Saturday, 17 December 2016

Anita's secret or Christmas in the Steerage

Part 1     -     Part 2    -     Part 3     -     Part 4     -     Part 5



Time of PlayingAbout One Hour and Fifteen Minutes.

 by Walter Ben Hare  

(February 20, 1880 in Sandusky, Ohio, USA -  June 30, 1950 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA)


Santa ClausAdult
Jolly Jack FrostLittle Boy
Anita, a Little Italian ImmigrantAged Eight or Nine
Hulda, from HollandAged Ten
Sergius, from RussiaAged Nine
Meeny, from GermanyAged Seven
Biddy Mary, from IrelandAged about Eight
Paddy Mike, from IrelandAged about Seven
Schwillie Willie Winkum
Little Dutch Twins
Aged Four or Five
Neelda, from SpainAged Five
Ah Goo, from ChinaLittle Boy
Yakob, from DenmarkAged Six
Hans, from NorwayAged Four
Mieze, from GermanyAged Six
Sano San, from JapanLittle Girl

From: The Project Gutenberg Book project: The White Christmas and other Merry
Christmas Plays, by Walter Ben Hare.

Illustrator: Buckton Nendick Release Date: November 16, 2006 Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1. This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at
First published in 1917 by  CHICAGO .S. DENISON & COMPANY,  Publishers.


It is the night before Christmas and the scene is on a big ocean-going vessel many miles out at sea. Down in the lower part of the ship, in the steerage, is a group of poor little immigrant children who are leaving the trials and troubles of the old world behind them and are looking forward to the golden promises held out by our own "land of the free and the home of the brave." But the hearts of the little immigrants are sad. It is the night before Christmas, and how could Santa Claus ever hope to reach them away out in the middle of the ocean? Even the sleigh and the magical reindeer's could never be expected to make such a trip.

Anita, a little Italian girl, alone has faith in the coming of the good Saint. She is wandering around the ship when all of a sudden, much to her surprise, she hears a mysterious noise in a great big barrel, and who should jump out but little Jack Frost himself. Jack assures her that Santa Claus really is coming to visit the ship, and more than that, he is going to make an especial trip in an air ship! And this is little Anita's secret. The children all fall asleep, but Anita keeps watch for the mysterious aeroplane that will bring joy to every little heart in the steerage, and, sure enough, just a little before midnight Anita and Jack Frost look through a telescope and see the lights of the approaching air ship.

Soon Santa Claus himself is on board, and such a time as he and Anita and jolly Jack Frost have in arranging a wonderful Christmas surprise for the children. As an especial favour the good Saint decides to awaken the children himself very early on Christmas morning. The clock strikes twelve and it is Christmas Day. The bells of merry Christmas are heard chiming in the distance, and Santa Claus and jolly Jack Frost hold a Christmas morning revel with the little immigrant children away down in the steerage of the big vessel.

Scene: The steerage of a large ocean-going vessel. Entrances R. and L. Boxes and barrels down L. Box down R. Large barrel up L.C., with Jolly Jack Frost concealed therein. Hulda is seated on a small stool down R., taking care of Klinker and Schwillie Willie Winkum, who are standing near her. Meeny is seated down L. on a box; she is knitting a woolen stocking. Sergius, Paddy Mike, Tomasso, Yakob and Ah Goo are playing leapfrog at C. of stage. Hans, Mieze, Neelda and Sano San stand at rear. Biddy Mary is seated near Hulda; she is peeling potatoes. All sing.

(On the words "clap, clap, clap together," the children hold left hand horizontally in front of their chests, palm upward, raising the right hand and bringing it down on the left with a sharp clap.
Sing the first verse seated around stage. On the first four lines of the second verse nod heads and smile at audience. On the line "We're happy little immigrants," each one points to chest, nods head and smiles broadly.

For the third verse all rise and stand in couples in small groups all around stage. On the first two lines of the third verse each one faces his partner slightly, nods at him and shakes index finger of right hand at partner. On "dear, old U.S.A." all make a deep bow to audience. After third verse is completed, all form a circle and skip around in time to the music, repeating the third verse. On "clap, clap,clap together," they stand still and clap hands as before. When the song is ended all resume former positions, as at the rise of the curtain, but the boys do not play leapfrog.)

Tomasso (seated on floor at C.). Tomorrow comes the great, grand festival of Christmas, is it not, Paddy Mike?

Paddy Mike (seated near him, nods his head). Sure and it is. This is the holy Christmas Eve.

Meeny (seated down L., knitting stocking). The night of the day behind Christmas is always Christmas Eve, ain't it? (Nods head.) Sure it is.
Schwillie. Und tomorrow we gets lots of Christmas presents always, me und Klinker; don't we, Klinker?

Klinker. Sure we do. Leedle horses and pictures und candy und other things also; don't we, Schwillie Willie Winkum?

Hulda. That was when we were at home in Holland. It's different, maybe, out here in this great big boat. Ven we get by the city of New York next week then maybe we'll get some presents already.

Klinker. But good Saint Nicholas always comes the night before Christmas; don't he, Schwillie Willie Winkum?

