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A Short Christmas Story For All To Enjoy

Updated on December 5, 2009

Youg Christopher Kringle

The story begins centuries ago in a small German town by the name of Waisenstadt, which, translated from German, means “OrphanTown.” Poor parents throughout Germany would leave their children here hoping the many orphanages would supply these children with the food and shelter they could not. Ten orphanages dotted the town, each holding twenty or more children, with the only other building of purpose being the clock shop of Wilhelm Von Klaus.

Wilhelm’s money kept the orphanages of Waisenstadt going. Born an orphan himself, Wilhelm grew up to be known as one of the finest clockmakers in Germany. In return for his success, he built orphanages throughout the town, promising every child a warm place to live. The Kinder von Gott orphanage was his favorite, as it was there he had spent his first fifteen years growing into manhood. It was a time he would never forget, as it had shaped his character for the many years to come.

Wilhelm was a sturdily built man appearing no more than 40 years in age. And yet, the townspeople knew him to be much older, as this was his 85th year running the same shop. To an outsider it might appear he had bartered with the devil to keep his youth. Yet, to anyone who knew him, this thought was inconceivable.

Toiling in his basement for hours on end, no one saw much of him except during the few hours he opened his shop to allow others to come in and see the clocks he had for sale. The basement was off limits to all who entered, this fact made clear by the hardened brass lock bolted upon the basement door.

Even with his uncanny appearance of youth, the townspeople could find no quarrel with his presence. People from all over the world came to buy Wilhelm’s clocks. He had a broad smile and a hearty laugh for all those who passed through his doors. Indeed, if he had made a deal with the devil, it could be forgiven for all the kindness he had shown.

The orphans benefited the most from Wilhelm’s kindness. Each year, on December 24th, he would gather all the clocks that had not sold and place them into a large red sack. He would then stack them onto his sleigh and travel to each orphanage spending no less than an hour at each one. It was a special date for Wilhelm, as this was the same day he had left the orphanage all those years ago.

The children would wait for him at the door anxious for his arrival, and upon entry he would hand each child one of the extraordinary clocks from his large red bag. However, it was not the clocks they had remained awake to see. No, it was Wilhelm himself they had all waited for. Dressed in his wooly red overcoat, he would sit the youngest orphan upon his knee and tell them all a story from his youth, offering hope that these children may someday lead a better life. It was the time he spent with these children that made him endearing to their hearts, and they would always reward him plentifully with many hugs before allowing him to part company.

Days would go by as the children played with their new clocks. A bit of imagination would transform them into toys within their minds, but a child’s imagination can only bend so far, and in time, they would grow bored of them.

Outside the orphanages the clocks were thrown into rubbish piles - many broken during play, though a few survived unscathed. These clocks would then go onto the poor, who would sift through the rubbish and take them home. The affluent could have done the same, but they chose not to own a clock that had already been touched by another.

And yet, we would not have much of a story were it not for a young boy by the name of Christopher… Christopher Kringle. Born of a very poor family, he was left at the Kinder von Gott orphanage at the tender age of three. It was not that his parents didn't love him, but with seven hungry mouths to feed they could not afford one more. And so it was that Christopher ended up in the same orphanage that had once been Wilhelm's home.

Much like the other children, Christopher would remain awake on that special night waiting for Wilhelm to visit. He would then sit with the other children and listen to Wilhelm’s stories as Jessica – at that time the youngest – would sit upon his lap. When it was his turn, Christopher would hug the saintly man with all his might wishing secretly that Wilhelm would take him along, but when the night ended he would still be a young boy living out his childhood in an orphanage.

With his new clock in hand, he would place it under his shared bunk beside the other clocks he had saved, with the hope he would someday better appreciate the finer mechanics hidden within.

At the age of fourteen, Christopher, now nearly a man, gathered the many clocks from under his bed and disassembled them to see what made them work. Full of gears, hammers, and other gizmos, he was amazed at the workmanship that Wilhelm had put into them. And yet, for all that Christopher had received he had not once given anything back, and this troubled him. It was then that he decided to build something for Wilhelm. It would not be a clock, as he did not fully understand how they worked, but it would be something from his heart to show thanks for all the kindness this man had shown him throughout the years.

