The Truth about Christmas


Originally printed in the December 1990 New Era.
We were old enough to know the truth about Christmas—it was just a different truth than we had expected.

It was soon to be Christmas. My twin brother and I had reached the age when we knew the “truth” about Christmas. Our family’s humble circumstances had always provided little help for Santa Claus. Max and I had decided between us that we would ease Mother’s concern about it and so confided in her our knowledge. She merely replied, “Well, is that so?”

Christmas Eve came. The family decorated the tree, made candy and popcorn balls, and placed our homemade presents beneath the tree. Dad sent us boys downstairs to bed, indicating that we were to stay there until he called us in the morning. Still laughing and giggling from the fun and excitement, Max and I followed our older brother, Lynn, down the stairs. With some effort on our part and some added encouragement from our father, we finally quieted down. Sleep came at last.

It seemed I hadn’t been asleep long when Max awakened me with the news that it was 7:15 A.M.—time to hurry up to the living room. Our excitement and noisy efforts hurrying up the stairs awakened our father. As we reached the kitchen door we heard his somewhat irritated voice saying it was only 25 minutes before 3:00 A.M. (we had read the clock backwards) and we were to get right back into bed and wait as we had been told earlier!

We turned back toward the stairs. It was then that we saw it! Even in the very dim light it was beautiful! We sat down in the dark of the stairwell and described to each other a most unexpected surprise—a Hiawatha Streamer bicycle! The fact that there was just one, that there were 20 inches of snow outside and no place to ride, or that we couldn’t read which of the children it was for somehow didn’t matter.

It seemed that we sat there on the stairs for hours, counting each tick of the clock and anxiously awaiting the call of our father. Finally we heard Dad’s heavy footsteps as he walked from the bedroom toward the stairs. He hardly needed to beckon us to come.

There it was—“TO THE TWINS FROM SANTA”—the most beautiful bicycle we had ever seen. It was cream-colored, decorated with a bright red stripe and shiny chrome fenders, and completely outfitted with headlight, tool compartment, fender rack, reflector, and spring seat. We could hardly believe it was ours! Soon my brothers and I were clearing a pathway in the snow and were riding the sleek new Streamer. Cold hands and toes were ignored. What a wonderful time we had!

In my excitement and almost total preoccupation with our wonderful Christmas gift, I had failed to notice that there were few other gifts beneath the tree for other members of the family. Christmas stockings contained an orange in the toe, a few nuts, and some hard candy. Hand-wrapped pieces of honey candy and homemade fudge completed Santa’s treat.

That evening as we went to bed, Max and I talked about the day’s event—the bicycle. We planned how we would use the bike. We would get a paper route. We would have transportation to work during the summer, and we would be able to ride to school during the winter. It could be put to so many uses! Then our wonderment returned. Where had the bicycle come from? We knew Mom and Dad couldn’t afford to buy it. We were also aware of the wartime shortages. Who had made this prized gift possible?

It wasn’t until several years later that we learned the beautiful, heartwarming truth. The sacrifice and concern of a loving mother, brother, and sister had made possible that unforgettable Christmas. Our brother had worked extra hours at a creamery after school. Our sister had done housework for a neighbor. Our mother had saved money from her early-morning work at the cannery during the harvest months. They had each worked extra hours and had sacrificed their time, their earnings, and their own Christmas gifts to provide a special Christmas for the young twins.

The happiness of that Christmas was surpassed only by the discovery of their secret and their love and sacrifice for us. Here was the true spirit of Christmas—an older brother and sister lending unselfish support to parents, desiring to give anonymously that which they’d never had themselves, seeking no credit or praise for their act, expecting no reciprocation. This example of the love of children for parents and brothers I shall always cherish and value as a priceless gift.

The bike is gone, long ago worn out by two robust boys. Its shininess faded through constant use and enjoyment. The years, however, have only increased the glow of true Christlike love between family members. This act of love, and others like it, created ties that have brought our family members to the aid and support of one another many times and under every circumstance.

How valuable are the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ taught to us in our homes. They strengthen us, bring us everlasting joy and happiness, and, if lived, bind us together in an eternal family relationship.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh