Merry Christmas, and let’s all laugh on purpose

Posted in Duff 'n Stuff
Norman Rockwell's painting, "A Drum for Tommy" or "Santa with Drum."

Norman Rockwell’s painting, “A Drum for Tommy” or “Santa with Drum” was featured on The Saturday Evening Post, as many of his paintings were.

Duff ’n Stuff, Dec. 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I had a hard time deciding what to write for a Christmas Day post. It’s kind of a big day, fraught with so much history and expectation. Often, when I’m looking for the muse, I turn to literature. Luckily, I stumbled on these gems of various authors that reveal a Christmas theme.

Sing hey! Sing hey!
For Christmas Day;
Twine mistletoe and holly.
For a friendship glows
In winter snows,
And so let’s all be jolly!

The author of that little ditty is unknown, but he or she hits it right with the whole point of celebrating Christmas; decorate, sing, enjoy the company of those you love and soak up as much jolly as you can. If there is a little snow involved, all the better because there’s nothing like a white Christmas to brighten the mood.

Another mysterious author penned this witticism:

There are three stages of a man’s life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.

You gotta love the big bearded guy in the red suit. Santa Claus, for me, has been symbolic of everything that represents a generosity of spirit. Here’s a guy who leans into a life filled with laughter and has the power to light up a room with a good costume. I think his ermine-trimmed, red velvet suit with the slick black boots and belt is fantabulous! You go Santa.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.

This one is from an editorial written in 1897 by newspaperman Francis Pharcellus Church of New York’s The Sun. He wrote it as answer to the letter of an 8-year-old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon asking if Santa Claus really existed. Mr. Church is right about how just believing in the idea of Santa makes you feel more optimistic; be generous and full of love like Santa and his effect remains.

Charles Dickens wrote most beautifully about the holiday, particularly in “A Christmas Carol” when Ebenezer Scrooge says finally, after being scared to death by ghosts:

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

But I like this one from Dickens, too, from the “The Pickwick Papers”:

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!

"Four Boys on a Sled" is by the American painter Norman Rockwell.

“Four Boys on a Sled” is also by the American painter Norman Rockwell.

Like Dickens, Christmas is a lot about home for me, too. My memories of childhood are stronger around the holidays. Memories I have of my parents and five siblings are always happy ones – toboggan rides with my dad; photos on Santa’s lap; the anticipation of Christmas morning; sitting down to countless delicious holiday meals prepared by our mother the excellent cook; telling family stories; and laughing a lot. All of these memories make me  grateful. Some of us in the family are far away from each other now, but not so much in our hearts and that’s part of the season’s charm, though Skype has made it better.

E.M. Forster is right about having to strain against what is the uglier, commercial side of Christmas. Sometimes you have to make a point to remember what’s best about it and prevent the loss of that goodness. Forster wrote:

I do like Christmas on the whole…. In its clumsy way, it does approach Peace and Goodwill. But it is clumsier every year.

But, perhaps it was the time in which Forster was living; a time unlike ours in which one feels the need to purposefully remember what is good about the season and to look with determination toward a world of peace and goodwill; to actively pursue that in one’s life. I feel the need more than ever to spread laughter and a certain generosity of spirit that I always remember feeling around my family growing up, the feeling for which Santa is a kind of symbol for me now. Edna Ferber expressed that well when she said:

Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a beautiful poem about remembering what makes Christmas good. Here’s part of it:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

"Union Train Station Chicago Christmas" by Norman Rockwell.

“Union Train Station Chicago Christmas” on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, 1944, by Norman Rockwell.

And then, of course, there’s the incomparable Dr. Seuss:

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

Well, there ya go. No one can do better than Dr. Seuss, though there are so many other authors that I could quote on the subject of Christmas and be equally as satisfied.

One of my fondest memories of home is watching those old, holiday movies which my mother loves. She introduced us to all the best ones, including “Meet Me in St. Louis” with Judy Garland. Here is Garland in that film singing one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.

This is my message of the day to you, dear Reader. (Click here to listen.)

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on our troubles will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of Yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now


From the heart,
Patricia Duff


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