As the illumination of December 25th draws near, the indisputable resplendence of Christmas carols is enough to make almost anyone react sentimentally. And if the undercurrent of sacred inspiration doesn’t succeed to shape the listener then one is as assuredly overtaken by the unconscious hearkening to the past, to memories of people no longer whinnying among us, to pictures in our mind of distant events now softened by regret or dismay. All told it is sometimes a dreadful effect – captured for example in the melancholy song “I’ll be home for Christmas“.
We have today the privilege of nestling among the mahogany and oils. The yellow light from the lamps contrasts warmly with the grey skies beyond the sheers. The forecast of freezing rain then snow blunts my customary impulse to drive the car. Already we’ve received rueful alerts of social distancing and general absence of holiday conventions. The wassail will be limited to those who prefer to express their inspiration by carolling out-of-doors.
The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon greeting Wæs þu hæl, meaning “be thou hale”—i.e., “be in good health”. The correct response to the greeting is Drinc hæl meaning “drink and be healthy”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary waes hael is the Middle English (and hence post-Norman) spelling parallel to OE hál wes þú, and was a greeting not a toast.
The wistful longings of the season are naturally intertwined with the immediacy of current affairs not the least of which is the seemingly painful and sometimes toxic progress of the presidential election in the United States of America.
President Donald Trump’s effort to unravel democracy hit a dead end at the Supreme Court Friday night, capping five weeks in which he dragged the country along on his narcissistic quest to stay in power after President-elect Joe Biden overwhelmingly won the election.
Interpretation and analysis of the American democratic process has subsided into a complexity of notions and principles which are often beyond comprehension. The thesis of Trump’s arguments and sissy-fits has reduced to nothing more than a battle for control while at the same time casting confusion upon the entirety. Trump – whatever the pundits and electors may think – is good entertainment. But that’s all. I shall forever fail to understand why he was elected in the first place. I find it unimaginable that almost half the American electorate sees anything either intelligent or persuasive about Trump – other than the perpetual chant of socialism, Marxism and communism – especially since Trump’s interests are manifestly selfish and capitalist for his cronies alone. Almost everything Trump and the Republican lackeys have repeatedly done flies in the face of conscience, reality and science. Time and again Trump’s former subalterns have proclaimed his unqualified incompetence. I am however spirited by the latest rulings of the Supreme Court. Gradually it appears that the moorings of the democratic vessel are being secured to the wharf of the Union.
Meanwhile we suffer the restraint of the pandemic. It is a plate of such universal consequence that we might as well be confined to a bubble in space where our regard of the world is through the narrow scope of a porthole. The vaccine is on its way and if one believes the predictions of the epidemiologists it will afford greater protection than flu vaccines. If nothing else the vaccination of people world wide will contribute to a feeling of abstinence and purification sufficient to reignite commerce and society. We shall then be able to return our devotion to money and pleasure – the doubtful and ephemeral strength of which is obliterated by disease. We have reduced our gravity to the diminution of elm trees.