Once up a time there was very sweet little girl named Clementine. She lived in an orphanage in a very poor part of town. However, as empty as the pockets of the nurses and caretakers were, their hearts were as full. Everyone in the orphanage got along like a tight-knit family.
As loving as all the children and caretakers were, Clementine was the kindest of them all. She helped the cooks in the kitchen, she helped plant vegetables in the garden in the early spring, and she helped teach the younger children to read. Of all the jobs she took on, the one she loved the most was telling stories to the sick children in the medical ward. She was cheery all year round, but she was the most cheery during the holiday season, if only for one reason. Every year for Christmas, she received one sweet orange in her stocking. She loved sweet oranges more than any other food. She loved them more than candy. She would make each slice last as long as she could. Then she would save the seeds in a scrapbook she had made. The pages of the scrapbook were labeled by year, and she had saved each seed from every year for as long as she could remember.
One year there was a terrible frost. Many of the orange crops died. One of the caretakers presented Clementine with the bad news. "I’m sorry Clementine, it doesn’t look like there will be any oranges this year. This is most unfortunate because we have a lot of sick children this year, and they need them more than ever." Clementine was very saddened by this; not because she loved the oranges so much, but because she loved the sick children in the ward much more.
She ran back to her room and began to write a letter to Santa Claus. In the letter she asked Santa to help her orphanage this Christmas. She said she didn’t want any oranges for the rest of her life, if it meant that the sick children could have them. Along with the letter, she included a small packet. In the packet were all the orange seeds she had saved over the years. She left the letter on her windowsill and settled in for the night. The wind picked up the letter and delivered it straight to the North Pole. Santa read the letter the next morning. He was so moved by Clementine’s kindness that he decided to take action. He looked at the seeds she had sent and he noticed that most of them were very old. In fact, some of them looked like they had broken in half. He knew he could not plant these seeds because they would not grow.
That year, Santa traveled the world looking for any oranges that he might be able to take to this orphanage. Unfortunately, it looked like all the sweet orange crops had died around the world. He made his final stop in China, where he visited an old friend, a Buddhist monk. The monk ran a temple that devoted much of its time growing mandarin oranges. However, the harvest from that year had been thrown away by the other monks and village people. "I’m sorry Santa. Most of us are very old, and the skins of the mandarins were too tough. We are too weak to peel the tough skin. All we have left are these seeds from last year. Most of them are old. In fact, a lot of them have split in half."
Santa stood and pondered for a little bit. He knew that this temple was his last resort. All of a sudden he had an idea.
"Head Monk, do you have any bare land for planting?" asked Santa.
"Alas, we only have one acre of land, and it is surrounded by a dark, dead forest."
"It will have to do," said Santa. " I propose that we mix our seeds together and plant them in that acre. Whatever grows we will split in half."
The Monk, believing he had nothing to lose, went along with Santa’s plan. They planted all the seeds in the land. Then, Santa brought out some buckets of melted snow from the North Pole and used it to water the seeds. Some people say that the snow from the North Pole has a little touch of magic in it. They say that it’s what makes the reindeer fly.
Santa and the Monk woke up early the next morning to check on the seeds. What they saw baffled them both. The one-acre of land was full of life. Big trees had sprouted in every direction. It seemed that even the forest surrounding the acre had turned orange and green. Each of the trees was bursting with small ripe fruit. The fruit was smaller than a sweet orange, but bigger than a mandarin.
The Monk reached out and grabbed the first little orange he saw. He peeled back the skin, and noticed how easily it came off. He picked out a slice and ate it. The slice was so sweet and juicy. It was like honey had been poured on his tongue.
There was so much fruit that all the villagers had to help Santa and the monks harvest it all. There was so much fruit, in fact, that everyone in the world received one of these special oranges for Christmas. But Santa saved a special batch that he had picked himself for a special orphanage.
That year, Santa hand-delivered the special oranges to the children at the orphanage. He saved a very special orange for Clementine. He handed her the plumpest one he could find.
"Clementine," he said, " your kind letter inspired me so much that I traveled the world looking for oranges. But I did not find any. Instead, a friend and I used some of his seeds and some of your seeds to grow some oranges. Then, these miracle oranges grew overnight. They are perfect for children, because they are very sweet, juicy, and just the right size. Because they are so perfect, I’ve decided to name them after you. From this day forth they shall be known as Clementines."
And that is why we always have Clementines during the holiday season.