Every time someone finds a lost puppy or snags a local lottery win in December, the media breathlessly describes it as a “real-life Christmas miracle.” In other words, stuff that happens every day of the year suddenly becomes news just because it happens near the holidays. So you can forgive us for feeling a wee bit skeptical about such things, especially since an actual miracle requires suspension of the laws of chance or physics.
But then there are the stories that are harder to dismiss. Stories where something so unlikely, unexpected or just plain heart-warming happened that our inner Grinch simply melts away. Here are some Christmas miracles that prove prayers sometimes do get answered:
10. Santa Answers a Poor Girl’s Letter
At the age of five, most of us probably understood family finances just enough to throw a tantrum if we didn’t get the presents we really wanted. That’s because most five-year-olds are both kinda stupid and kinda prone to acting entitled. But not Helen Berence Reyes Cardenas. When her mother told her they were going to have a frugal Christmas, she simply wrote out a letter asking Santa for a doll and some shoes, and sent the letter to the North Pole via balloon. Since a balloon isn’t the most precise method of delivering mail, the letter inevitably got knocked off course and ended up landing in California – about as far from Santa’s Workshop as you can get.
Now here comes the good bit: A woman named Julie Sanders found the letter and realized it came from a dirt-poor girl in need of some Christmas cheer. So, armed only with a scrap of paper that had flown across the whole of America, she tracked down little Helen and made sure she had a nice big bundle of presents to open come Christmas Day. In short: Julie Sanders is a woman who can literally claim to have saved Christmas.
9. The Internet Saves a Family’s Home
There are a couple of sure-fire ways of proving to the world that you don’t have a soul, one of which is to foreclose on a family’s home at Christmas. In 2008, some Grinch did exactly that to the Sampson family, probably while simultaneously kicking puppies and laughing at orphans. See, the Sampsons weren’t exactly living the high life: Dad was sick, Mom was pregnant, both were out of work, and their kids were now looking at a Christmas spent in a succession of shelters. Tired, stressed-out and miserable, the Sampsons did what any of us would do, and unburdened their worries to a friend.
In return, the friend posted their story up to her blog, perhaps hoping to spread the misery. And then an amazing thing happened. Strangers began commenting on the story and asking if they could make donations. So the friend opened a Paypal account. Then more people commented. And more, and more. Suddenly, donations were flooding in. Within five days, this one blog post had raised $11,032 – enough to save the Sampson home. In a burst of seasonal goodwill, the Internet spat in the face of holiday-hating mortgage brokers everywhere, and saved a family from the streets. And in a world characterized by hatred as much as the Internet, that’s gotta count as a miracle.
8. Car Crash Inspires No Anger, Just Christmas Cheer
If you’re a single mom struggling to make ends meet, getting into a car crash the week before Christmas is probably the last thing you want to do. So when Kim Kerswell rear-ended Sherene Borr on her way to get some last-minute presents, she had plenty reason to curse life out, big time. Only it turned out life was dealing her an unexpected favor. Not only was Borr not angry about the damage to her car, but she was so upset to hear Kerswell might have to forego her kids’ presents in order to pay the insurance company, that she offered to step in and buy them for her.
Think about that for a second.Some people freak out if you so much as look at them the wrong way. Go smashing into their car and there’s no telling what might happen. But Borr not only didn’t get mad, she went out of her way to help this clearly stressed-out woman provide a Christmas for her kids that would have been unthinkable under normal circumstances. It just goes to show that, even in our rough-and-tumble world, people are still capable of the most heart-warming actions.
7. Everybody Walks Away from a Horrible Christmas Day Pileup
For all we associate it with good cheer and comfort, the sad fact is that many people die on Christmas Day – usually in dumb accidents that could have been avoided. With all the travel, ice, and general drunkenness, most of these happen on the road and frequently one asshat’s bad driving is enough to ruin Christmas for multiple families. But occasionally, God glances down at these unfolding catastrophes and decides “not today.”
Last year, a combination of freezing rain and bad driving caused a 21 car pileup outside Oklahoma City on Christmas Day. It was described as a “major accident,” with trucks jack-knifing, cars smashing into one another, and all hell generally breaking loose. Want to guess how many fatalities and serious injuries this major smash-up caused?
Absolutely none at all. Despite people plowing into each other with two tons of speeding metal on an ice-slicked road, not a single serious injury was reported. For a high-speed smash to not result in death in even the most favorable circumstances is highly unlikely — on a frozen road in the middle of the night is, well, a miracle. Maybe God just has a secret soft spot for Oklahoma.
6. Paralyzed Boy with No Spine Walks Again, Just in Time for Christmas
This one reads like a textbook miracle. In 2008, seven-year-old Marko Dutschak had a cyst form along his back. In no time at all, the malignant growth had crushed his spine, leaving only a “thread” holding his entire back together. Doctors in his home country of Austria confidently predicted he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, to which fate said “wanna bet?”