For a full year Christopher worked on his creation, trusting only the eyes of Jessica to see his imagination unfold, as he was uncertain others would understand or appreciate what he intended to do. And so it was that Christopher finished the day before Wilhelm would arrive, giving Jessica just enough time to inspect it and deem it as acceptable.

Wilhelm arrived on the night of December 24th as he always had before. One rap on the door was all it took, as Johnny, now the youngest, opened the door to let him in.

Handing out his clocks to all, Wilhelm made his way to the big chair where he would sit and hold Johnny in his arms as he told yet another story from his childhood. What always amazed the children is how Wilhelm would never tell the same story twice.

Minutes passed by until the hour ended. Wilhelm set Johnny’s feet down upon the floor as the other children brought him his overcoat and helped him put it on. He then grabbed his red bag of goods and headed to the door, and to his surprise, he found Christopher standing in his way.

Christopher handed Wilhelm a gift, swaddled in a piece of cloth that Jessica had provided. With a tender hand, Wilhelm unraveled the cloth to see what was inside and was surprised to find a device that was beyond description.

“What is it?” asked Wilhelm of Christopher.

Christopher looked down at the floor, unable to form a response. He had never considered giving his invention a name nor was he certain it did anything useful.

Moving the device around in his hands, Wilhelm found a lever, which he pressed, causing a soft lullaby played from within. It was a song Christopher had remembered from a time before he was placed in the orphanage, a faint memory, but one he somehow had managed to keep.

Wilhelm’s left eye quivered as a small droplet of sadness fell out upon his cheek. It was an old German folk tune named ‘There is Beauty in Truth’.

There is beauty in truth;

So the gospel does say.

Be good to thy brother;

Be honest in your way.

Never try to deceive;

Never tell one a lie.

For the good lord is watching;

From high up in the sky.

Wilhelm laid down his red sack and gently pushed Christopher aside. “I can’t do this anymore,” he said, in a barely audible voice. He then pulled the door behind him and walked off into the night as the children were left behind to deal with their grief. Had he meant it? Had he truly chosen to abandon them as other grownups had before?

For hours they sat by the door and cried, until all but Jessica finally went off to bed. With all the strength she had inside, she dragged the red sack full of clocks into her room and pushed them under her bed.

By the time December 24th arrived again, all the children had forgotten what had happened. Perhaps Wilhelm had forgotten as well. They gathered by the door awaiting Wilhelm’s knock, and they would do so for hours as that sound would never come.

Christopher gave up first as he retreated off to his room. Jessica followed him, as the saddened looks on the children’s faces were a bit more than she could take.

“He really meant it, Jessica. He’s not coming anymore, and it’s all my fault.”

“You couldn’t have known,” said Jessica, as she draped her arm around Christopher’s shoulder.

Christopher pointed toward the children. “Look at them, all huddled at the door and crying. I did that to them. There won’t be a visit from Wilhelm this year or ever again.”

“I have the red bag. You could be Wilhelm this year.”

“Jessica, I can’t believe you stole his bag.”

“He left it here. It was an orphan, just like us, so I gave it a home.”

“You heard him say it himself, he’s done.”

“So what? That doesn’t mean we can’t give the presents out.”

“It won’t work. I’m not Wilhelm, and they don’t want clocks. They play with them a few days and throw them away. Can’t you see, Jessica? They don’t want clocks; they want Wilhelm, and I can’t give them that.”

“No, but you can give them toys, like the one you made for Wilhelm.”

Jessica dragged Christopher off to her room where she had stowed the bag under her bed. “There’s plenty of parts here, more than enough.”

“Jessica, it took me a whole year to build the last thing I made.”

“Then make simpler toys. Come on Christopher; I know you can do it.”

Christopher looked into the bag of clocks as Jessica peeked out at the other children. Awake for so long, the children had fallen asleep by the door and would be no wiser of what they were doing. Disappearing into his room, Christopher came back with the many tools he had acquired from the handyman over the years, tools the man had neglected to remember that would prove useful for their cause.

With his hands appearing to possess a mind of their own, he worked quickly to manufacture various items that Jessica would then inspect. Those she liked were placed neatly upon the floor, and those she found fault with would be taken apart and reassembled into something else.

All through the night, they worked until the children finally woke. It was Johnny who was the first to take notice as he walked in just in time to miss the final crafting of the toys.

“Hey everyone! Wilhelm came when we were asleep, and this year he brought us toys!”

