A Christmas Tale Of Compassion
Of all the nights of the year, Christmas Eve is by far the most joy filled. It contains children being hushed to sleep, parents sneaking away to put Christmas presents under the tree, and St. Nicholas climbing quietly down the chimney to deliver what all us children love the most: presents. It is also filled with blankets of snow being laid silently over houses and trees, of bright lights being strung up upon everything festive, of old reindeer sweaters being pulled from the dark recesses of the closet to be put on for one day, and finally of family and friends being brought together by love and happiness. At least, this is true for those fortunate enough to be able to obtain such bliss. Dear readers, prop up a fire before a cozy chair; grab a mug of eggnog or coffee, and let me tell you the tale of what happens when….well…. read on and you will find out:
It is December 24th of 1899 in Minnesota, United States where we set our tale; a Christmas Eve never to be forgotten by St. Nicholas. A massive snowstorm, the likes of which had never been seen before, had blown in across the Midwest, dropping temperatures to below freezing, homes to be buried under mounds of snow, and ice to develop over window panes and doorways. The families of Minnesota huddled in their homes until bedtime, crowding hopelessly around their small stoves and fireplaces, trying to maintain body heat and savor every ounce of warmth. Santa Claus himself was terrified to even come near Minnesota, for even the North Pole was never this deathly and foreboding, but he knew he had to do his duty. As for the people on the streets of Minnesota, they clung desperately between life and death, trying stay warm and live to see the morrow.
A helpless teenage boy was one on the streets. He wandered down the cobbled stone road as the sun was setting, dressed in nothing but rags and tatters. His whole visage was devastating and revealed nothing but pain and anguish. He held his hands desperately to his ears and nose for they themselves were turning a sickly blue color. His bright grey hair hung loosely over his shining blue eyes as he stumbled down the street, trying to ignore the deathly drop in temperature that was brought upon by the moon rising. If one had taken the time to look out the window, they would have guessed he was a walking corpse. But the boy lived, although barely.
His eyes pierced even the darkness and he walked up to the bakery that stood on the left side of the street. The snow crunched beneath his feet as he fumbled over the window pane of the bakery. His breath created fog as the boy looked in upon the small store and gazed upon the rows and rows of freshly bakes fruit cakes, glazed donuts, bread, and other assortments of food that the baker had made just for the holiday that was soon upon us. The boy hugged the window, almost feeling the warmth from the newly made delicacies reaching through the glass.
“Oi! Scram, you piece of filth!” A voice rang out to his right.
The skinny boy turned and saw the baker at the entrance of the shop, glaring down at the starving boy with hate in his eyes. The man was rather plump and had bits and pieces of ham and cheese mixed in with his long beard. The baker held in his hands a broom with which he would for sure hit the boy with, but the boy went against every instinct he had and asked the man,” Please, sir, it is Christmas after all…. And I am awfully hungry. Could you please spare me a piece of bread?”
The baker didn’t change his posture in the least and growled at the boy,” No! Now, scram! There are no handouts here! Go back to the orphanage where you belong and get some food there!”
“Sir, I’m not from the orphanage! They won’t accept me there. They say the younger orphans need to be there more than me,” the boy replied, backing away from the man as he advanced towards him, ready to impale him on the head with the broom.
“You are not only a beggar, but a liar! Now, be gone with you before I call the police!” The baker said, this time hitting the boy in the legs with the wooden end of the broom.
The boy cried out in pain and ran down the street away from the man, his feet making the snow crunch beneath his feet. He ran on for what seemed like ages, down different alleys and walkways; he found that by running, he could keep his body heat up. Eventually, he came to a whole new side of town all together, one that was very urban and had large, expensive looking houses towering over him like majestic palaces. He slowed his running to a walk and gazed inside some of the houses.
Inside all of the houses, he saw a similar scene play out. All the windows could easily be seen through because they all had roaring fires within. The fires glowed and danced beautifully inside rich, marble fireplaces where stockings hung and nice wreaths hung over it. Christmas trees stood in a corner, their radiance masking even the brightest of stars as millions of decorations sat upon them. Even though it was soon to be ten o’clock, he saw several families sitting before their fire, laughing as the father played upon the piano in one family, or in another where a mother sang to her sleepy children, or another where a small boy and girl were drinking a large, foaming cup of hot chocolate.
