We’ll brighten up the whole forest with our display!

    The neighbors are going to complain.

    We’ll find a nice, tall tree. It can’t have any bare spots, the needles must be exactly 1.75 inches long, and the smell has to remind us of a winter wonderland!

    S-s-soooo c-c-cooooldd. I c-c-can’t feel m-m-my kneec-c-caps.

    Once the ornaments are on just right, we’ll hang the mistletoe and tinsel. Light the candles and dance to Christmas music, all while wearing these matching pj’s!

    Okay, that’s enough. No more candles and candy canes. No more

    Garland and gift wrapping. No more poinsettias and pj’s!

    And especially, NO. MORE. HELPING!!!

    Oh, I thought I was spreading Christmas joy. I thought we’d watch a movie and making sugar cookies. And later, I was going to sweep your den, because that’s what best friends do for each other.

    You were going to sweep my den?

    -Well, okay, we can watch a movie and make sugar cookies.

    -Just, no matching pj’s.

    Great! You should see this new vacuum I bought. It’s the best. It’s lightweight and durable, and sucks the dirt up like it’s nothing! It makes sweeping really exciting!

    Oh no.

  46. kskeesling says:

    Have A New Year!
    By Karen Keesling
    WC: 248

    Abel plopped into the only empty seat on the bus, wishing the rain and wind would stop crawling into his bones. He missed the red dirt and the hot sun baking his skin in Kigali. He carefully opened his drenched comic book.

    “W-wet?” He asked aloud, feeling the English word swirl off his tongue. He didn’t realize, he invited the woman with the white hair peeping out of her plastic, hair kerchief to talk to him.

    “It’s always the worst on New Year’s,” the woman, Mildred, gushed at Abel. He heard sadness trickle out of her words, like it had been swelling.

    “It rained the day he ran away too.” She said, holding up a picture of a small dog.

    Abel braved asking, “Why?”

    She didn’t even laugh at his accent. Abel felt a slow warmth seep in.

    “Sometimes, you need to leave the place you love,” Mildred said.

    She told him how everyone left her, but she said it through words like, “the kids moved across country in January.”

    Abel understood the feeling, the loneliness. He could help, he decided as he watched his stop and warm home roll by. He shifted closer to her. He would stay…with Mildred. Lonely, together.

    They talked the whole ride. They were just two people full of words, bursting to be heard.

    At last, Mildred stood up. “Thank you for keeping me company. Happy New Year!” She smiled.

    Abel wished her from the bottom of his heart, “Have A New Year!”

  47. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR SARAH

    Not Too Small At All
    By Sarah Hawklyn

    Wilbur loved to follow the yearlong activities in Santa’s Village, but as a tiny mouse, never had the courage to join in. Tonight, Wilbur watched the Christmas Eve preparations from the shadows of the reindeer barn.

    “Oh no,” exclaimed the elves, “Santa has lost the magic key to his sleigh!” The key slipped out of Santa’s hand and fell into a crack behind the reindeer stall. “My hand is too large to fit,” Santa said. “I don’t even think an elf could reach it.”

    “I could probably help,” Wilbur thought. “I am very small.” Now was not the time to be shy, so cautiously he crept out of his hiding place, and scampered right up to Santa. “Excuse me sir,” he chirped loudly, “I think I can help.” Santa squatted down to Wilbur’s level. “Can you retrieve my key?” Santa asked. “I can t-t-try,” Wilbur stuttered nervously.

    Wilbur ran to the crack and squeezed inside. It was a very tight fit. He squirmed and twisted towards his goal. When he finally reached the key, he was surprised at how heavy it was. He pushed and pulled with all his might. He freed his treasure!

    “Hooray,” the elves cheered, “Wilbur saved Christmas!”

    “A brave mouse like you deserves a reward,” Santa chuckled. “Climb aboard!” Wilbur swelled with pride as Santa inserted the key, called the reindeer by name, and they leapt into the air. “Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all! Merry Christmas everyone!”

  48. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR SARAH

    To Celebrate We Mix it up.
    By Sarah Hawklyn

    Normally, at this time of year Jojo’s family celebrated what her Mom called the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah decorating came first, Christmas later. With Mom ill, and Dad so busy, decorating hadn’t been discussed.

    So, when Mom said she had a headache and would lie down, Jojo got right to work. She tugged and pulled the heavy boxes from the attic, and quietly brought them downstairs. Jojo carefully unpacked the memories and sorted through the treasures until she found what she wanted.

    First, she entwined tinsel through the arms of the Menorah on the windowsill and nestled dreidels with the Advent candles. Next, the wreath went on the door with a Happy Hanukkah banner. Standing precariously on a chair, she strung blue and white lights around all the windows and hung their favorite ornaments on the wires. On the sideboard, the nutcracker soldiers marched in a row, gold coins scattered around their feet. Last of all, Jojo laid a tablecloth with six pointed stars on the table and placed the Santa Claus in the center.

    While she worked, Jojo dreamed of the delicious holiday treats they had baked together in the past. Her favorites were crispy potato latkes, fluffy donuts, frosted cookies and fruitcake.

    When Mom awoke and saw what Jojo had been up to, she exclaimed, “You mixed the best of both worlds, just like our family! Thank you, we needed some celebration. Now we have just enough time to make some very special treats before Dad gets home.”

  49. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    ENTRY POSTED FOR DONNA

    Christmas Gifts
    by Donna Kurtz

    Lea’s feet dance across warm sand to the shore.
    “My own little catamaran for Christmas!”
    White clouds stand still over the calm sea.
    “Wind is sleeping. How will my sail fill?”

    Lea hikes through dense jungle and climbs high purple cliffs.
    “Wind, please wake up,” she calls into a cave.
    The air stirs in a sleepy whisper. “Yes?”
    “I have a Christmas gift for you.” Lea opens the bottle.

    Orchid-and-plumeria perfume swirls around them.
    “How lovely,” Wind sighs. “I feel so beautiful—thank-you, Lea.”
    “Please Wind, will you fill the sail of my new catamaran?”
    “Like you, I rest Christmas day. But do a good deed and I will come.”
    “What kind of good deed?”
    “Help someone, Lea.”

    Lea climbs down the cliffs, hikes through the jungle, and searches the empty beach.
    “Who can I help?” she sighs.
    Golden sand churns, tickling her toes.
    “What’s this?”
    Baby turtles boil out and scrabble toward the water.
    “Christmas babies! Hello, little ones.”
    A few hatchlings skitter toward the dunes.
    “No, not that way—follow your sisters and brothers.”
    Lea finds a soft palm basket she had woven.
    “Come here, please.” She gathers the straying hatchlings.
    As Lea nears her boat, orchids and plumerias perfume the air. The sail billows.

    “Wind, thank you!”

    Lea sails to the reef. “Be safe, little friends.” She sets the hatchlings in clear, turquoise water. “Aloha!”

    Swirling around her, Wind sings, “Merry Christmas, Lea!”

    “Merry Christmas, Wind!” Lea laughs, dancing her catamaran over the waves.

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