I was 7 years old in 1963 when Andy Williams first sang "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." I still love that song. As a child, I sang "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night" in a choir of shepherds in a Christmas pageant that took place in a Lutheran church on a dark night in winter-bound Minnesota. And that's that. Some memories are not for the discarding.
The delight does not change. But there is a movement from the joy of receiving, to the joy of giving, and, finally (if we are fortunate), to the joy of simply being present in the World at such a time. A time for gratitude and for reflection. But an effort is required, and, speaking for myself, the effort often falls short. But the breathtaking pause -- fragile light fluttering in the darkness -- calls for our attention.
We are folded all
In a green fable
And we fare
Through a revel
Of wind-tossed oats and barley
Past sickle and flail
To harvest home,
The circles of bread and ale
At the long table.
It is told, the story --
We and earth and sun and corn are one.
Now kings and shepherds have come.
A wintered hovel
Hides a glory
Whiter than snowflake or silver or star.
George Mackay Brown, The Wreck of the Archangel (John Murray 1989).
It is late afternoon on Christmas Eve as I write this. Half an hour ago, the snow began to fall.
Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), "1930 (Christmas Night)" (1930)
Light persisting in, and emerging out of, darkness. Flickering. Coming and going. Like a human soul.
The rain-shafts splintered on me
As despondently I strode;
The twilight gloomed upon me
And bleared the blank high-road.
Each bush gave forth, when blown on
By gusts in shower and shower,
A sigh, as it were sown on
In handfuls by a sower.
A cheerful voice called, nigh me,
"A merry Christmas, friend!" --
There rose a figure by me,
Walking with townward trend,
A sodden tramp's, who, breaking
Into thin song, bore straight
Ahead, direction taking
Toward the Casuals' gate.
Thomas Hardy, Winter Words in Various Moods and Metres (Macmillan 1928).
"The Casuals' gate" was an entry to the "Union House" (the workhouse) in Dorchester. "In Hardy's time any 'casual' (pauper or tramp) could apply to the police for a ticket, with which he would be admitted for supper, a bed, and breakfast." J. O. Bailey, The Poetry of Thomas Hardy: A Handbook and Commentary (University of North Carolina Press 1970), page 581.
The snow continues to fall.
Merry Christmas, dear readers.
Robin Tanner (1904-1988), "Christmas" (1929)