Monday, December 25, 2006

Images of Christmas

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe,
Help to make the season bright.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow,
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.

They know that Santa's on his way;
He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh.
And every mother's child is going to spy,
To see if reindeer really know how to fly.

And so I'm offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
A very Merry Christmas to you

Christmas memories are so poignant that there are probably more well remembered songs about them than any other holiday. Every year we make memories of the season and the day to carry on to the next. We create family rituals around it, entire cities celebrate in nationally broadcast parades, all the media is doing shows about how to make it the best ever. And in all of this we find time for quiet contemplation of the meaning of the holiday. We go out of our way to give to others as we do on no other holiday. Everybody has a dream of the perfect Christmas.

The fact that part of this season's tradition, in the ending of one year and the start of the next, arise from old pagan images isn't mentioned often. The idea of a Christmas tree didn't arise from the Christian church but from ancient rituals of the green man and mother earth being honored. Most of the major religions do something to celebrate this time of year. When it all gets added together year after year, and century after century the season builds its own mystique that is self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating. It would take a lot more than a Grinch to kill Christmas.

We all have favorite memories of Christmas and often find ourselves trying to recreate them year after year. Some want a white Christmas. Some want it all sparkling and wrapped brightly under the tree. Family is often involved. One of my favorite memories of Christmas is not so much a memory as a family photograph. The photo shows me and my grandfather sitting close to one another on Christmas day and if you look closely, from the angle of our heads, you can tell that I inherited my grandfather's ears. Until I saw that photo I hated my ears. I'd even thought about having them altered someday. But I love my grandfather and would never think of disrespecting something he gave me. So now that photo and my ears are loved. And that was a gift received long after the holiday when it was taken.

I wish I had a scanned copy of that photo to share with you. It isn't very interesting but it has a lot of sentiment for me. Yesterday I was looking anxiously all over the web for the perfect Christmas photo to put with this post. I didn't find it until today and so this post is being written a day late. Although I will change it for traditions sake, I don't think the date matters so much. You can celebrate Christmas anytime of the year. We don't really know when Christ was born. It is the spirit that counts.

So, in the spirit of the season, here is another of my favorite Christmas poems, a handwritten copy of which was recently sold to a private buyer, who read it to his company at their annual Christmas party. If you are interested you can read the article here.

'Twas the Night before Christmas' Poem

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.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

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.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

1 comment:

Susan Palwick said...

Merry Christmas, and may the holiday live in your heart as long into the year as you need it to!