War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card
War of Gifts is a step back into the “Enderverse” and takes place as Ender Wiggin is relatively new in Battle School. Card returns to this powerful world with his understanding of humanity and Ender’s uncanny ability to know people and what they truly need.
The story follows an extremely intelligent young boy (Zeck) who is born to an extreme evangelical preacher who “purifies” him by beating him while preaching complete pacifism. He also teaches the boy that Santa Claus is the devil and to never participate in Christmas activities. All religious worship is prohibited in battle school to minimize distraction from the goal of defeating the Formics. The Battle School administrators use this rule to attempt to force Zech into fighting and training for battle. But Zech refuses (based on religious beliefs) and simply becomes a non-combative observer in their battle drills.
This religious prohibition includes Christmas and other religiously based holidays. However, two Dutch boys secretly participate in a Sinterklaas tradition which riles Zeck because he can’t practice his religion (by going home). His complaint to the superintendent backfires and results in a majority of the kids in the school giving gifts during the holidays. Zeck then pokes and prods until he initiates a situation that could have drastic future consequences and is soon shunned by the all the students at Battle School.
As Zech is shut out he begins to shut down. Young Ender Wiggin sees the need and steps in to rescue Zech in a very powerful and compelling scene that could only come from the mind of Card and the world of Ender Wiggin.
A short but very powerful and insightful story. A must read for any Ender’s Game fan