The best part of Christmas Eve when I was a child, was listening to my Father read my Great Aunt’s Christmas Tale. I have read it every Christmas Eve since and now I share it with you:
Once upon a time, there was a little boy, dressed in old, torn clothing, walking through the center of town. He stared at the gaily decorated shop windows with longing eyes. People rushed past him, with their warm coats and arms full of packages, getting into warm carriages to take them home. Some carried shopping bags with delicious smells, and the little boy looked longingly at those too.
None of the shop keepers paid any attention to him as he stopped outside their doors, letting the warm air heat his little body for an instant as the customers went in or came out.
The sounds of the carolers died away as the little boy walked away from the town’s busy center. Snow had begun to fall, but not one carriage stopped to offer him a ride. The little boy began to feel colder. As he walked down the road, he came to a large, beautiful house. The opulently decorated Christmas tree in the front window almost took his breath away. It was covered with big red bows, glass balls and candles everywhere. He could see toy soldiers and teddy bears, and pretty ballerinas. It was wonderful!
Music was coming from the house, and he could hear laughter and singing. “Perhaps these good people will take me in” he thought. It took quite a while for the door to open when he knocked. A tall, white haired man dressed in black and white, looked out at him, quite exasperatedly. “Go away little boy – go away. You should know better than to try to come in here!” The huge door slammed shut with a gust of warm air so strong it almost knocked the little boy over in the snow.
This same thing happened at every house he tried. Only the trees in the front windows changed.
Finally he came to the very edge of town. The snow was falling much heavier, and it was becoming harder and harder to walk. The little boy started to cry. Then in the midst of his tears, he saw a tiny light off in the distance. He struggled through the snow toward it and came upon a cottage. The candle in the front window was very small, but it beckoned to him invitingly. As he looked in, he could see a small tree branch in a pot on the table. It was decorated with bits of yarn and string, and underneath were some oranges and nuts.
In front of the fireplace was a woman dressed in simple clothing, holding a baby on her lap, talking to a small child seated in front of her. He listened for a moment to the soft voice telling the story of another child.
The little boy tapped on the window trying to get their attention. The small child tugged on the woman’s skirt. “Someone’s outside, Mother.” “No dear” she said, “it was only the wind blowing the tree branches against the house.” She set the baby in the child’s lap and went to the stove. “The porridge will be cooked in a minute, children, and then we’ll have our Christmas Dinner.”
The little boy knocked harder. “Oh, Mother, there IS someone outside.” the child said. The woman opened the door and saw the little boy. “Oh my poor dear” she cried, “come in this instant and sit by our fire! You are so cold and wet!”
The little boy soon found himself wrapped in a blanket, snuggled to the woman’s bosom. He felt so good and warm. The child brought a bowl of porridge for him to eat and then an orange and gave it to him as a Christmas present.
After awhile, the baby and the small child became sleepy, so the woman took them into the other room of the cottage to put them to bed.
The little boy sitting in front of the fire began to smile. As he smiled, his face lit up and he became surrounded by a golden light. The light grew larger and larger until the woman and her small child came back into the room to see what it was. They gasped as they saw that the tiny branch had become a large, gaily decorated tree, filled with presents …. There were smells of turkey, ham and pies coming from the oven. And as the light grew, the cottage expanded and new furnishings came into view. Soon the light was so bright they could no longer see the little boy. “Who was that Mama?, the little child asked “That was no little beggar boy!” “No child,” said the Mother softly as tears streamed down her face. “That was the Christ Child.”
And from that Christmas on, a candle was always placed in the window to light the Christ Child’s way home.