the tattered old man on christmas eve

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic

A poem about an old man on a snowy winter night who needs help and sees a candle in a window.

the tattered old man on Christmas Eve


snow was falling hard

as the old man struggled

through the deep drifts

on the country road


light shone from a

a farmhouse window

the old man smiled seeing the glow


it was a candle

the widowed mother had placed there

nightly since last Christmas Eve


a year ago

a man was found

frozen along this same road


mother did not want

it to happen again

perhaps a poor soul might

see the candle lit

and ask for help


on Christmas Eve

mother sat by the fireplace

she read Christmas stories

to her two children

as the icicles sparkled on the tree

fire light danced

as snow continued to fall


as she read

the children listened

to the harsh wind blow

around the corner of the house

making a wailing tune

they were warmed by the fire


suddenly there was a pecking

at the front door

mother stopped reading

the children drew close


they waited

again there was a knock…


but gently


mother told the children to

stay by the fire

she went to the door


she opened it cautiously

there stood an old man

tattered clothes

worn out boots

an old hat

but no gloves


he tipped his hat and said

evening ma’am

might an old man

just come in for a few minutes

to warm his hands on this cold night


the children’s eyes grew big

as a mince meat pie

while watching


yes please come in

mother said

sit near the warm fire

I will make you a cup of hot tea


he took off his old coat

and hat

and hung them on a hook by the front door

he settled into the overstuffed chair

near the fire as he

warmed his hands


loaded with questions

the children followed mother

to the kitchen

to fetch the tea


who is he mama

can we trust him

will he hurt us

we don’t know him mama


mother smiled

he is a stranger

who needs our help

your questions are thoughtful

I can’t answer them

we have to do our best

we need to trust him


the old man smiled

his trembling hands took the cup

he graciously thanked them

as he lifted the cup to his mouth

he whispered something

words they couldn’t hear


the children asked

if he was hungry

but did not wait for an answer

they ran to the kitchen

and brought soup and bread


the old man was polite

he ate it trying not to hurry

but mother and the children

could tell that he was famished


they sat and talked

the children wanted to know if

he had a family

and what was his name


he ignored the question

about his name but said


I have a very large family

all over the world

they are all colors

they speak different languages


they looked at him

is he of sound mind

they wondered


mother changed the subject


where were you going

on this snowy Christmas Eve


he gazed out the window

I am not sure

but over yonder somewhere


I had better get back

onto the road

thank you for your kindness


mother said

you cannot leave in this storm

you must stay here where it is warm

and you are safe


he agreed and thanked her

she showed him to the extra bed

under the stairway


everyone went to bed

but had trouble going to sleep


they heard the old man snoring

they too fell asleep


morning light slid ‘neath the shades

the children jumped out of bed

and ran to the living room

to greet the old man


he was not there


no trace of him

the bed looked as though

no one slept in it


during the night

the snow had stopped falling

but there were no tracks

left by the old man


on the mantle above the fireplace

were three small paper bags

in them were little treats

Christmas candies shaped like stars

and a note that said Merry Christmas


the family was awe struck

who was this man

where did the candy come from

where did he go

what did he mean that his family

was very large all over the world



the candle remained burning

each night in the front window

throughout the children’s childhood


mother died

and the farm house was sold

into the sale agreement

there was written a clause

“the candle must be lit nightly

for one who travels these roads

they may need help”


the new couple honored the agreement

but no one ever stopped again seeking help





Clyde and Susan McCulley

Submitted: December 23, 2020

© Copyright 2021 clyde. All rights reserved.

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