Once there was a Dutch girl named Daniëlle Kappel who lived in a castle on the Holland coast with the windmills.
“I’ve placed my wooden shoes next to the fireplace for Sinterklaas,” she said to her father, kissing him on the cheek.
She also sat her large Christmas bouquet of mistletoe from her friend Niels on the fireplace mantle. Flipping open her father’s pocket watch and looking at the late hour, she hoped to receive many gifts for Christmas.
After all, her father was a very rich merchant who sent ships all over the world and traded rare goods in foreign lands. When she was young, she and her mother would spend hours in the fields by the ocean, frolicking by the windmills.
Her mother’s sister lived in a cottage on the coast with seven musical elves from the blistering cold North Pole. Very few people knew that the elves, also called the Mistletoes, lived with her aunt, who hid them in her attic. Sinterklaas asked them to live in Holland instead of the North Pole, so they could deliver gifts for him at Christmas.
Of course, the Mistletoes pretended to be humans, but they had magical powers in song that they used for good deeds. Their names were Joyful, Cheerful, Merry, Peaceful, Carol, Nightfall, and Claus. Since Daniëlle’s mother had passed away, her stepmother mostly ignored her and sometimes forgot Christmas.
“Now run to bed, Daniëlle,” her stepmother said to her, shooing her away on Christmas Eve without a second thought.
Her stepmother claimed that a wicked witch distracted her each year at Christmas, so she could never bake a ham.
“I hope the wicked witch doesn’t bother you this year,” Daniëlle said, quickly hugging her stepmother’s side.
“We shall see. The wicked woman always shows up at the worst times,” her stepmother said, rolling her eyes.
“Just don’t dream of Niels,” the stepmother said. “I forbid you to see him. He only gets you into trouble.”
“He’s my best friend,” the 12-year-old girl said. “Besides, Mother always liked him and wanted me to marry him.”
Pretending not to hear Daniëlle, her stepmother kissed her husband and handed him a helping of blackberry pie. Then she grabbed Niels’ mistletoe bouquet from the mantle and threw it into the fireplace and watched it burn.
When Daniëlle woke in the morning, she found her shoes filled with candies and coins, noticing the mistletoe ashes.
“Oh, Father, is this for me?” Daniëlle said, as she dug beneath the candies to find her father’s pocket watch.
“Your mother would want you to have it,” her father said, as he looked at her black and white photo on the mantle.
Daniëlle put the pocket watch in her dress pocket and felt like a princess with the special power to tell the time.
“Before the day gets away from us, would you run an errand for me, Daniëlle?” her stepmother said with a grimace.
The dark woman moved Daniëlle’s mother’s photo to the back of the shelf and placed hers in front of it.
“Could you take this to your mother’s sister in her cottage by the windmills?” the stepmother said, slyly. She handed Daniëlle a basket of baked goods and fruit, saying, “We want to wish her a Merry Christmas!”
“Surely, I would love to visit her on this special day!” Daniëlle said, as her rosy cheeks rounded her face.
Her blond braided hair lay gently across her shoulders, looking like a gift itself, as it was tied with red ribbons.
“Now I also have an errand to run,” her stepmother continued. “I am taking a pie to an elderly woman on the coast.
We will both surely be back before nightfall, and then we can enjoy a Christmas feast with ham and apples.”
“I love you more than anyone!” Daniëlle’s father said, hugging Daniëlle and wrapping her in a wool jacket.
Daniëlle’s stepmother grinded her teeth and bit her lip at the thought of her husband’s devotion to her stepdaughter.
“Now run along, and be a good girl,” Daniëlle’s stepmother said. “It’s Christmas Day! Don’t be late for dinner.”
As Daniëlle ran along the coast, it started to snow with a brisk wind, growing dark earlier than she expected.
“How grand! You remind me of mother,” she said, admiring a lovely windmill, stopping for a little break.
Although her stepmother expected her back for dinner, Daniëlle opened the door to the windmill, deciding to rest.
“I knew I would finally get rid of you!” a gruesome voice rang throughout the windmill as the door slammed shut.
“Wait! Who would do such a thing on Christmas?” Daniëlle said, crying, as she peered through a crack in the door.
To her surprise, her stepmother—dressed like an evil witch in a black gown—pranced outside the windmill.
“I knew you were never good for Father!” Daniëlle yelled through the door at the top of her lungs.
“Well, he will never see you again, or your do-gooder aunt! My blackberry pie just killed her,” the witch said. “I beat you to her house. By morning, you will freeze to death in this windmill, and I will have all your father’s money. I will kill him, just like the two of you, and I will be the richest woman in Holland!” the stepmother said.
Daniëlle collapsed in tears, falling asleep only to dream of her mother dancing on a spring day in the Holland tulip fields.
“You have the power to tell time,” her mother said. “Use your power to save your father before it’s too late.”
When Daniëlle woke in the morning, her father’s pocket watch lay on her chest, tick-tocking away. The Mistletoes stood surrounding her on every side, holding warm cups of apple cider and singing Christmas hymns.
“Oh my! My lovely elves! How did you find me? I love every single one of you!” Daniëlle said, hugging them.
“Your song must have brought me back to life,” she said, feeling her body. “I’m sure I must have died last night.”
