It is Christmas again. This year, there is money for presents. Francie takes comfort in not returning to school when she sees how her salary makes life so much easier for the family. When she, Neeley, Katie, and Laurie go Christmas shopping, they first go to buy Katie a new hat. Katie bargains with the shopkeeper and gets the hat for two-fifty. When the door closes on them, the shopkeeper whispers bitterly, “Goyem!” and she spits after them. They then go to Seigler’s for a sweater suit for Laurie and finally to buy Neeley spats for his shoes. They pass a Christmas tree market and Neeley sees a two-foot fir tree that is still growing because it has roots. They take it home and decide to care for it long after Christmas. They call the tree “Annie.”
Katie’s experience at the hat shop reveals some of the underlying tension between Jewish residents and Gentiles, which is also alluded to elsewhere in the novel. The episode at the hat shop, however, is contrasted with the family’s visit to Seigler’s, which is friendly. The family’s decision to nurture the fir tree long after Christmas comes from the fact that they feel they are no longer people merely scraping by to survive, but that they now have the ability to support the growth and survival of other things.
On Christmas morning, the Nolans attend mass together. Francie thinks that the church is the most beautiful in Brooklyn. Thomas Rommely gave his tithe of labor to this church and helped to carve its altar. The priest enters, followed by the altar boys, then ascends the steps to the pulpit. He asks for the congregation’s prayers “for the repose of the soul of John Nolan.” Nearly a thousand people kneel for the soul of a man whom maybe a dozen of them knew. Francie begins the prayer for souls in Purgatory.
The church is representative of all of the hardships that Francie’s family has endured during their lives in Brooklyn. Thomas helped to build the church, using his labor to help establish his citizenship. Now, the church prays for the soul of a man who found it impossible to survive in the community that Francie’s grandfather helped to build.