“What kind of toys?” asked another child.

“Wondrous toys! Toys like those I've never seen! Come look!”

The children came and appeared in wonder at all the toys. Most were beyond description or purpose, but the minds of an agile youth can always fill in the blanks where imagination is needed.

“Should we tell them the truth?” Christopher asked Jessica.

“No, they cried enough last year when Wilhelm left. Let them believe he came back.”

Christopher watched the twinkle in the children’s eyes as they played with their new toys and knew that Jessica was right. Although it was a lie, it was all these children had that made them still feel loved.

By nightfall, each child had claimed a toy as his own and had fallen asleep with it by their side. Yet, there upon the floor still laid many more that were left untouched. Not knowing what else to do with the extras, Jessica loaded them into the big red bag. “We can save these for next year.”

Christopher went into his room and returned with his overcoat. He then grabbed the bag and lifted it over his shoulder, “No Jessica, these toys will not be orphaned like we were.”

“Where are you going?” said Jessica, as she chased Christopher to the door.

“I’m going to find these toys a good home.” And with that, he departed off into the night.

It was unseasonably cold and rainy that evening, hardly a night when anyone should be out. Giving no thought to his own welfare, Christopher trudged steadily on, not allowing the gnawing cold to slow him down. All night long, he pulled the toy-laden bag through the streets of Waisenstadt stopping at each orphanage along the way. As no one would ever consider stealing from the poor and destitute, the orphanages were all found to be unlocked, which allowed Christopher to sneak inside and deliver his toys. Upon each child’s pillow he gently rested a toy, moving quietly along so as not to wake them.

All night long he delivered his presents, before returning to his bed, damp and exhausted, unable to move another inch.

A loud knock came at the door of the Kinder non Gott orphanage. News of the toys had reached Wilhelm's ears and he was there to witness it for his own eyes.

His one year of absence had made him the scrooge of the town, but here he was at the orphanage again, accredited by the locals for rekindling his kind ways - and yet, he knew different, and that knowledge tore into his soul.

With his knocking going unheard Wilhelm slammed his fists against the door, intent on being heard. On any other day such a clamor would be met by the sunder of running feet, but the loud din went almost unnoticed, as the orphans were busy playing with their wondrous new toys.

It was little Johnny who finally rose to answer the door, and upon seeing Wilhelm he let out a ringing five year old squeal that roused everyone from where they had been playing. Each child dropped their new toy, and bounded do the door to give Wilhelm a huge hug. They then drug the elder man off to the other room to share with him the small mechanical marvels which had given them such joy.

Wiping a stain of sadness from his eye, Wilhelm inquired why Christopher was nowhere to be found. A somber Jessica took Wilhelm by the hand and led him back to Christopher’s bed.

Try as she did to wake the boy, it was no use. Draped in his clothes from the night before, he did not stir a bit. Wilhelm saw the boy’s arm draped uncomfortably over the side of the bed and placed it back onto the bed where it belonged. In doing so, he noticed how the boy’s clothes were extremely damp. He then ran his palm across Christopher’s forehead. A small furnace was boiling over the boy's mind.

“Johnny," Wilhelm shouted, "run quickly. Fetch me some dry clothes for this boy.”

Johnny ran off as Jessica watched on in concern. “Is he all right?” she asked.

“He’s very sick. I need to get him to someone who can help.”

“Can I come along?”

“No! You mustn’t!” Wilhelm released his tenuous grasp on Jessica's shoulder then pulled her in to his arms. “It might be something infectious. It’s far better if I take him alone.”

“Will he die?”

“Not if I have anything to say about it.”

Little Johnny ran back in, and Wilhelm dismissed everyone from the room as he changed Christopher’s clothes. He then grabbed a few blankets from the beds around him and swaddled Christopher within them for warmth. Heaving the boy over his shoulder, he pushed his way quickly out of the room, pointing for Johnny to get the door as he rushed Christopher’s limp body out to his sleigh.

It would be days before Christopher would awaken again and find himself staring in wonder at all the little men surrounding him. He trembled as they poked and prodded at his body. What could they want with him? Had he died and fallen to a bad place?

“How is our young guest doing?” a voice asked.

Christopher stretched his neck to see where the voice had come from. Was that Wilhelm’s voice or a hallucination?

