“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”
~ Clement Clarke Moore
The first serious snow is falling. Outdoor Christmas lights across the street melt through a cover of snow – a sight I particularly enjoy. So, I’ll reprint this – albeit edited – from a few years ago. Maybe it will become a tradition.
Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly, and it survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.
The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts, and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their cups o’mead, noting that this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.
I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background enhances my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I do have some personal traditions I follow religiously.
I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve, when I was four. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.
I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times. Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two-year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him, and he started to scream and cry. I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho. Another time – but this happened in early fall – a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks, then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!” He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.
Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.
To be fair to myself, I’m not a total Scrooge, as I have written some Christmas tales. Here is a wee segment from The Elephant Talks To God:
“I want to see you,” said the elephant, and the words raced from his mouth. “I don’t have to see you, you know that. I’ve believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you, it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain but it would … ”
“Go home,” said the cloud.
“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.
“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.” The rain stopped falling. “Thank you for coming.”
“You’re welcome,” said the elephant.
“Sing some carols,” the voice was distant. “I like them.”
The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the tall grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing he knew was happening later in the evening.
He turned along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noticed the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and the stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush. There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and a golden trunk gently wiped them away.*
*Last line edited from an error in the book.