All through the house
I’ll admit a small mistake: I meant to release this before Christmas. But it’s Boxing Day, so perhaps you have holiday time to hopefully enjoy reading this belated piece. Boxing Day is when the servants in Merry Old England get their presents in a box. They couldn’t enjoy Christmas Day like everyone else because they were serving everyone else.
Christmas is a magical time. All the woes of the year fade away, and a gentleness of spirit evolves. Everyone is in a happy mood. Around the world, it’s December when the preparation starts, when the decorations are put up. And there’s a rush to buy the presents no Christmas worth its salt should be without. Here, it’s September when it all starts. But you know Christmas is really here when the carols start bringing joy to our kids. That doesn’t start until December.
When it was decided that Dec. 25 was Christmas Day is buried in the mists of antiquity. There are at least three possible origins for Dec. 25: 1.) A Roman Christian historian named Sextus Julius Africanus dated Jesus’ conception to be March 25, the same date on which the world was created which, after nine months in his mother’s womb, would result in a Dec. 25 birth; 2.) The date was decided in Rome during the reign of the emperor Constantine, who had the political motive of weakening the established pagan celebrations which celebrated that day, and thereby bringing them into the Christian fold; 3.) In the third century, the Roman Empire, which at the time had not adopted Christianity, celebrated the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) on Dec. 25.
The interesting thing about Christmas is that it’s a purely Christian thing, yet it’s celebrated by so many others. There are only about 40 countries that do not celebrate Christmas at all. These are the countries where the most popular religion of the majority of them is Muslim.
The Christmas tree started in Northern Germany in 1441. The Brotherhood of Blackheads (that was an unwanted pimple in my youth) erected a tree in honor of Christmas and dragged it through the streets, dancing around it. In 1570, Bremen erected one and decorated it with pretzels, apples, wafers, gingerbread, and paper flowers. Children were allowed to shake the tree as they would have fruits during the fall harvest in the hopes of a goodie falling off. Martin Luther King put candles on it. But it was not until 1982 that the Pope put one up in the Vatican. Today, we put up our decorations, and decorate our Christmas tree, but put the gifts below.
As to Santa: Santa Claus first came to us as Saint Nicholas of the Netherlands, a Christian saint in the fourth century—that friendly, fat, old man that somehow teleports around the world to deliver gifts to every child in one, long evening. We need some high-tech guys to find out how he does it so we don’t have to sit for 15 hours on a plane.
Christmas parties abound. A chance to reinforce friendships. It’s a friendship time, a happy time, a time to forget work, work, work for a while. It’s—and this is a wonderful thing—a time to get all the family together over a table laden with food. And drink, of course. For those fortunate ones that drink, it’s a wonderful excuse to imbibe a bit more of it, of higher quality (i.e., more expensive).
But our hearts must go out to those marvelous Ukrainian people who are suffering a freezing winter with no power. Created by a monster who cares for nothing but managing his power-hungry ego. There’s no Christmas for them, just a struggle to survive until spring arrives. No “noche buena,” just a scrabble for enough food to survive.
Our hearts must also go out to the far too many of us still in poverty. Struggling to even stay alive, and feed their children. There’s no Christmas for them. And we, and especially our government, are doing far too little to lift them from their blighted lives.
’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
… When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
… He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
… But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” (poet Clement Clarke Moore)
I, too, wish you all a very Merry Christmas. And a successful New Year.
May you be enjoying this Christmas season with family and friends. And may we, this year, care more for the less fortunate amongst us.
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