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Summary Francie adores Christmas time in Brooklyn, especially the decorated stores. She also eagerly looks forward to Christmas Eve when her family can bring home a free tree to decorate. It is the custom of the neighborhood tree shop to give away any unsold trees on the night before Christmas. The owners toss out the leftover trees to the waiting crowd of children, and the ones that can catch and hold on to a tree win the right to take it home. Francie and Neeley catch a big tree. As they drag it home, they are filled with pride over their accomplishment.
When the children arrive home, even Johnny is in a good mood and joins in the celebration. On Christmas morning, there are presents for the children. Francie likes the one that Aunt Sissy gave her the best. Katie is a bit skeptical about all the merriment, for she feels it is simply masking their poverty. Her greatest concern is that the children receive the best education possible so that they can rise above the poverty.
During the week after Christmas, Francie tells another lie when she attends a program. A rich girl, named Mary, says that she wants to give her exquisitely dressed doll to a poor girl whose name is Mary. The word "poor" shuts up all the children even though they all want the doll. Francie, however, wants the doll so badly that she goes forward and says that her name is Mary Frances Nolan. After she returns home with the doll, Francie is bothered by the fact that she has lied about her name. She asks her mother if she can take Mary as her middle name when she is confirmed in the church. To Francie's surprise, her mother then tells her that she was christened Mary Frances Nolan.
Francie is filled with excitement about Christmas. She loves going into the decorated stores, filled with exquisite gifts and toys. She also looks forward to getting a free tree on Christmas Eve. The custom of throwing trees to the poor children seems a bit cruel, but the shop owner has no other way of selecting which of the poor young people should receive the unsold trees. With typical determination, Francie is willing to fight for a tree. In her struggle to gain one, she is bruised; however, her happiness in dragging home a tree for the family makes her forget the struggle.
Upon their return home, Francie and Neeley find that their sober father is almost as excited as they are. Katie, however, is too practical to really join in the merriment. She worries if the Christmas celebration is harming the children by masking the poverty. She also worries as to whether Francie and Neeley will receive the greatest gift - that of a good education. She is determined to fight to make certain that they do.
After Christmas, Francie tells another lie, forgetting the advice of her teacher. Because she wants to take home the beautiful doll, she admits to being poor; she also lies and says her name is Mary Frances. Later, she feels very ashamed for admitting her poverty and for lying. She is so bothered by the nature of her misdeed that she asks her mother if she can take on the name of Mary when she is confirmed at church. Ironically, mother tells her that she had been christened as Mary Frances Nolan. Francie is greatly relieved to know that she has not really lied; but she promises to never forget how bad she felt when she though she had lied.