It is easy to see why Christmas enlivens us so (and why we are soon saturated). The razzmatazz aligns all the winning topics of universal sentimentality beginning with motherhood (itself spirited by virginity) set in a mystical pauper’s surrounding with which few of us have any acquaintance except perhaps through Charles Dickens’ prepossessing rendition of Bob Cratchit’s son Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol. The immediate follow-up to this unimaginable start (if Kings on camels in the middle of the night trudging after a star were not enough) is a collection of exclusive accessories beyond anything at Bulgari – gold, frankincense (an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes) and myrrh (another perfume or analgesic).
Evangelical scholar Rev Ian Paul has argued that the entire story (that Jesus was born in a stable) may be based on a misreading of the New Testament.
(T)he kataluma where he stayed would not have been an Inn, but a guest room in the house of the family where Joseph and Mary were staying. That could very well have been full with other relatives who had arrived before them.
“The actual design of Palestinian homes (even to the present day) makes sense of the whole story,” Paul writes. “Most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. The family living area would usually have hollows in the ground, filled with straw, in the living area, where the animals would feed.”
So Jesus would not have been born in a detached stable, but in the lower floor of a peasant house, where the animals were kept.
The modern day retail preoccupation with Christmas most certainly surpasses any of the fine points associated with Christianity. People cling to the stock stage settings for their own ornamental purposes. But the circus atmosphere is speedily upstaged from the purgative religious theme to the more gleeful absorption of Santa Claus. It is here that the imagination really takes off to new heights! And who but children are more suited to the fascination!
Shrouding the entire production is a wide variety of music dedicated to both children (Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman) and adults with a mixture of classical motifs such as Handel’s Messiah and the popular work of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.
“Frosty the Snowman” is a popular Christmas song written by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson, and first recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys in 1950 and later recorded by Jimmy Durante. It was written after the success of Autry’s recording of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” the previous year; Rollins and Nelson shopped the new song to Autry, who recorded “Frosty” in search of another seasonal hit. Like “Rudolph”, “Frosty” was subsequently adapted to other media including a popular television special.
Naturally when all else fails there is food, booze and money. My own late father (who made a profession of being curmudgeonly) enacted an incredible scene each Christmas morning by rolling dollar bills of varying amounts and hanging them from the Christmas tree with someone’s name attached on scrap paper. The preposterous ceremony preceded his “Christmas Message” which referenced primarily the stock market in addition to projections for the well being of each member of the family. It was clinically applauded by the muted audience but quickly evaporated among the accumulations of gifts and wrappings – sometimes to the point of alarm for what had been discarded in the roaring fireplace.
There is unending dedication at Christmastime to feasting. Here my late mother was the reputed leader. Her extravagances from Champagne and filet mignon for breakfast on Christmas morning to turkey with ALL the fixin’s and blazing plum pudding for dinner on Christmas Eve were unexcelled by any other! Often it is an indulgence which translates into a licence for inebriation – a commitment which as regularly lingered to the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Eventually however it all subsides and people dust off their pleasures and inadequacies in an attempt to renew their erstwhile deprivations and solemnities. That too is part of the fairy tale of hope, salvation and eternal happiness.