Schwillie. Sure. Won't he come tonight, Hulda?

Hulda. How could he get way out here on the ocean already? Do you think he is a fish? We ain't living at home in Holland no more. We're way out on the Atlantic Ocean in a great big ship.

Meeny. Ja, und I wish I was back at home already. So much have I been seasick, mit der ship going oop und down, oop und down! Ach, it's awful. (Sergius, Tomasso, Yakob, Paddy Mike and Ah Goo play jack-stones.)

Klinker. But Saint Nicholas ought to come tonight, Hulda. I been a awfully good boy, isn't I, Schwillie Willie Winkum?

Schwillie. Sure you is. Und I've been a awfully good boy, too. Isn't I, Klinker?

Klinker. Sure. We've been awfully good boys.

Hulda. Maybe even if Saint Nicholas don't come tonight, you can see the great, big whale tomorrow. If he's a good whale he'll surely let the leedle Dutch twins see him on Christmas Day.

Meeny. Oh, I vant to see der whale. I've looked und I've looked und I've looked, but I ain't even so much as seen his leedle tail yet already. Und it makes me seasick to look so much, too.

Biddy Mary. Are ye sure it was a whale ye saw that day, Sergius boy?

Sergius. Of course I'm sure. It was awful big. The biggest fish I ever saw. Even in Russia we do not have such big fish as whales. Paddy Mike saw it, too.

Paddy Mike. Sure and I did. And me two eyes nearly fell out of me head with lookin' at it, it was that wonderful. He shot a big stream of water right up out of his head, he did, and then he dived down in the ocean again, and we didn't see him any more at all, at all. (Mieze and Sano San turn backs to audience and look over the railing into the water.)

Hulda (to the twins). There! Now if you get to see the great big whale, that's almost as good as having old Saint Nicholas come, ain't it?

Schwillie. Whales can't bring you no Christmas presents, can they, Klinker?

Klinker. Und whales you can see any time. I'd rather have Saint Nicholas, wouldn't I, Schwillie Willie Winkum?

Sergius. Who is this Saint Nicholas they are looking for, Hulda?

Hulda (astonished). Why, don't you know who he is yet? He's the best old man that ever was. Und he comes the night before Christmas und visits all the little children in Holland.

Meeny (proudly). Und in Germany, too. (Sergius goes to Hulda.)

Klinker. Und if they're good they get candy und oranges und toys und things, don't they, Schwillie Willie Winkum?

Schwillie. Und if they're bad, they get a good big birch stick. But I ain't been bad. I've been awfully good, isn't I, Klinker?

Klinker. Sure. Und me also.

Hulda (to Sergius). On Christmas Eve in Holland all the children march around the streets, following one who carries a big silver star. And the people who meet us give us money and gifts to help the poor. Oh, Christmas time is just grand in Holland!

Klinker. Und we set out our leedle wooden shoes und old Saint Nicholas fills 'em with candy.
Schwillie. Und we put a leedle bit of hay in our shoes for his good old horsie, Sleipner. Dot makes him happy.

Meeny. In Germany we call him Santa Claus, und he comes riding in a sleigh drawn through the sky mit reindeers. Und we have Christmas trees all lighted mit candles und things, und full of toys und paper stars und angels und apples. But Santa Claus could never get out here in der middle of der ocean. If he did maybe he'd get seasick already, und all der reindeers would get drownded in der water.

Sergius (standing R.C.). In Russia there is an old woman named Babouska who visits all the children on the night before Christmas. She carries a big basket full of good things.

Tomasso (seated on floor at C.). In sunny Italy the children all go to midnight church on Christmas Eve, and when we make ourselves awake on Christmas morning, our shoes are all full of candy and chestnuts and figs and oranges. But of course on a big ship like-a this we'll not get-a nothing at all.

Klinker (crying). But I want some presents already.

Schwillie (crying). Und me also. I want some presents, too.

Klinker. Und Saint Nicholas can't come. Oh, oh! He can't get out on the big ocean.

Schwillie. Maybe he could float out on a piece of ice yet. Could he, Hulda?

Hulda. No. I don't think he's much of a floater.

Meeny. If he did it would make him awful seasick.

Klinker. I wish we was landed in New York yet, so I do.

Schwillie. Where is Anita? She'll know.

Hulda. Yes, Anita will know whether he is coming or not. She knows almost everything.
Paddy Mike (standing at rear L.). Here comes Anita now, and sure she's having a grand time, so she is.

All (rising and going to rear, looking off L.). Here she comes. Hurrah for Anita. (Music: The same as for the Opening Song.)

Tomasso (calling). Anita, Anita, come here quick. We want you.

Anita (outside L.). I'm coming. Wait a minute. I'm coming.


  1. Thank you for sharing the story so I don't have to track it down, Han.

    Hugs and blessings...Cat

    1. I hope you like it Cat, it's a charming story


  2. Sweet..
    Thank you for sharing.
    Dutch and theirs birch..
    No other child had a birch...

    Mons Lisa

    1. The Dutch have Sinterklaas, but it's not totally accurate, Sinterklaas would have been long gone at Christmas time...



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...