From the Children’s Friend, December 1946 –
The Lost Christmas
By Joyce Newbill Martin
Kiki and Kim were the two happiest boys on the whole Pacific Ocean.
For, they were on board a big, gray Navy ship. An exciting ship that went slap-slap-slapping through the waves.
And the ship was going to a very special island called Guam.
And when they got there, Dad would be on the pier to meet them – all dressed up in his white navy officer’s uniform.
Kiki was so happy about it that he just let out a big squeal.
“Know what day tomorrow is, Kim?” he asked.
Kim’s eyes twinkled back, as he counted his eighteenth flying fish in a row. Even if you were in the middle of the ocean, and there wasn’t any ice or snow, you still knew when it was Christmas!
“It doesn’t look much like Christmas, though,” Kiki had to admit. “It’s so hot. And there aren’t any clouds in the sky, or trees, or anything …”
Kim suddenly stopped counting the flying fish. the smile went from his face.
“Jimmy,” he said. “I wonder if we are going to have a Christmas tree. I didn’t see them put one aboard when we sailed from San Francisco. And where are we going to get one in the middle of the ocean?”
Kiki hadn’t thought of that. he sat down in his deck chair, and cupped his face in his hands.
Kim sat down, too, and stared sadly out to sea.
It was suddenly a not very nice day at all, even if tonight would be Christmas Eve.
Just then, the Filipino steward came along the deck, ringing his brass dinner chime as loudly as he could.
“Dinnertime,” he said to the boys.
“Cheer up,” he added, when he saw the forlorn look on their faces. “Never you mind because there isn’t any Christmas tomorrow. Maybe you’ll get two Chnristmases when you cross the ocean going back home again.”
No Christmas tomorrow! Kiki and Kim both jumped up in their deck chairs, their eyes popping wide. They could hardly believe what they heard.
First, no Christmas tree. Now – not even any Christmas!
They asked the dining room steward about it at dinner.
“Is it really true that tomorrow isn’t Christmas?”
The steward nodded his head. “yes,” he said gravely. “tomorrow will be the 26th of December.”
“But, that’s the day after Christmas,” insisted Kiki. “And this is the 24th of December … the day before Christmas …”
“Then – where does Christmas go?” puzzled Kim. “what happens to our nice Christmas Day?”
“The Captain will explain it,” said the steward. “He’s going to tell everyone about it now.”
Everybody in the dining salon stopped talking when the Captain stood up to speak. Dishes no longer rattled. Knives and forks were set down.
Kiki and Kim held their breath with excitement.
The Captain knew what happened to Christmas when you were in the middle of the ocean. He would tell them where the Lost Day went.
“Boys and girls,” said the Captain. “I have something to tell you. tomorrow isn’t going to be Christmas Day – because, in the middle of the night tonight, our ship will cross what we call the ‘International Date Line.’”
The children could not understand what this strange name meant. So, the Captain smiled to let them know it was really quite all right.
“When ships or planes cross the Date Line going toward China, they lose a day.”
“Then – when the ships or planes cross the Date Line going toward the United States, they get to have an extra day. They get two Mondays, or two Tuesday … or two of whatever day it happens to be when they cross the Line.”
the boys and girls all giggled when they heard this, it sounded so funny.
“And – who knows,” laughed the Captain. “You might be lucky enough to get two Christmases, or two Halloweens, or two Fourth of Julys, when you go back to the United States again!”
Kiki and Kim winked at each other.
“I guess it won’t be so bad, after all,” grinned Kiki.
“I don’t mind so much, now,” agreed Kim. ‘Not if it happens to all the other ships and planes that cross the ocean, too.”
The Captain was saying one more thing.
“And now if all you boys and girls will just step into the ship’s lounge, I think you’ll find that Santa Claus is there with his big pack on his back. For, even if tomorrow isn’t Christmas … tonight is Christmas Eve!”
“Merry Christmas! merry Christmas1″ shouted jolly, plump Santa to all the children, as they ran into the lounge.
“We’ve a Christmas tree. We’ve a LOT of Christmas trees,” squealed Kiki. “Just look at them all!”
He pointed to the bits of tinsel, colored paper and pretty candy canes that covered each of the green potted palm plants. Under each one were gifts with children’s names on them.
Kim just stood there and stared, his eyes shining at the wonderful sight.
Christmas Eve at sea – even if you didn’t have any really, truly Christmas Day at all – was as exciting as all the Christmases at home put together!