My friends and I first gathered to read this story, oranges in hand, during our freshman year of college. The aroma of freshly peeled oranges that filled the air as we quietly savored our own juicy oranges made The Christmas Orange an instant hit.
This year, I read a different version of the story to my children, because I thought that a picture book might be more enjoyable for them.
In the end, I still prefer the story that I originally fell in love with. It's concise and poignant. No pictures necessary. I now give you...
THE CHRISTMAS ORANGE
"Jake lived in an orphanage with nine other young boys. In the wintertime it seemed any extra money went for coal to heat the old buildings. At Christmas, the buildings always seemed a little warmer, and the food a little more plentiful, but more than any of these things--Christmas meant an orange. At Christmas each child received an orange. It was the only time of the year such a rare treat was provided, and it was coveted by each boy like no other thing that they ever possessed.
Each boy would save his orange for several days, admiring it, feeling it, loving it, and contemplating the moment he would eat it. Some would even save it until New Year's Day or later, much like many of us relish saving our Christmas trees and decorations until New Year's, just to remind us of the joy of Christmas.
This particular Christmas Day, Jake had broken the orphanage rules by starting a fight. The orphanage mother took Jake's orange away as punishment for the crime committed. Jake spent Christmas day empty and alone. Nighttime came and Jake could not sleep; silently, he sobbed because this year he would not have the orange to savor with the other boys.
A soft hand placed on Jake's shoulder startled him, and an object was quickly shoved into his hands. The child then disappeared into the dark to leave Jake alone to discover a strange looking orange--an orange made from segments of nine other oranges--nine highly prized oranges that had to be eaten that Christmas night, instead of saved, admired, and cherished until a later date."