(s) Christmas in the Orphanage

As a young boy, I lost my parents and was brought up in an orphanage near London. It was more like a prison. We had to work for 14 hours a day, in the garden, in the kitchen, in the stable and in the fields. Every day was the same and we had only one day off – Christmas Day, when every boy received an orange for working so hard. But only those who had been obedient the whole year..

When Christmas came around, it felt like the end of the world. I had to stand in the corner and watch while all the other boys were given an orange. This was my punishment for trying to run away from the orphanage in the summer. Then I had to spend the whole day in the dormitory while the others were allowed to play in the yard. I was so miserable and ashamed and crept under the blankets.

After a while I heard footsteps. A hand pulled the blankets away. I looked up and there stood a little boy named William. In his hand he held out an orange. I could not believe it, how could this be? Where did they get this extra orange from? I looked closely and noticed that the orange was already peeled. I realised I had to hold it firmly or it would fall to pieces.

What had happened? Ten boys had got together in the yard and had decided that I should have an orange for Christmas too. Each boy had peeled his orange and had carefully separated out one section to form a new round orange. This was the best Christmas present I had ever received in my life. It demonstrated how comforting true friendship can be.

 From “Weihnachten in einem Waisenhaus” by Christina Oberfeld – translated and adapted by Resi Schwarzbauer and edited by Herta Uhlherr.