I still say “Merry Christmas” to most people because it’s hard to step away from one’s upbringing and switch over to the more generic “happy holidays.”
We put up our Christmas Tree on the Solstice and leave it up throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. While I don’t expect everyone else in the neighborhood to leave all their decorations up until Twelfth Night, I feel bad when I see people throwing out their trees on Christmas Day as though they can’t wait to get them out of the house.
Several days ago, I posted a Steve Allen quote on my Facebook page, “If there is a God, the phrase that must disgust him is – holy war.” I don’t think any war is holy, nor do I think all the wars of words about appropriate and inappropriate holiday celebrations are holy–or even necessary.
We are free to believe what we want to believe. I think we should be able to believe that without being attacked by the local newspaper, the homeowners’ association, thugs from ISIS and other arrogant belief systems, or by ignorant people on Facebook who think “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a rape song. I do draw the line at one faith’s decorations at public buildings or neighbors who put up so many lights their house can be seen from the space station.
Otherwise, it does my heart good to see that in spite of the commercialism, a lot of folks have found something larger than themselves and their government to believe in.
But why should it matter to anyone whether his or her neighbors believe in the same god or not whether they choose to celebrate him or her in a different way? I see no threat in that.
My views are rather eclectic, but due to the prevailing winds about “how people ought to believe,” I keep quiet about them for the most part. I don’t need the hassle. I do like the magic of the season regardless of how others choose to celebrate it. For me, it’s a profound time of the year regardless of the usual sniping about the Christian Church and secular humanity adopting a lot of pagan symbolism. That seems to bother people. I say, “so what?”
I see this as a time of unconditionally giving to others whatever their faith. I hope you have a great holiday season, perhaps with family and/or travel and/or traditions that speak to you and yours.
These Victorian Christmas images are expressions of one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, the parental support within a happy home that allows them to begin their lives safe within the innocence of childhood.
Children will learn the harsh truths of the world soon enough. Some say, their kids have a better chance of survival when they’re reared from day one in a boot camp-style environment with Pop as the Great Santini and Mom as the Wicked Witch of the West. I don’t agree. A few years of innocence made me stronger because those years taught me that strength and honesty don’t require us to wear cynicism and brutal honesty on our coats like badges of honor.
Once lost, recapturing the magic of innocence lost too soon is more difficult than unringing a bell. Children, then young adults, and then adults can build on that magic forever regardless of the slings and arrows they see or experience as they grow older. Like all wonderful memories, the innocence that’s given time to grow can be drawn on later on in life as a talisman against everything that’s ugly and unjust.
The old question “when do you tell your kids Santa isn’t real in the way portrayed in Christmas cards?” seems to represent the dilemma most parents face about all kinds of truths they must ultimately explain to their children. Sooner or later, we’re all told not to take candy from strangers or accept a ride home from school by an adult we don’t know. It’s hard to say “why not?” without communicating the reason why not. Today’s parents have opted for postponing that explanation for a while by driving their kids to school when older generations of kids rode bikes or walked. A lot of variables come into play when deciding, for one’s own children, when to take away some of the magic and when to take away some of the freedom available when they slowly gain their independence from a parent’s smothering and watchful eye.
In a world where instances of child abuse and human trafficking are higher than many adults allow themselves to believe, some will ask how we can celebrate the innocence of any child by displaying Victorian Christmas cards or other positive messages of the season when many children are suffering. My response, is how can we not? We can’t solve the wrongs of the world by keeping quiet about what’s right with the world.
Every child, I think, deserves a chance to experience the innate goodness into which s/he is born. Then they’ll always have that strong magic do draw upon when confronted by those who have no magic or goodness.
Malcolm R. Campbell’s hero’s journey novel “The Sun Singer” and heroine’s journey novel “Sarabande” are based on the concept that that while the trials we survive can make us stronger, the magic each of us carries ensures we’ll survive those trials.
Every generation has its best memories of Christmas. Those with yearly holiday family reunions probably have lifetimes of scattered Christmas memories on a mental mix-tape of humorous and Kodak moments from many past years. I have many great memories, many of which recall Christmases celebrated with my wife.
My sense of Christmas celebrations, though, comes from the magic of December 25th as my parents conjured the day on an always-tight budget. We almost always had a spruce tree in a corner of the living room. The ornaments on it had been collected for many years by my father and mother and their parents. Since our Christmas tree lights were often lent to the schools we attended, our tree about December 25th went up after the lights came home from school.
Gifts arriving by mail, or delivered from in-town friends, went under the tree whenever they showed up. Ultimately, my two brothers and I would put gifts we bought for family members there. Most of the gifts showed up sometime between bed time on the 24th and when we were allowed to see the tree on the 25th.
On Christmas morning, the living room was kept dark until after breakfast. I could have done well enough with a bowl of Frosted Flakes. Mother always wanted to serve a full breakfast because (a) that’s what her mother and/or home economics classes taught her to do, (b) she really believed we would go hungry waiting for Christmas dinner if we didn’t start the day full, (c) this gave everyone’s anticipation time to build.
