The Provincial Annals of the Emmitsburg Province record this account of Christmas as celebrated by the children at St. John’s Asylum and School, in Utica, New York. The account is undated but probably dates from the 1860s.
The general atmosphere of the house is truly home-like. The civil and religious festivals of the year are celebrated with due honors; not one can pass unnoticed, there being too many voices to remind. Christmas, the children’s feast, is indeed a season of joy to the inmates of St. John’s; long before its arrival is it talked of, its pleasures enjoyed by anticipation. A large Christmas tree is early adorned and heavily laden with fruit, suited to the tastes of all, each gift bearing its owner’s number. This tree is not relieved of its precious burden until the feast of the Epiphany, 6th of January, when one the Wise Men wisely and happily dispenses the same. A very pretty custom of the house is to have its inmates awakened Christmas morning by the Venite Adoremus, sung by a select band of the children. The “babies stockings are always prepared for “Santa’s” visit, and great is their delight on seeing their plump proportions, when taken to the room where they hang side by side, and where the little ones seat themselves unceremoniously on the floor to examine their contents. In the afternoon Santa Claus visits the children in person, makes a little speech, and with the aid of his attendants, dispenses quantities of “goodies”, testifies his pleasure at seeing their bright, happy faces once more, promises that he will never pass them by as long as they are good children and withdraws amid the smiles and thanks of all. It may here be remarked that the many kind friends remember the orphan girls at this season of the year by suitable donations, which greatly aid the Sisters in this amusing and rejoicing the hearts of the children.