Upon his head, he felt a familiar hand matting through his hair. Looking up, he could see Wilhelm’s warm smile.

“Where am I?” Christopher asked weakly.

“You are where no other child has ever been –- inside the workshop below my store.”

“Who are these little men?”

“They’re elves. They used to make clocks for me, but now …,” Wilhelm paused to think a moment, “…but now I choose to step aside, so they may work for another who is more worthy.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No, I don’t suppose you would.”

“Then help me to understand.”

Wilhelm sat on the bed beside Christopher and folded his hands gently into his lap, “I was once an aimless young man just like you, living out my childhood within an orphanage. Once I became old enough, I left the orphanage and wandered through the snow looking for a purpose. I remember that snowy December 24th, like it was yesterday. It was that night I caught myself a cold and nearly died.”

“Like me?”

“Yes, like you. How fortunate for me that these fine fellows found me and offered to save my life, provided I did something for them in return.”

“That’s why you made the clocks?”

“No, the elves made the clocks. All they asked of me is that I sell them. After all, who would buy a clock from an elf?”

“The deliveries to the orphans, was that their idea too?”

“No, that part was my idea. Every year we would make more than we could sell, and I suggested giving them to the orphans.”


“I was one of those orphans once, with every day passing by just like the one before. I gave those children something I never had - one day a year they could look forward to.”

“So, why did you quit?”

“Can’t you see Christopher? I lied to you all. I never had a good childhood, and as for who I am, I would be nothing were it not for the effort of these little men. I’m a fraud. The elves are the ones who made all the clocks; I only sold them. And yet, what you did, that was a special magic that came from your own two hands. You have a gift Christopher, a gift that far outshines any I have ever seen.

"How did you find out?"

"Oh, the town crier kept me advised. The night before he was telling everyone how I had forsaken the orphans, and the next day he was shouting out how I had returned to my duties. Only one person in this town could have made those toys and I knew where to find him."

"You're not mad, are you?"

Wilhelm let out a short whisper laugh. "Heavens, no. You're the miracle these children have all been waiting for. I get by on the skill of others, while you -- you're skill is genuine."

“It doesn’t matter,” said Christopher in defiance. “The children love you, and they care more for your presence than any gift you could ever given them. Without you, they have nothing to live for.”

Wilhelm’s cheeks turned a bright rosy red as a smile pursed his lips. “I know; that’s why I've decided to spend what time I have left visiting them on a daily basis.”

“But, what about the clock shop? And what about the yearly presents for the children?”

“The clock shop will close. As for those presents, well, that’s your job now.”

“Where will I work if the store closes?”

Wilhelm laughed. “So, you've already accepted the job. Good. As for where you will work, the elves tell me most of their brethren live in a hidden place far up north. They have offered to take you along. With a bit of their help, I bet you could make toys for all the children of the world.”

“That’s a great idea, but who will take over the business when I die?”

“Oh, my boy, you will never die. You will only age until you reach a point where you choose to grow no older. For you see, something about living among these elves helps keep the heart young and strong – beating in a never ending rhythm.

"But, what will happen to you - and Jessica."

"Me? I suppose I will remain behind and grow old, as I should have many years ago. I have lived a long and productive life, and I do not shy away from the premise of dying a good man. As for Jessica, I believe her to be every bit as special as you, which is why I recommend you take her along."

And so, Christopher took Jessica north with him to continue Wilhelm's tradition, returning each December to deliver toys to the good children of Germany. And each year he would create one extra gift, which he would deliver to Wilhelm until the elder man finally passed on

Kneeling before Wilhelm's grave, Christopher laid his favorite red sack down at the foot of the man's casket. "This is my final gift I have to offer. May you go on to deliver many gifts in heaven," he whispered.

Jessica pulled at Christopher's coat, "It doesn't need to end here."

"Wilhelm's dead. Where it not for him, the tradition would have never begun."

"And if it weren't for you ... the tradition never would have continued."

The words rang true in Christopher's ears, and he continued the Christmas tradition started by a selfless orphan with a heart of gold.

And if you travel to Wasenstadt, Germany today you can still see the grave of Wilhelm Von Klaus. A red satin bag is always draped over the grave sight, and some say it's the original bag left by Christopher all those years ago. The satin bag never ages, just like the man who left it behind ... and he never misses his duty on Christmas eve.

Merry Christmas!


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