Some families seem to ring a starting bell after which everyone dives under the tree and opens his or her own gifts without paying much attention to what the others are doing. I like our tradition better: we took turns opening gifts as my father handed them out one by one. He engineered the whole thing so that the most spectacular gifts were opened last.
It’s hard for me to visualize Christmas any other way. As I got older, I realized how much work it was for my parents to create the magic. It was mainly for my brothers and I. After one becomes a parent, the focus changes on buying for one’s children, grandchildren, and friends. When families live in different parts of the country, this includes buying gifts early enough to wrap and mail them in time for Christmas.
Now, we’re the ones trying to conjure the magic. We can’t really re-create the Christmases we had when we were kids, though I think those long-ago days probably influence what our children experience–without the 78rpm records and movies on video tape. We have to give a wink and a nod to progress without turning the day into a commercialized mess.
I have no idea what songs kids listen to during the holidays now. I see that many of our old favorites such as “White Christmas,” which first appeared in the movie “Holiday Inn,” have been re-recorded by numerous singers since 1942. I grew up with Bing Crosby’s version, so that’s the one I like to hear. In part, I visualize Christmas as it was in “Holiday Inn” and the subsequent movie “White Christmas.” All this was, so to speak, the “what-Christmas-is-like standard” I was born into.
Later generations may see Christmas as it was in “The Polar Express” with Tom Hanks or “A Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart or “Scrooged” with Billy Murray. A lot of people remember the hymns they hear in church or the carols they sing in high school choral productions or when they go caroling. Maybe their memories include “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Snoopy’s Christmas.”
You probably have your “this is Christmas” favorites of holiday movies and sings. How many of them come from what you saw at the theater or heard on the radio when you were in primary and secondary school?
I never could imagine what my parents might have listened to when they were children; I’m sure our kids can’t imagine what we listened to when we were young even though they can now Google about anything and see what was popular year after year. No doubt, somebody, somewhere has written a doctoral dissertation showing what percentage of Christmas songs kids listen to are brand new and what percentage are classics. I’m not going to go and look that up for this post.
I admit I’ve played Diana Krall’s Christmas album a lot since it came out ten years ago. I like jazz, and she does just fine with a fresh look at old favorites. I doubt that today’s youth is concentrating on jazz, so their Christmases will probably be formed out of other memories while their children last year and this year and next year. I like Christmas, Winter, and snow, so my memories come from childhood filled with spruce trees and movies and songs created before I was born.
We conjure Christmas for our children and for others who are special to us. Our perspective has shifted from “what am I going to get” to “what am I going to give.” As we grow up, we begin to understand the magic from inside out.
Other than those photo-filled Christmas cards showing children or entire families posing with false smiles in the high grass over the septic tank, most of this year’s card show Santa, bright red cardinals in winter scenes, people hauling Christmas trees through the snow, and a variety of snowflakes and colored lights.
None of them have rain in them. This proves, I think, that our current north Georgia complex rain event–as the weather service is calling it–is illegal. The rain started last night and will run through Friday with a chance of flooding along creeks and rivers.
Sure, we’ve decorated the house with colorful lights, garlands and wreathes, but somehow all that isn’t as festive as it could be if we had legal solstice weather. And that bright moon we’re supposed to have for Christmas? Right, it will be covered up by clouds.
So far, CNN isn’t calling this “breaking news” like everything else they show and that’s just got to be a conspiracy. If Donald Trump were doing a rain dance, CNN would be covering it live. But, apparently he isn’t. So, nobody’s looking into our rain, Christmas-wise or conspiracy-wise.
Yeah, I know, the Grinch probably did it and, at the same time, appears to have given me a touch of the flu. It’s hard to feel merry when you’re swigging down TheraFlu.
But, far be it from me to rain on your Christmas and make you feel guilty for your great weather or your beautiful snow-covered yard with a redbird in the middle of if. Have a merry Christmas under star-spangled skies and a full moon. Enjoy the magic of it.
Truth be told, this still feels like a magical week to me in spite of all this water. The spirit of giving is a strong one, and I’m always inspired by memories of my younger days when I found unexpected surprises beneath the tree.
Happy Yule, Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas, and Happy Solstice.
That means Santa knows that if he messes around decorating our house prior to December 1, he’ll be shot.
(Among other things, we don’t celebrate Black Friday, though Small Business Saturday is kind of nice.)
Today still feels like a continuation of Thanksgiving because we’re eating leftovers. My brother and his wife from Florida were here for a week and they just left this morning because they know from experience that driving back to the sunshine state on the Sunday after Thanksgiving is often a nightmare.
We’re thankful they were here.
Tomorrow, we’ll start thinking about our Christmas decorations. As it turns out, a lot of people have already have lighted trees in their windows and various other lighted decorations in their yards.
We start a bit later and keep our Yuletide lights and greenery up until the last day of Christmas on Twelfth Night.
However you celebrate, I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving and won’t be one of those buffoons who throws out his Christmas tree before nightfall on the 25th. (Gee, what’s the rush?)
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of ‘Emily’s Stories,” the Pushcart Prize nominated “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Sarabande,” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”