In the fine old tradition of journalists who recycle their holiday messages year after year, here's the 19th rerun of my Christmas message since Dec. 21, 1998 (with a few slight modifications and a few years off).
Season's greetings to one and all. Apologies to those of you who feel oppressed by the season. I know Christians, atheists and Jews who feel the seasonal oppression in equal parts. Oppression and depression. I'm sorry. This message isn't going to cheer you up, much.
This is a time of year that has inspired some of the most brilliant writing in the English language. It ranges from Dickens' A Christmas Carol (which single-handedly revived the celebration of Christmas as a major holiday in the English-speaking world), to the sturdy newspaper editorial entitled Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. In more modern times, we have, among other things, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the unforgettable Bill Murray as Scrooge in the Dickens adaptation, Scrooged. (Not to mention Olive, The Other Reindeer. Never seen it. Love the pun).
This item ends with some lines of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas In Wales which Fr. Harrison West and I recited several times at Benson High School assemblies (long before he was Fr. West).
What is Christmas about? It can be about the birth of Jesus, but for most of us it isn't. It's about many things.
Christmas is about singing (or listening to) Christmas carols. My favorite annual Christmas party, bar none, was the Christmas Caroling party once held annually by our best friends. They're Jewish, and so are many of the party goers. Joyful voices raised together. Doesn't matter if they're not in tune. Doesn't matter if some of the lyrics are Christian claptrap. Jingle Bells, White Christmas and Here Comes Santa Claus, along with the rest of the secular Christmas liturgy are just plain fun. I loved doing "Five Golden Rings" every year (new partners, as my friends Norm and Kent passed away) when we sing The 12 Days Of Christmas.
Christmas is about family and friends. It is about egg nog (or fat-free "Holiday Nog") and all the rest of the seasonal food. It is about the children.
It's about traveling, at the worst travel time of year, to get away with your family.
Christmas is about family traditions when you're a kid, and the blending of family traditions when you marry. In childhood, my family stayed at home on Christmas, my wife was always a Christmas runaway. My lights went up the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year and came down the Saturday after New Year’s. Vicki's went up on Christmas Eve and came down on Boxing Day. There aren't as many lights as when the girls were little. That's OK.
We've had artificial trees for years. M asked for a big real tree her freshman year at college, so we put a 14-footer in the library in 1999; then R asked for one and got it in 2003.
Christmas is about giving thanks. Thanksgiving is the official holiday to give thanks for our good fortune, but nothing says you can't do that at Christmas as well. Every Christmas morning when I wake up with my health, my wife and my children as part of this world, I count my blessings. Mine are beyond counting. I hope yours are too. I have adult-onset diabetes, but there are lots of worse diseases in the world. Mine, at least, is under control. I almost died in a car crash in January 2007, but I'm still alive. My wacky ticker made me faint, and now I have a defibrillator/pacemaker. Beats the alternative.
One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six..
Read my very first Christmas column, from MIT’s ERGO student newspaper in December, 1970, along with a plug for Jon Carroll’s Untied Way.
Scene: nowhere and everywhere. Mother Nature is pregnant. She is discussing her pregnancy with her partner, Father Time.
“Here we go again, a New Year’s baby.”
“Maybe we should stop trying. Our child goes viral on the day he is born, but never makes it to his first birthday. Talk about infant mortality.”
Here is my 2023 List (clearly, I didn’t make it to my goal of 50):
*SPAM is a portmanteau of spiced ham. This much I did know: during WWII the soldiers believed "SPAM was ham that didn't pass the physical."
* Wombat poop is square
* The part of your eyeglasses that hooks over your ears is the temple.
* I once knew this, but forgot that the dent under your nose is the philtrum.
* Sheep can see almost 360 degrees around themselves because they are so low on the food chain.
* Things that appear on your watch face, other than the actual time, are complications.
* A day on Venus lasts long than a year on Venus. Now that's a slow rotation.
*It's always John, Paul, George and Ringo, in that order, because that's the order in which they joined the group.
* John Lennon did NOT say “Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world… Let’s face it; he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles.” It was a line from the BBC Comedy program Radio Active.
*Cotton candy is fairy floss in Australia and Candy Floss in Britain.(just like Frappe and Tonic in New England in the 70s--regionalisms)
* Any number multiplied by nine produces a number whose digits add up to a multiple of nine.
*The term missionary position only dates back to Kinsey in 1963, according to the Internet. Merriam Webster says 1943. The Boomers claim false credit, again.
*Ragamuffin is a breed of cat.
“The past is an old armchair in the attic, the present an ominous ticking sound, and the future is anybody’s guess.”
Sickest People In The World
Americans are the sickest people in the world. Please note, however, where Oregon, Washington and California rank.
The column to the right on this blog contains permanent content, most of which has appeared at one time or another in the main body. I’ve decided to include a reminder.
Here are some stray pieces of humor I have collected:
Although not in the dictionary, it is reported that "Lexophile" describes a person who loves sentences such as, "You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish," and, "To write with a broken pencil is pointless."
An annual competition is held by the 'New York Times' to see who can create the best original lexophile saying.
Among this year's submissions:
◾I changed my iPod's name to Titanic. It's syncing now.
◾England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
◾Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
◾This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I'd swear I've never met herbivore.
◾I know a guy who's addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
◾A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
◾When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.
◾I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.
◾A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
◾A will is a dead giveaway.
◾With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
◾Police were summoned to a daycare where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
◾A bicycle can't stand alone; it's just two tired.
◾The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.
◾He had a photographic memory, but it was never fully developed.
◾When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
◾Acupuncture is a jab well done. That's the point of it.
◾I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
◾Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?
◾When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
◾When chemists die, they barium.
◾I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
◾I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can't put it down.
Sex Cliché Shaggy Dog Story
What can I say? In 2000, I thought this was funny. I suspect I could cancelled for it today, but I’m willing to run the risk for a good shaggy dog story.
A woman who did not speak German was making out with a German man. He kept saying, “Nein, Nein, Nein,” but she kept at it because she thought he was rating her 9 out of 10.
Although he is not yet 5, he certainly holds strong opinions he is willing to share. I was signaling a turn, and he said “What’s that annoying noise.” I told him, and after the turn, he said, “OK, that’s better now.”