One Christmas at the Orphans’ Home

The following story was recently discovered in the December, 1922 edition of Lutheran Woman’s Work.  Its author, Ms. Virginia Margret Boyer, was admitted here as an orphan in November of 1898 and later came back to serve as a teacher in 1914; she would also complete a missionary trip to India. Ms. Boyer would ultimately perish during her second attempt to India in the shipwreck of the SS Egypt on May 22, 1922; for many years a bronze plaque hung in our chapel’s vestibule to honor her.


illuminated-i t was snowing, and it was the morning of the day before Christmas. The six-thirty bell rang, and dark and cold though it was, twenty heads bobbed up from the beds in the girls’ dormitory, and then forty feet pounced upon the floor.

“Just think – tonight! Oh, I can hardly wait!” Betty danced up and down as Mary came to ‘button her up.’

“Yes tonight! Are you wishing for a doll?”

“For one with blue eyes, and I know I’ll get it, for last year I got just what I wished for. Isn’t it exciting? Please don’t pull my hair, – that hurts!”

“Well, it’s just because you won’t stand still. Stand here by the window and watch the snow while I comb your hair.”

Breakfast was a hum and buzz of excitement. The little folks had to go to school, but the teacher was kind and wise. Who could study the day before Christmas? So everybody sang songs, played games and listened to the loveliest stories. Even then, the day seemed to pass so slowly because so much was coming with the evening time.

The big boys and girls, however, were busy, and had not a single minute to spare. The boys brought in the tree and built the platform for the exercises. They gathered evergreens for decorations, ran errands for the kitchen, and helped to open the boxes,- those wonderful boxes marked, “From Warren, Pa.,” “From Erie, Pa.,” “From Pittsburgh, Pa.,” etc., almost all of them from the dear women of our Church.

Two girls gifted along artistic lines decorated the dining room in red and green; two others helped trim the big tree in the Chapel. In the kitchen there were fowls to stuff and just heaps of other things to do.

At last evening came. For all the little ones the dining room and the chapel were mysterious places. Supper of sandwiches and milk was served upstairs in the playroom. All were dressed in there very best. At seven o’clock the eagerly awaited bell rang.

“A sudden rush from the stairway,

A sudden raid from the hall-“

and with the subdued “oh’s” and “ah’s” each took his accustomed place in the Chapel. Then the beautiful Christmas carol, “Oh, little town of Bethlehem,” rang out in clear children’s voices. Next the old, old Story was read from God’s Word. Every boy and girl knew it was Christ’s Birthday they were celebrating. He was their gift, for they loved the Baby Jesus. All their songs and recitations were about Him.

The lights went out; only the tree glistened with its lightened candles. Then softly, very softly, the closing hymn was sung-

“Silent Night! Holy night!

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,

Holy Infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.”

The service was over. The reverent silence was broken and expectant faces and eager feet turned the dining room. There each one stood by his own place at the dining table; a plate full of nuts and cookies, a golden orange, a rosy apple, with parcels heaped around,- this is what everyone found at his place. There was a prayer of praise and thanksgiving and then all were seated. Soon horns, drums, and mouth organs were tried out, for this is the one time in the whole year when, gathered together in the house, the children are allowed to make as much noise as they please.

“See my doll with the blue eyes. I knew I’d get it.”

“Uh-hu, my book is just as nice. I’ll read it through tomorrow. Did you see Jack’s skates?”

One by one, the tired, happy children went upstairs. Thoughtful older girls helped the little tots carry their precious burdens up to the playroom. By nine-thirty the sleepy eyes and weary heads were ready for their pillows. A glorious holiday was before them. Christmas dinner and service at the church in town meant more happiness still in the future. Who ever had such a good time?

Betty cuddled down under her covers, her blue-eyed doll by her side, as she murmured happily, “Well, we haven’t any fathers and mothers of our own, so Jesus makes everybody love us, and I’m just so happy!”

Virginia Boyer.

[Original Footnote:]

(Miss Boyer, who was one of our India missionaries, was herself a little orphan girl in the Home at Zelienople, before she grew up to be a helper and a blessing to many people. As we read this story which she wrote for us before God took her home, last spring, through deep waters, let us think of the beautiful Christmas she will spend this year in the Father’s House.)

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  • Jamie Grace

    I enjoyed reading this sweet story of Christmas time long ago at the orphanage. How happy the children were just to receive one gift!