“We found your aunt last night. She died in the foyer of her cottage,” Nightfall said, rubbing his eyes with tiredness.
“We took her to the closest cathedral and asked for peace,” Peaceful said, sighing to himself and holding back a tear.
“I sang a song until she flew to the angels,” Carol said, humming as though no one could hear him. “We tried to sing her back to life when we found her, but she was already dead too long.”
“Then we came looking for you, knowing that the witchy evil stepmother of yours would come after you,” Claus said.
“Your aunt could never find the words to tell you, but the witch killed your mother,” Merry said, patting his tummy.
“We are so glad we found you before you froze in this windmill that brings so much happiness,” Cheerful said.
“Now we must try to save your father and believe that the spirit of Christmas will prevail,” Joyful said with delight.
“The hands on my father’s pocket watch seem to be slowing,” Daniëlle said, looking at her watch.
“We must get to Father before the hands on the pocket watch stop, or the witch will have killed him,” she said.
At once, the Christmas Dutch Girl and the seven musical elves set out to save Daniëlle’s father.
“What will we do once we find my evil stepmother?” Daniëlle said, asking the Mistletoes for suggestions.
“I say we wrap her up and ship her off to the North Pole for Sinterklaas to deal with,” Claus said to Nightfall.
“That seems like an excellent solution to me,” Nightfall said, pulling up his sleeves in the cold morning air.
“Do you think that’s too mean?” Cheerful said to Merry, rubbing his nose and thinking of a fit punishment.
“It might be too mean, but this seems to be an exception,” Merry said, who always chuckled at the worst situations.
“She killed someone, Cheerful!” Nightfall said. “I think we should definitely send her off to Sinterklaas.”
“I can summon Rudolph and his reindeer with a song,” Carol said, starting a round of “Adeste Fideles.”
“Sinterklaas can decide what happens to her,” Peaceful said. “Maybe she can work for him for the rest of her life.”
“What do you think, Joyful? You are the chief elf, and we must obey you,” Claus said in a whisper.
“Her evil spirit can be changed into the Christmas spirit,” Joyful said, thinking of the highest possible good.
“When we find the witch, we will all sing until she is overcome and collapses,” the chief elf said. “Then Daniëlle can bind her in ropes, and we will send her off to Sinterklaas once and for all.”
“Agreed,” said Daniëlle. “Father and I will be free of her, and you can come live with us as long as you want!”
“But how do we know that Meneer Kappel is not already dead?” Nightfall said, always thinking the worst.
Daniëlle looked at the ticking pocket watch and showed it to the elves: “We still have time. He’s not dead yet.”
Through wind and snow, the pocket watch moved slower and slower as Daniëlle hurried to save her father’s life.
“I’m worried that we will not make it in time,” Daniëlle said. “Run as fast as you can. We are almost out of time.”
When Daniëlle and the elves reached her father’s home, they peered inside the windows to find her stepmother crying. Daniëlle’s father held the witch as she cried, saying: “I tried to save Daniëlle and her aunt, but the witch killed them.”
“It’s not your fault, darling,” Daniëlle’s father said. “That horrid witch has been after you for years. She killed my first wife. It’s not surprising that she would also kill my daughter and former sister-in-law.”
“No, it isn’t,” the evil witch said, growing as big as the ceiling of the Dutch castle. “Now I will kill you!”
The witch grabbed a knife from the kitchen that doubled in size as soon as she touched its metal handle.
“You were the evil witch all along! How could I have trusted you? You took my wife and my daughter,” the father said.
“Leave my father alone,” Daniëlle said, bursting through the castle with the Mistletoes who sang in full voice.
As the witch held the knife at Daniëlle’s father’s throat, “Papa, I knew you were still alive! I have the power to tell time. We came to save you! Mother would never let you die at the hand of this witch. She is our angel.”
“Adeste Fideles laeti triumphantes,” the Mistletoes sang in harmony, shrinking the witch back to normal size. Before the witch could regain her large stature, Sinterklaas landed in the front yard with Rudolph and his sleigh of reindeer.
Daniëlle wrestled with the witch until she dropped the knife on the kitchen floor. She kicked it to her father.
“I will not let you harm my daughter,” Daniëlle’s father said, stabbing the witch in the heart until she died.
“We were going to exile her to the North Pole,” Joyful said to the father, “but maybe this is for the best . . .”
“Yes, I think it is for the best,” Sinterklaas said, walking into the Dutch castle with gifts for everyone.
“She’s been trying to end Christmas for years. It’s one of the reasons I sent the Mistletoes to Holland in the first place. I promise to restore you and bring you and your daughter true love,” Sinterklaas said to Daniëlle’s father. “Until then, please help me celebrate Christmas. I would be so honored if the Mistletoes could live with you.”
As the years went by, Sinterklaas kept his promise and brought Meneer Kappel true love with a Greek princess. With the evil stepmother dead, Daniëlle was no longer forbidden to spend time with her prince, Niels.
The Mistletoes orchestrated a wedding for Meneer Kappel—and then for Daniëlle to Niels when they came of age. Dead as a doornail, the wicked witch never bothered anyone in Holland again, and Christmas lived on in peace.
Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters