The action unfolds on 31 December.
The Stepmother’s hut. The Villain – the Stepmother’s own mother – is relating what she has dreamed of: if one believes in tradition then a dream before New Year will come to fruition in life. The Stepmother recalls another tradition: on 31 December the hut must be well heated. She sends her stepdaughter, the Grubby Child, to collect kindling.
The forest. The Grubby Child meets the imperial woodcutter. He says that today it is best not to go into the forest: here all of the Twelve Months assemble and the light from their fire may make you blind and turn you into stone forever.
The Brother-Months appear in the glade.
The palace. The Great Chancellor presents the Empress with the order of events for the New Year Ball. The Empress is dissatisfied: at the ball there should be the sweet fragrance of her favourite woodland violets, but in the glasshouses all the flowers have perished from the cold. The Empress issues a decree: whoever delivers fresh violets to the palace will receive a bag of gold.
The Stepmother’s hut. The Villain and the Stepmother are already dreaming of spending the Empress’ gold. They send the Grubby Child out to search for the flowers in the snowy forest.
The forest. The Grubby Child is exhausted and falls asleep. The Months decide to help her: December gives up his seat at the fire to April, spring comes and the glade is filled with violets.
The Stepmother’s hut. The stepdaughter returns with a basket full of real violets. The Villain and the Stepmother rejoice: now they send the Grubby Child into the forest for fruit while they themselves rush to the palace with the violets.
The Grubby Child feels drowsy. April comes to her and presents her with a magic ring – if it is moved from one little finger to the other then the Months will immediately come to assist.
The palace. The courtiers are languishing; in accordance with a decree of the Empress, New Year will not come until there are fresh violets in the palace. The Villain and the Stepmother burst in. The Empress insists that they say where they found the violets in the middle of winter. They are checked by a lie-detector and they admit that the Grubby Child actually brought the flowers.
The Stepmother’s hut. The guards seize the Grubby Child to take her to the Empress.
The palace. The Empress demands that the Grubby Child tell her the truth about the violets. The girl tells her story of the magic of the Twelve Months. The Empress does not believe her. Then the Grubby Child moves the magic ring and the Brother-Months appear in the throne room. They are in a great hurry: it’s time to light the tree and welcome the New Year!