A week or so before Christmas, Marko punched medical knowledge in the face by getting out of bed and going for a walk. Just to illustrate how unbelievably unlikely this was, here’s a quick list of everyone who has managed to repeat Marko’s feat since:
And that’s it. This kid shrugged off a spine-destroying injury like it was nothing, flouting the predictions of every specialist in Europe and doing it just in time to give his mom the best Christmas present ever. Either it’s a miracle, or Marko is goddamn Wolverine.
5. The House that Wept for Its Fallen Tenant
In 2006, teenager Mike Tannous died in a car crash, leaving his parents suddenly bereaved in the run-up to Christmas. Sadly, even Christmas miracles can’t bring back the dead, but they can perhaps offer some form of comfort. See, about a month after Mike’s death, his family home began to weep. No joke: an oily substance began to run down the walls in little runnels, almost as if the house itself was missing the kid that grew up in it. If that wasn’t enough, around the 20th of December, a photo of Mike began to “weep” too – the substance seemingly running out of the picture’s eyes.
Now, there’s almost certainly some scientific explanation behind all this, that very sensible people will be only too happy to point out. However, whatever the cause of this “weeping,” it made all the difference to his parents. Taking it as a sign from God, the couple used this little miracle to get through their grief, and only the most-heartless Scrooge who ever lived could possibly begrudge them that.
4. Woman That Should Have Frozen to Death Survives, Only a Little Chilly
By all accounts, the story of Donna Molnar should be a bleakly tragic one. After setting out for the local store in her native Canada one Christmas, Donna got caught in a fierce blizzard and simply vanished. Her SUV apparently got lodged in a field somewhere, and without any winter clothing or means of heating, her chances of survival were assumed to be remote.
So when a member of the search party came across a woman lying in a snowdrift three days after Donna went missing, he naturally assumed the worst. Only the half-buried woman turned out to be totally alive. That’s right — somehow, unbelievably, Donna Molnar had survived 72 hours in temperatures that would kill most mortals, a great part of it literally lying in a snowdrift. She escaped with only hypothermia and mild frostbite – a bit like if a house fall on you and only caused a slight headache.
3. Baby Arrives on Christmas, Without His Mom Ever Realizing She was Pregnant
Not all miracles involve people surviving against impossible odds. Sometimes they simply involve getting something you didn’t even know you needed. When 21-year-old Leanne Carter was hospitalized with severe stomach pains on Christmas Day, it was for what she thought was a particularly painful period. She’d felt bloated for most of the month, but there had been nothing else to indicate she was anything but a regular young adult in reasonable health. Hospital staff ran some quick tests on Carter, and the results gave her the shock of her life. It turned out she was not only pregnant, but also about to give birth. Like, right then and there.
Let’s back up for a moment and explain exactly how unexpected this was. Carter had had literally no physical symptoms of pregnancy in the whole nine months (which means she lucked into every pregnant woman’s ultimate pipe dream fantasy.) Her period had carried on as normal, and she’d felt nothing to suggest she might be carrying a whole new life in her. But there it was: within hours of being hospitalized, Carter went from “sick and frightened kid” to “happy-yet-surprised new mother.” Her baby was born healthy, happy and was apparently “the best Christmas present ever.” Amazing doesn’t even begin to cover it.
2. Mom Dies Giving Birth to Stillborn Baby, and Both Make It Out Alive
Every happy story in the world has its opposite cousin, and the story of Colorado-based Tracy Hermanstorfer at first seems just that. When Tracy entered labor on Christmas Eve 2009, things very quickly went wrong. Within minutes, Tracy had become unresponsive, and she soon stopped breathing altogether. Unable to revive her, doctors rushed to save the baby, only for it to arrive stillborn. It looked like the worst Christmas gift a cruel God could send anyone, and Tracy’s husband Mike began to prepare himself for the possibility that he’d just lost everything.
And then the impossible happened. The stillborn baby was revived. Against all odds, doctors had managed to save one of the patients. In most circumstances, this would have been miracle enough, but this is number two on a list of Christmas miracles — one survivor just ain’t enough. No sooner had the baby been resuscitated when Tracy suddenly began breathing again – despite having gone four whole minutes without heartbeat, brain activity, or blood pressure. The two made a full recovery, and life did something it very rarely manages to pull off — it told Death to suck it.
1. The World War I Christmas Truce
Speaking of incredible things, there are probably few more incredible than the Christmas truce of 1914 between the opposing sides of World War I. On Christmas Day 1914, hundreds of troops, who had spent months watching their friends die in the most horrific ways imaginable, spontaneously threw down their weapons and stopped fighting. There were no orders from above, no formal truce – just a thousand or more weary and unhappy men determined not to let this one day be as utterly miserable as all the others.
All along the battlefields of France, British, German, and French troops refused to fight. Instead, they sang Christmas carols and shared food and cigarettes with one another. One British troop even started a soccer match with their German enemies, one that was marked by friendliness, courtesy, and a great deal of Christmas cheer. According to the BBC, some troops refused to begin fighting again for weeks afterwards, instead letting the truce drag on into January. In the midst of the worst slaughter mankind has ever known, these scared and frightened kids still retained enough humanity to make sure everyone – French, British and German – got the Christmas they deserved. If that isn’t a miracle, then we don’t know what is.