The boy on the streets looked inside upon each of these families and wondered what he had done to deserve this. What had he done to deserve his parents untimely demise; or the selfish reasoning behind none of his family taking him into their homes; or the fact that the local orphanage wouldn’t take him in; or the baker refusing to do the humane thing and give a starving teenage boy a piece of bread? He pondered this as he walked sadly down the cleanly shoveled street. It was still snowing and he knew he wouldn’t survive the night without a nice, warm place to sleep.
The boy peered inside the houses some more, and saw that all of the men and women and children were now going to sleep. The women bustled their children to their beds as the men blew out the candles and put out the fires silently. The children went to their pillows and buried within their blankets, going to dream of the events of the morrow.
The boy sighed as he saw the rich children go to sleep, a giant cloud of cold air emerging from his mouth as a consequence. His toes were frozen and his fingers were numb from the cold. He now couldn’t feel his ears or his nose and all he could think about was the hope that a nice, warm piece of bread might be placed in his hands tomorrow if he lived past the night. Things had never gotten this bad before.
Strangely, the boy didn’t care that much. He had always loved snow with a deep passion. He gazed up at the cloudy sky as it gave him heavenly, fluffy snowflakes. His mother had once told him that no two snowflakes were exactly alike. It was a fact that he remembered then as he held up his hand and caught several small flakes in his blue hand. The moon peeked through the clouds and gazed down on him, smiling at this ironic scene: the boy loved what was killing him.
“I forgive you,” the boy said silently closing his eyes as he stood in the street and twirled around in the snow. The snow danced and played around him as he twirled happily, his eyelashes catching the smallest of snowflakes. He laughed joyfully as the snow came softly down upon him and got imbedded in his hair and his ragged clothing.
The boy began to prance around the street with his eyes closed, not caring anymore whether he lived or died, because in those few minutes, he was the happiest he had been in a long time. He had accepted death and welcomed it as an old friend. Eventually, however, the boy slipped on a small strip of ice and fell on his bottom into a large mound of snow that had been piled on the side of the street. He opened his eyes and gazed over the tops of the houses into the sky, not caring that the snow still fell on his tatters that he called clothing. He breathed a sigh of relief that he wouldn’t die painfully and he almost smiled at the idea of finally rejoining his family in heaven.
At that very moment when death almost snatched the young teenager, the boy heard bells jingling. He looked around him for the source, barely strong enough to even raise his head, but could not see anyone even though the sound of the silver bells grew progressively stronger by the second. He looked up and down the street, angry that this disruption had intruded on his peaceful death, but still he could not find the source of the peaceful jingling of bells. Finally, the boy laid his head down upon the snow. By chance, this put him in direct view of the tops of the houses across the street and what he saw on top of the house across from him made him gasp with shock.
He had only heard stories of the famous St. Nicholas. He had never been a strong believer of such a magical figment of childish imagination, but what he saw was definitely not an apparition. Before him, on top of the house, stood a bright, shining sleigh that was attached to nine large and magnificently majestic reindeer. At first, the boy thought he was hallucinating, but even as he rubbed his sleepy eyes, he saw that what he was seeing was not an apparition, but was indeed real. The only thing that the boy did not see was Santa Claus himself, nor his sack of toys and goodies. The teenage boy couldn’t just simply die now with his curiosity burning within him!
He stood up shakily from his mound of snow, his feet still frozen stiff, and attempted to walk upon them. Sadly, it was helpless and he immediately fell to the hard ground and landed on his face, his cheek scraping the round rocks. He cried aloud in pain, mainly because he would probably die within the next few minutes without having met the most magical being he had ever heard of. He no longer accepted death. His inner childhood curiosity had bloomed and now could not be contained no matter how hard he tried.
“Help!” He cried, his voice coming out in a faint whisper as he breathed into the street. His hands now refused to move. His legs were bent at a painful angle and he couldn’t find the strength to even stand up. Yet still, no one came to his aid. He didn’t bother trying again to call out. Even if he did, he doubted that it would be any louder than the first. He closed his eyes.
But what was that he heard?
Snow crunching beneath heavy boots….
The ragged breath of a man running toward the aid of a helpless boy…
Then, rather suddenly, the teenage boy was lifted from the snow covered earth into the arms of a very warm and plump man. The man immediately enveloped the boy in his arms and held him close, knowing that the boy was very close to death.
“Rudolph, bring it down here!” the boy’s savior yelled to someone or something.
