Orson Scott Card’s A War Of Gifts: Peaceful Expression at Holiday Time

I am an enormous fan of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series. I love his portrayal of vivid characters and I admire his use of religious themes in much of his work. When I picked up his novella, A War of Gifts: An Ender Story, I had no idea that I would truly be reading a Christmas story.


The story begins from the viewpoint of Zeck, the son of a minister, with a flawless memory – chosen for Battle School against his father’s wishes. Though Zeck does not wish to disappoint his father by attending a school his faith deems “impure,” the Battle School recruiters are relentless and eventually, he attends.

Religious expression is strictly forbidden in Battle School. But in a school full of geniuses, surely that can’t stop them, can it?

Flip, the Dutch kid, puts his shoes on the floor by his bed with the toes out on Sinterklaas Eve.

And thus, the children begin passing around a poem in friendly jest of those who practice holiday rituals in Battle School, and the poem becomes a method of gift giving.

Dink carved an “F” into Flip’s pancake in the morning after Sinterklaas Eve. A small gift… a token of friendship and mutual reminiscence of home… and a rebellion against the authorities who forbade them any soft recollection of the pasts and parents they left behind.

When they are caught, they use an excuse: it was not religious observance/expression but observance of a Dutch tradition. One child responds, “Nations don’t matter up here.” Another, “Religions, neither.” But the exchange sparks a conversation, and pretty soon the children tell of their personal Sinterklaases – Santa Clause, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Papa Noel, and they include Muslim prayer-time observance in their thoughts on religious expression, too. And the rebellion spreads as children pass around old socks to wear in protest of the ban on religious – and homesick – expression.

I won’t tell you the end of the book, but this novella by Orson Scott Card serves such a wonderful purpose… to show that freedom to express one religion does not devalue another, that refusing to speak of religion doesn’t make the problems or conflicts disappear. The kids in Battle School unite against the oppressive authorities to show that they still cherish the values they were taught as kids at home, and that regardless of what they believe and strive for as soldiers, those lessons never go away. They fought against a common enemy peaceably and expressed their beliefs without devaluing anybody else’s.


This holiday season… whatever you celebrate… remember that one saying “Happy Holidays” is not insulting your Christmas and one saying “Merry Christmas” is not insulting your Chanukah. We are all saying the same thing… “Unite with love against the brewing of hate and oppression. Love your neighbor, love your spirit and celebrate those things that make us all human and unique.” Just because it is said in a different tongue than that which you speak does not mean the speaker intends to hurt you… rather to share the joy they feel in the language they know. Express it back in the language you know!

About Nola.Sarina

I am an author of dark fantasy, horror and paranormal romance books. My dark fantasy series, The Vesper Series, is a twist on Original Sin. The series is represented by Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary Agency. I find my favorite books with new takes on all things supernatural, paranormal and biblical, including vampires, angels and demons, and am an advocate for the New Adult market category for fiction.

Posted on December 18, 2012, in Books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Excellent post! And yet another book to add to my growing “To Read” list. 🙂 I love the sentiment included that when you say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Chanukah” or whatever, it’s never meant to insult anyone or their religion. This blog is exactly what everyone needs to remember more often: to spread love and good will and that giving shouldn’t be limited to the celebration of a religious event once a year. Especially after the horrible events of last Friday. Giving love has never been more important.

    • That is definitely a book I must read, and Amy voiced my thoughts before I got the chance – Thank you, Nola. I hope this post touches many!

      • And thank you, Michelle 🙂 I hope it touches many as well – the book keeps consistent with Card’s deeply rounded characters and plots, while being a novella and a Christmas story. I was impressed!

      • Perhaps I should use my handy-dandy amazon gift card (won from this fabulous site) to check out that book. 🙂 I haven’t used it yet b/c there are too many books i want to read & want to get the best possible choices. Thanks for the suggestion!

        I wholeheartedly agree w/ you. It makes me incredibly sad to see people getting angry over such things instead of recognizing it as simply a way to spread love. Hopefully the world soon realizes that and we can all move forward, with more love and support for one another.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed, Amy! If you haven’t read Ender’s Game yet, I always recommend reading that first. Ender is a memorable character and he shows up toward the end of this book, and it’s nice to know him before that happens. 🙂

      There should never be a limit on love given, and those who try to restrict the way we express love are not helping the world move forward!

  2. I love this post. My children are catholic and they go to a jewish school. They are having the opportunity to celebrate and realize that the ultimate message of the season is about peace, love, and good will and as Amy stated, should be carried throughout the year. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jamie! What an interesting balance, your children, raised Catholic, attending a Jewish school. That’s a great exposure and way to teach them about differences and the importance of respecting fellow children without regard to the religious differences! 🙂

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