I’d like to tell you a story my grandmother told me when I was six or seven years old. We had gone to her home for Thanksgiving dinner and the drive was rather a long one. I had filled the time with making a list of all the things that I wanted for Christmas that year.
Later that evening after I was ready for bed, I showed the list to my grandmother. After she read it, she said, “My goodness, that really is a long list!” Then she picked me up and set me on her lap in the big rocking chair and told me this story:
“Once there was a little girl who came to live in an orphanage in Denmark” (Now my grandmother was from Denmark, so this story might even be true.) “As Christmas time grew near, all of the other children began telling the little girl about the beautiful Christmas tree that would appear in the huge downstairs hall on Christmas morning. After their usual, very plain breakfast, each child would be given their one and only Christmas gift: a small, single orange.”
At this point I looked up at my grandmother in disbelief, but she assured me that was all each child would receive for Christmas.
“Now the headmaster of the orphanage was very stern and he thought Christmas to be a bother. So on Christmas Eve, when he caught the little girl creeping down the stairs to catch a peek at the much-heard-of Christmas tree, he sharply declared that the little girl would not receive her Christmas orange because she had been so curious as to disobey the rules. The little girl ran back to her room broken-hearted and crying at her terrible fate.”
“The next morning as the other children were going down to breakfast, the little girl stayed in her bed. She couldn’t stand the thought of seeing the others receive their gift when there would be none for her.”
“Later, as the children came back upstairs, the little girl was surprised to be handed a napkin. As she carefully opened it, there to her disbelief was an orange all peeled and sectioned.”
“How could this be?” she asked.
“It was then that she found how each child had taken one section from their orange and given it to her so that she, too, would have a Christmas orange.”
How I loved this story! I would ask my grandmother to tell it to me over and over as I grew up. Every Christmas, as I pull a big, juicy orange from my stocking, I think of this story. What an example of the true meaning of Christmas those orphan children displayed that Christmas morning.