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12/27/2010

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"But, my dear Sebastian, you can't seriously believe it all."

"Can't I?"

"I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings
and the ox and the ass."

"Oh yes, I believe that. It's a lovely idea."

"But you can't BELIEVE things because they're a lovely idea."

"But I do. That's how I believe."

I love this passage from Brideshead. And I think that in a large part this is what children, and all of us, see in Christmas. Not so much that it's a lovely idea, but that it's lovely--filled with love. It's the heart of Christmas and at that heart is a family.

AMDG

A supernatural family. That's a key part of it to me. It opens a door to another kind of life.

BTW, I remember those Ideals books.

AMDG

http://www.thefind.com/gifts/info-christmas-ideals-magazine

AMDG

Neat. I'm glad to see that my memory wasn't totally off base.

I remember those 'Ideals' books and may even have a couple in storage (we saved a box or two of Xmas things from my old house when my parents moved -- they are in storage).

I think you are correct about Christmas being, in a sense, the last manifestation of Christendom that's still extant and accepted culturally in today's society. Hence the importance of celebrating it both Christianly and traditionally -- it's important to keep its "heart" and its trappings tied together, so to speak, so that the trappings still have some reference to the heart. For the Christian the trappings will always resonate.

On a related subject, I recently found a service that will put old LPs onto CDs or MP3s for you. There are probably lots of these around, but this one specializes in old Christmas records. I found two old records, unavailable on CD, that we had when we were kids, one from the annual 'Firestone' Xmas record series and the other from Goodyear's similar series. Boy, talk about bringing back memories! I hadn't heard these for at least 35 years, but it's amazing how particular moments of the performances stick in your head -- the horn arrangement from one version of 'The Little Drummer Boy,' for instance, or the strings on "O Holy Night." While listening to these it came to mind that these were undoubtedly the first versions of these songs that I ever heard, and that despite having heard dozens of different versions of these songs hundreds of times over the ensuing 35 years, these are the ones that have stuck with me.

Interesting--I don't think I have any musical memories as detailed as that.

Re Christmas and its trappings: I really don't begrudge the trappings, up to a point. Over the past week or so I've read a couple of pieces about the contribution of Jews to either the secularization or the institutionalization of Christmas through such secular-Christmas songs as "White Christmas" (Irving Berlin"). I really don't mind that--if the vibe (pardon the expression) of Christmas spills over and appeals to those who can't accept its religious heart, that's cool with me. It's only when the secularization becomes a conscious attempt to suppress rather than to avoid the religion that I begin to object.

I found some old copies of Ideals on eBay but I don't think I'm going to try to obtain one. Better just to appreciate what they meant to me at the age of 10 or 12 or so.

There were, of course, decorations that I treasured when I was young and, far and away, the one I treasured most was a red candle about 7" high and 3" in diameter. It had a little niche hollowed out of the front, and a little Baby Jesus was lying in the niche on a gold paper sunburst. I really miss that candle.

And then, we had two 45 rpm records that were translucent red. I thought they were mysterious and wonderful. I don't remember what 3 of the songs were, but one was "Sleigh Ride." I played that over and over again when I was little. After the part that says "giddy-up let's go" (except this was an instrumental) there was a loud crack like a whip. When it got to that part, I would smack together two other records to make the sound. I don't know where my parents were while I destroying their records, but I don't remember anybody ever stopping me, and it was so much fun! :-)

About the time I started high school, we got this set of four Time-Life books called "The Glory/Merriment/Wonder/Pageantry of Christmas." Each was a different color: red, green, purple, and, I think, blue. They weren't really that interesting, but we loved looking at them, and my kids loved the two that I ended up with. Last year I found some of them for sale at the library for cheap--maybe $2 each, so I bought one for each of them and they were excited about them. Somebody has pictures of the pages here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/weetstraw/sets/72157623115693111/

As in Maclin's books, none of these songs or books had much to do with the Nativity, but it never seemed to detract from it at all. When we had a birthday party for our kids and decorated with streamers and balloons, nobody said, "Oh, you shouldn't use those because streamers and balloons don't have anything to do with your child. You should just have pictures of your daughter." It all just added to the glory, merriment, wonder, and pageantry. Like Maclin said, it's when that's all there is that there's a problem.

AMDG

I would have liked that candle, too. Even more, my wife would. What is it about little niches and miniature scenes? I remember as a very young child feeling like they (even table-sized creches etc.) were another world that I wanted to enter. As Karen was putting out nativity sets last week she mentioned that her favorite was one which has the scene inside a sort of egg-shaped thing, sort of like what you're describing.

I'm glad those weren't my records. I think I may have heard that same "Sleigh Ride"--at least I remember the whip cracks.

I don't think I ever saw those books. They sure have a lot of food in them (insert gmail emoticon of happy eater).

Yes, I always want to get into those little worlds, too. I don't think that's something I've grown out of. I have probably 15 tiny Nativity scenes. I put them all over the house. I had some on the bookshelves last year and I put the angels up on the top of the books to watch over them. After I put them all away, I found the little angels still perched on the books, so they've been waiting all year to be reunited with their loved one. One is Mexican, a little clay church. You lift off the top and the Holy Family is inside. I need to take some pictures.

AMDG

I remember our tree having these tiny glow-in-the-dark cherubs; they were about an inch long with an inch wingspan. I think we started off with maybe 12 or 15, but over the years some got lost, and when we last packed up our old Christmas stuff 10 or 12 years ago there were only a few left to be found. My sister and I loved those little things!

I think you guys are right about the "trappings" -- as long as they don't become substitutes for the thing itself, I think they're fine. Of course it's our job as Christian parents to provide our children with the proper balance about such things.

Far easier said than done, of course (providing the proper balance).

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