Christmas at Uhlich Orphan Home

Following the Civil War, St. Pauls Church founded an orphanage, Uhlich Children’s Home and a generation later St. Pauls House, a home for the elderly. This reading is an account of how Christmas was spent at Uhlich in 1931. It was written by an adult. Imagine instead what this story would be like if it had been written by one of the children.

We began Christmas again this year by going as a body on Christmas Eve to St. Pauls House, where our band played and the children sang the old carols of the season. Young and old, in one place, as we celebrated that holy night together and then went to our separate beds to await the dawn.
Christmas morning we went to church and listened to the stories of our dear Savior’s birth. The children were as good as gold. Perhaps they were thinking of the festivities yet to come. After church at St. Pauls, a feast of turkey and trimmings was served to all. And then the presents were opened around the Christmas tree, given with love again this year by the Schuenemann family. It was a time of great joy for all.
At 2 o’clock we broke up into groups and went to the cemeteries where our dear friends and benefactors had been laid to rest. The snow lay deep upon the graves as we plowed our way to the last resting places of those who were so generous with their gifts to our Home and children. Christmas Day remembrance services were held at Memorial Park, Graceland and Rosehill Cemeteries. The custom had begun at the dying request of one of our greatest benefactors, Edward Abel.  This year we were joined for his service at Graceland by his dear sister, Miss Minnie Abel, who looked well, even though she has not been in good health this year. It was an impressive scene as Miss Abel sang, “Somewhere the Sun is Shining.” After suitable words from Pastor Pister, the children marched around the cemetery vaults singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers” and deposited an evergreen wreath on the grave of Mr. Abel. We were all deeply touched.
Following our pilgrimages to these sacred plots, we had a rendezvous back at our Home and the children were all smiles and brightness, being happy that they had been able to render a service on that day when everyone loves to gather around the family hearth. Before it was time for the day to end, we sang our Uhlich favorites: “Stille Nacht” and “O Tannenbaum.” And the children went off to bed anticipating the day after Christmas when they would be entertaining the ladies of the Uhlich Aid Society with their production of the operetta, “The Magic Nutcracker.”

That was what Christmas was like in 1931. Uhlich Children’s Home still exists, but now it’s called UCAN. UCAN is celebrating its 150th birthday, and has come a long way since 1931; and St. Pauls continues our relationship with UCAN to this day, not with marches around Rosehill cemetery vaults but with the Polar Peace March coming in January.