Writer: Kathleen Hite.
Director: Herbert Hirschman.
Music: Alexander Courage.
"My own memories of that Christmas in 1943 are vague and clouded, but those of my family remain vivid in the extreme. For the first time ever my mother would not be home for that most special holiday. She, who'd taught all of us the meaning and spirit of Christmas, would spend it at the hospital with me. And though they all agreed her place was there, it put the season in a strange light. How strange, how unique and unreal it would become, no one could even imagine".
Ben and Cindy wonder why someone on the Mountain has started a fire so early in the morning. When John joins them, Ben takes him aside to ask him to buy 'Nights of Love' perfume for Cindy's Christmas present while he is in Charlottesville. John admits he couldn't ask a clerk for such a thing. Ike observes the smoke on the Mountain and tells John he will keep watch on the activity. John purchases two dollars of gasoline while Ike also asks a favor from him, to buy a nightgown for Corabeth. John is sure Corabeth would not want him to see her nightgown. On the Mountain, a stranger awakens to find the fire that has kept him warm during the night producing shafts of smoke. He quickly puts it out, afraid someone will see it.
Erin, Cindy, Mary Ellen, and Elizabeth unwrap Christmas decorations while talking about John-Boy. Rose tells Jeffrey she will mail his letter to Santa. But on his way to his room to write the letter Jeffrey overhears Nana say she could not bear the day when he no longer believes in Santa Claus. That night Ben and Jim Bob overhear Chance bawling. Upon investigating they see a stranger running out of the barn. On the ground lie potatoes scattered about with the sack missing. A few minutes later, the stranger finds Ike's store closed. He breaks the front window to satisfy his hunger with apples.
In the morning, Rose rewards Chance with extra feed for sounding last night's alarm. As she takes clothes off the line, she finds Jim Bob's shirt missing. At the same time, Ike and John discuss the broken window, saying the stranger must be starving because he only stole food and did not steal money from the cash register. John fixes the broken window.
At the church, Corabeth leads a discussion on the Christmas pageant with Elizabeth, Mary Ellen, Rose, and Miss Emily listening to her ideas. (Miss Mamie is highly contagious, unable to attend.) Corabeth envisions a brilliantly lit stage with the three kings approaching the altar. Being the third Christmas since the war, the others agree the program should involve 'Prayers of Peace, for the Prince of Peace'. Later, the stranger enters the Dew Drop Inn in order to get out of the cold. While listening to the crowd sing around Jason's piano he begins to eat pretzels, while stuffing others into his pockets. When soldiers arrive, the stranger quickly leaves the warmth. Later, Jason comes out to his car to find the stranger asleep inside. When awakened, the stranger runs away. Jeffrey walks into Rose's bedroom saying he can't sleep. But he is really worried about breaking her heart because he doesn't believe in Santa. His Nana says he must grow up and will not be heart-broken. As Jeffrey leaves he says that if he did believe in Santa he would ask for a puppy.
At the Baldwin's house the next morning, Miss Emily finds the stranger in the backyard where he tells her he is looking for his lost dog. She invites him inside to warm up. He brings in firewood while Miss Emily gives him Papa's sweater for warmth since their furnace is broken. She offers him coffee and muffins. Seeing him famished, Miss Emily offers him eggs and bacon. John knocks on the front door after being summoned to check the ailing furnace. When Miss Emily and John return to the dining room, the stranger is gone, along with the muffins.
At the church, Rose and Elizabeth enter for another meeting while leaving Jeffrey outside to play. As he tossing a ball to a dog, the stranger appears. They play catch and talk. Inside, Corabeth acts like she came up with the traditional Christmas theme that the others had earlier requested. Corabeth suggests that someone other than Rev. Bradshaw read the scriptures, someone with the gift of beautiful speech and diction (like herself). After the meeting, Rose cannot find Jeffrey. He and Paul, the stranger, have walked off, eating Miss Emily's muffins, and talking about Saint Nicholas.
When Jeffrey mentions the story behind Saint Nicholas John asks him where he learned of the tale. Jeffrey sidesteps the answer. Later Jeffrey brings a sandwich to Paul and invites him to the house for Christmas. Jeffrey mentions he has hinted about wanting a puppy for Christmas. While Jim Bob walks in the woods he comes upon the pair but Paul runs off. John questions Jeffrey about the stranger, while Jason and Ben think Jeffrey's friend is the man they saw earlier. John believes he is running away from something.
On Christmas Eve, the house is full of Christmas spirit as the family and the Godsey's sing 'Joy to the World' while trimming the tree. Ike makes a toast to 'John-Boy, Olivia, Easter, the Baldwin sisters, and all of us, too'. Corabeth gives him a kiss for the considerate tribute. As they sing 'Oh Christmas Tree' Paul brings a small tree to the front door. He is about to leave it at the doorstep when Jeffrey opens the door and John invites him in. Paul tells Jeffrey the story of the first Christmas tree. He admits to John that he is tired of running, after escaping from a prisoner-of-war camp in South Carolina. John tells him about John-Boy being shot down by Nazis. Paul says he was born in Milwaukee but later moved back to Germany with his family. John welcomes Jeffrey's friend to their Christmas party. Jim Bob enters the room with Jeffrey's Christmas present, a puppy. Jeffrey names him Nick.
"It was a Christmas Eve long remembered in our home, an escaped prisoner-of-war brought the spirit of Christmas to Jeffrey, and to all those gathered, who longed for peace on earth, goodwill toward men".
Bob: You're really going to let that dog sleep with you Jeffrey?
Jeffrey: His name's Nick.
Jim Bob: If he keeps me awake his name's Mud.
Jeffrey: He'll be quiet. I'll hold him real close.
Jim Bob: OK, 'night Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Goodnight Jim Bob. Go to sleep now Nick.
Puppy - yap yap yap.
Jeffrey: Oh oh, Jim Bob? You know when you told me to take Nick outside?
Jim Bob: Ah ha?
Jeffrey: I forgot. Can I get in bed with you?
Jim Bob: No! Goodnight.
Jeffrey: Merry Christmas Jim Bob.
John: Goodnight boys, Merry Christmas.
One of Rose's favorite Christmas songs is 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' while Miss Emily likes the song 'The First Noel'. The lyrics to the first song appears at: http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh240.sht, while the lyrics to the second song appears at: http://www.carols.org.uk/the_first_noel.htm.
Jeffrey is eight years old.
Paul has a mother, father, and brother of Jeffrey's age.
The lyrics to ‘Oh Christmas Tree’ appear at: http://www.mswm.org/christmascarols.ohchristmastree.htm
Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards); Rose (Peggy Rae); Serena (Martha Nix); Jeffrey (Keith Mitchell), Miss Emily Baldwin (Mary Jackson), Paul (Ned Bellamy), Lady in the Bar (Debbie Richmond), First Man in the Bar (Gordon Hodgins), Second Man in the Bar (Llynn Storer).