ContinuingThe child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder…
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree…
So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience….
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By “eightieth” meaning whichever is the last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.
—T. S. Eliot, “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees”
I was a child in 1954 when Eliot wrote those lines, and I can’t say that I experience the Christmas tree as I did then. But neither must I say that my pleasure in it has disappeared, and I certainly have not forgotten my childhood experience. There is a great mystery in the fact that no one would recognize that six-year-old as me, and yet the consciousness that beheld the tree in 1954 is the same one that beholds another tree in 2005. To sit quietly looking at the tree remains one of the deeper pleasures of Christmas for me, one for which there are often more opportunities in the days of Christmas following Christmas Day itself, which is to say during Christmas proper. In other words, this is only the beginning.