That was when the boy opened his eyes and looked up at the man holding him so gently. He knew who the man was immediately. The man was St. Nicholas; Santa Claus. He was exactly how adults had described him. He was rather plump, with a red and white hat, thick, leather gloves, a round, red nose, a long and well-kept beard, shiny black boots, and attire fit for any weather that matched his hat perfectly. The only thing adults had never told him was how kind St. Nicholas’s visage was. He was gazing down at the boy with sincere concern and love in his eyes, the likes of which the boy had never seen before in his life.
“Are you alright?” Santa Claus asked gently, hugging the boy to his chest to keep him warm. At that moment, although the boy didn’t see it, he heard the reindeer arrive almost noiselessly with the sleigh, their only indication of arrival being the small jingling of bells and the snorting of their noses and their stomping of hooves. It sounded peaceful to the boy.
The boy tried to reply, but his lips were frozen stiff and his tongue refused to move no matter how much he willed it to. All he could manage to choke out was,” No.”
St. Nicholas almost smiled at the boy’s response and instead lifted him gently up into the air and carried him over to Santa’s sleigh. The boy managed to get a glimpse of the nine mighty reindeer that stood nobly before the sleigh, all straddled together with thick cords of rope that had large bells sewed on. Santa Claus set him gently onto a small bench in front of a very large sack which the boy assumed could only contain the numerous toys that the man before him carried all around the world. Santa then set to work making the boy as comfortable as possible. He pulled a thick, wool blanket from the bottom of the sleigh’s floor and wrapped the boy in it snuggly, tucking in the edges and wrapping it around his feet and even his head.
“I usually only use this when I head over to Greenland, Canada, or Russia,” Santa said, merrily, tucking the boy in more. “Luckily, I already went to all three of those places, so this blanket will serve the purpose of benefitting you tonight while I finish my rounds.”
The boy didn’t respond, but instead managed to smile at the benevolent man as he climbed into the sleigh beside him. Santa lifted up the reins as the boy basked in the warmth of the thick blanket, and he called out,” On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer, on Vixen, on Comet, on Cupid, on Donner, on Blitzen! Rudolph, you lead the way!”
With that said, the sleigh began to slide forward immediately as the nine noble reindeer pulled it forward and lifted it into the air, setting off immediately. It was by far the most magical and odd feeling the boy had ever experienced. He couldn’t help but glance over the side of the sleigh as it rose steadily into the air and picked up speed. Santa Claus laughed beside the boy and shouted,” Merry Christmas” to everyone who was willing to hear.
The boy remembered every single detail about that night: how the sleigh seemed to fly for hours and hours, even days, yet still it remained night time; how Santa Claus gave the boy some of the cookies from every house they stopped at; how the reindeer seemed to slice through the air at lightning speed; how they landed softly on the houses; how St. Nicholas managed to easily squeeze down every chimney he came to; how he always came back with his toy sack a little smaller; and how the boy could not stop smiling and staring at his rescuer, wishing he could do something like this for children.
But eventually, it was obvious the job was done, and Santa seated himself beside the boy for the last time. He called the reindeer to fly into the air, and as he did he turned to the boy and said,” Well, that’s the last house. Are you feeling warmer?”
“Yes, quite warm!” the boy replied sadly, knowing the time had come to return to Minnesota.
“Well, that’s good. Do you have any family that I should return you to?”
“No, sir….I have no one.”
“I figured as much,” Santa Claus sighed and gazed at the moon as the reindeer soared through the clouds. “No child should have to suffer through what you have suffered through…. Would you like to come back to the North Pole with me?”
The boy gazed at the man before him in bewilderment and shock. To have a family would mean the world to him. He choked out as he stared at the man,” Are the stories true then? You have elves? And a wife named Mrs. Claus?” But it was then that the boy paused,” Wait…What if this is all fake? What if I am just dreaming? What if I died and this is-“
“Heaven?” Santa finished for the boy. “No, dear child, this is not heaven. This is completely real. I am as real as you. Yes, I do have elves and a lot of them at that! They make the best of friends. Yes, I have a lovely wife as well. I cannot see you back on the streets. I would like to invite you to live with me, please. The offer stands until these reindeer set foot on earth again in Minnesota.”
The boy smiled at Santa Claus,” I have my answer: yes. I would very much like to have a family who loves me.”
Santa Claus smiled at the boy and called out the head reindeer,” Rudolph, onward to the North Pole; home!” He then turned to the boy and asked him,” Now, child, what is your name?”
The teenage boy replied with his bright blue eyes and grey hair, a boy that was no longer homeless,” My name is Jack Frost.”
“Jack Frost, eh?” Santa Claus replied smiling with his cheeks rosy red. “Well, we will put you to good service.”