Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

(c) Howard Hudson (2006)
            Christmas is a season of memories and emotions.  Our first recollections of Christmas are generally as a child.  I can remember a blue tricycle with a white seat, scrawny trees with big bulb lights, bayberry candles, and a shiny metallic silver tree skirt, and company, lots and lots of company.  One year I recall an aluminum Christmas tree with a spot light shining on it, a four part plastic wheel casting colored shadows on the wall.  I can remember as a child driving a visiting Aunt absolutely crazy asking “is it Christmas yet?” over and over and over again, every five minutes as the story was told.

            I can remember the first time I was old enough to go to a midnight service.  It was cold, wet, drizzly and in the forties as we walked the blocks to church, meeting my Aunt outside on the granite steps.  I remember the church; it seemed like a grand cathedral at the time, all black, white, and pink marble and row upon row of pews, narrow stained glass windows, flowers and gilding everywhere.  It was filled with people, standing room only, as well as the scent of candle wax and the pungent aroma of incense.  In the back, on a balcony in front of a great stained glass window, the choir sang.  It was a much smaller church some thirty years later when we had my mother’s funeral there.

            I was young when my father died two days after Christmas, young enough that the small parish church still struck a young boy as a grand cathedral.  After that Christmas was always a season of mixed emotions, joyous yes, but there was always something dark lurking in the background.  I can recall my first Christmas as young man spent away from home.  Spent with a young girl who cooked the turkey upside down so it collapsed upon itself, tasted just the same I assured her, comforting her.  There was a period of time I traveled home for Christmas, driving hundreds of miles through all kinds of weather.

            Later, older and married, I moved away… it was actually over Christmas that we moved.  Stopping off to visit family for Christmas on the way, we celebrated with our two small boys in a hotel room, with a poinsettia and foot tall tree from Wal-Mart.  Then it was Christmas at our home, our tree, and our guests.  We had become our parents, buying, wrapping, and hiding presents.  Sneaking them out after midnight when the kids were asleep.  As the children slept we celebrated Christmas ourselves, exchanging gifts next to the tree, a fire crackling on the hearth, maybe a glass of wine or two… things we never dreamed of as children at Christmas.
           Christmas changes for us all.  It turns from waiting eagerly for Santa Claus, vainly trying to stay awake to hear the prancing and pawing of each little hoof to something different.  Christmas becomes a kaleidoscope of memories; a deeper meaning intrudes on our childhood innocence, a spiritual meaning, one of life and death, and sacrifice.  I can recall that midnight mass, a large crèche on the left side of the altar with life size figurines of Mary and Joseph, a little baby, and animals.  As a child they held no greater a place than Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty.  As an adult we look around and wonder, songs of Grandma getting run over by a reindeer, Black Friday, crowded stores, holiday sales, and the perpetual urging to buy, buy, buy.  Take a moment in all this to stop and pause… think about the simpler things in life, the things that are more important.


Bunkerville said...

A very merry Christmas to everyone and best wishes for a great day.

Ducky's here said...

Merry Christmas to all.

Always On Watch said...

Christmas changes for us all.

As I've gotten older and had to deal with certain circumstances, I admit that I don't enjoy Christmas as much as I used to.

Still, in all circumstances, let us have a Merry Christmas. This is indeed the season of the Great Mystery -- the season of the story that never grows old. Even if we ourselves are growing older.

Adrienne said...

Lovely reflection. Thank you.

Merry Christmas to everyone at Western Hero and their families.

The Debonair Dudes World said...

Merry Christmas everybody. Lets pray for a better year this time around.

Les Carpenter said...

Merry Christmas to all!

FreeThinke said...

Thank you, Finntann, for sharing your thoughts and memories.

You've prompted me to think what would life have been like without Christmas?

I can't imagine. Since the dawn of consciousness, Christmas has been an anchor for me -- the Great Thing that infuses the whole year with meaning and purpose.

At first it was all about being The Center of Attention and Getting Things, of course. And like most overprivileged brats I accepted all the glorious food, the many gifts -- and the love -- as my due.

Well, we get over that after a while, thank God, and eventually begin to realize that our parents and relatives and all their friends are people too, and don't exist for the sole purpose of supplying our childish wants and needs.

It's a shock at first, but with any luck we get over it, and gradually start to help our parents to do the various chores associated with preparation and celebration of Christmas without being asked.

I remember feeling so proud the first year I was able to earn a few bucks mowing lawns and weeding flower beds in summer, raking leaves in fall, then shoveling snow in winter. I was even prouder that I had thought to save enough money to buy presents for my Mom and Dad and one or two favorite aunts and cousins.

Gradually -- if you're lucky, and things go as they should -- you eventually turn around completely, and the joy of Christmas comes much more from giving than getting.

Later on, when you begin to get old and your loved ones get ill, and start dying off, the memories of Christmases long past sustain you more and more and finally become all you have to look forward to, unless you've been fortunate enough to have had children of your own who turned out well and gave you grandchildren to spoil, and begin the cycle all over again for a new generation.

The beauty of sacred music has always been a big part of my life. Our church had a wonderful music program, and we were exposed constantly to liturgical music of the highest quality. My parents realized how important that kind of enrichment could be, and did everything to foster enthusiasm for it and to encourage participation -- a great gift that continues to bring joy into my life to this very day.

The great music I have loved and performed all my life -- starting as a paid choir boy at the age of eight, who sang soprano solos in church and at school -- has only become more meaningful and more rewarding with each passing year.

The best thing about Christmas may be that it brings us fresh opportunities to give of ourselves each year.

May the blessings of The Season be with us today and all through the New Year.

~ FreeThinke

Finntann said...

Nollaig Shona Duit !

Happy Christmas to you all.

viburnum said...

Merry Christmas!

And as long as you have me thinking of Christmas past:


Finntann said...

You can have my Figgy Pudding.

Unknown said...

Merry Christmas to you, SF.
And to all of you, have blessed day!

Divine Theatre said...

It is a blessing to know all of you, even Ducky. ;) Merry Christmas!


FreeThinke said...

Hey, Ducky! I hope you're having a Great Day in spite of yourself. ;-)

I'm surprised you haven't visited my place. There's a whole bunch of musical stuff there you would probably enjoy.

Come share the wealth. It's ll free of charge.

BTW, do you happen to know where I could find a good vintage pressing of All I Want For Christmas is My Two front Teeth?


~ FT

-FJ the Dangerous and Extreme MAGA Jew said...

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. - Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

-FJ the Dangerous and Extreme MAGA Jew said...

(cont). ... With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Z said...

Merry Christmas to everyone...

FT's right...imagine no Christmas? Shudder

Finntann said...

His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Please bear with us as we sort the wheat from the chaff and on this blessed day, please meditate on the following:

But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.

Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

KP said...

Merry Christmas! Thanks for the warm reflections Finntann.

Silverfiddle said...

Merry Christmas everybody!

FreeThinke said...

On Christmas Eve the bell were rung,
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung.
Forth to the woods the merry men go
To gather in the mistletoe.

Then drink to the holly berry
With a hey down! Hey down derry!
The mistletoe we'll spread all so,
And Christmas will be merry!

~ Traditional - The Oxford Book of Carols

Shaw Kenawe said...

Merry Christmas to all, a bit late.

It was an internet-free Christmas Eve and Day.

Good wishes for a healthy new year.

Silverfiddle said...

Merry Christmas Shaw!

Internet free is the way it should be!

Silverfiddle said...

A beautiful article, finntann. Merry Christmas to all at western hero. LOL Jez.