When winter’s here and the holiday season is upon us, it’s always festive to cuddle inside by the glow of a fire in the hearth, or the lights of your Christmas tree, and read a story together. While there are a plethora of seasonal classics to choose from, one of my personal favorite stories to share with those I love during this time of year is Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen. Beyond being a fun story to read with children, it also contains some important messages for us adults, especially during the holiday season.
The Snow Queen tells the story of two best friends, Kay and Gerda, who are separated when a piece of magic mirror pierces Kay’s heart and eyes, causing him to see the world differently and to be enchanted by the lovely and heartless Snow Queen. As a result, Kay mistreats his friend and runs away to join the Snow Queen in her palace. Despite his cruelty, Gerda still goes on the long journey to save him, facing great challenges as she travels through representations of the year’s changing seasons. If you have Frozen fans in the house, they might especially enjoy this story as it was the inspiration for the film. While the plotlines of the original fairy tale and the Disney movie are very different, the theme, that “love thaws a frozen heart,” holds true.
The Snow Queen is a wonderful holiday fairy tale for children for many reasons. It’s an entertaining and unique story, and most hard copies are accompanied by gorgeous, wintry illustrations. The tale also contains a great deal of meaningful symbolism and themes about sacrifice, faith, friendship, and growing up. I also think this story holds some significance for adults, particularly as we attempt to plow successfully through the holidays.
In the fairy tale, a shard of mirror pierces Kay’s eye and heart. He keeps searching for perfection and failing to find it, which results in his heart becoming increasingly more frozen. It’s not that what he’s seeing is untrue; rather that his focus is occupied by disappointment. Likewise, November through January can often be period of time when we get caught up in this idea that things need to be perfect….which inevitably leads to own our dissatisfaction.
There always seems to be an inability to reach the particular level of flawlessness that we expect, whether we expect it of ourselves or of others. Somehow there rarely seems to be enough time to get around to creating all the fabulous homemade ornaments or gifts that we intended. Maybe the budget simply doesn’t allow us to do all the things we see “everyone else doing” this time of year. Or perhaps we are frustrated or embarrassed by other members of our family. Extended family gatherings during the holidays are intended to be happy, but they often can be a source of stress as we fret endlessly about how we might need to pacify every potential conflict. If we don’t fight it, all of these realities can really affect our outlook during this time of year.
So how do we combat the disappointment which accompanies an obsession with perfection? Again, this story gets me thinking. In The Snow Queen, Gerda perseveres in finding Kay, whose heart is almost frozen. She saves him with her tears and by singing aloud the simple hymn that brought them together as children. Ultimately, her uncomplicated love, and the reminder she gives her friend of their childlike faith, breaks the spell that has ensnared Kay. This serves as a reminder that in the middle of our personal quests for unobtainable, flawless holidays, a little bit of refocusing on the simple, good things of the season can make all the difference. For me, as a Christian, this means refocusing on the joy of the nativity story during the Christmas season. For many, it might mean taking a moment to be thankful you have a family, even if they are a little crazy. Maybe it means making the holidays an opportunity to teach your kids about gratefulness or giving instead of focusing what you’re not able to get them this year. Instead of spending hours trying to make those Pinterest-perfect cookies for the party, invite the kids to join you and enjoy the memories and the mess.
If “The Snow Queen” makes your list of cozy winter reads to share with your children, I hope it is a story that affects you, too. I think it’s a wonderful reminder that re-focusing our perspectives is the best way to take all of those perfect holiday standards we stress out about and, as Elsa would say, “Let it go.”
Katie and her husband, Dane, were both home schooled, and one day they plan on homeschooling their (now infant) daughter. She received her BA in Psychology from Covenant College and is currently working on an MA in English and Creative Writing. Katie has worked as a teacher/tutor and is also currently a fitness instructor. She loves adventures, reading, dancing, and cooking weird, healthy stuff. You can read more from Katie on her blog, Write Where You Are.