Montreal Daily Star, 22 December 1900, page 3
From a Feminine Standpoint
The Joys of Christmas-Tide- And the Custom of Gift Giving – Also Some Reminiscences
Christmas! There’s magic in the word! It transmutes old age into youth; conjures up visions of the past to fill the present; transforms the prosaic cares of today into the pure sentiment of yesterday. It reanimates hopes long dead, and throws such unwanted sunshine into the minutest details and crannies of life that the world is for the time being at least as bright and white and good to look at as the glistening frosting masquerading as snow on a Yule-tide calendar. Christmas is not only the apotheosis of childhood, it is, or should be, a day of utter gladness in a material way, or in the fuller greater, never to be forgotten meaning it has held since the first, far-off birthday of the Babe ofBethlehem.
To the average child there is one great day in the year beside which all others are dwarfed in importance. It is a day in which all the happiness of a lifetime is condensed; in which the joys of realization, wonderful in magnitude as they undoubtedly are, yet are as nothing to the ecstasy of anticipation that preceded them. What one of us has not rejoiced and feared and trembled almost in the same breath as the fateful day drew near? Which among us has assumed a decorous mien and forsworn mischief as the holidays came on apace, and the home atmosphere grew heavy with the incense of boiling puddings, baking cakes and newly made pies? Which of us has not laid a happy head on a downy pillow and with eyes peering wide into the darkness, fought gallantly with sleep in the vain hope of catching our own particular stocking in the very act of assuming the mammoth and unwieldy proportions it was bound to acquire of Santa Claus but did his duty? Who does not treasure a recollection of leaping into the darkness of the early morning oblivious to the sharp, encroaching angles of the furniture, and having captured our bulky treasure, retiring with it in our little arms to wait till daylight, long delayed made exploration possible? Who can forget the joy attended the opening at those wonderful bundles, the impatience with which we untied the string, the joyous rustle of the wrapping paper, and the final joy of finding a wished for treasure at last within our grasp?
It is a practical age, but fortunately we cling to our Yule-tide celebrations. Christmas days are essentially the gala days of childhood. It is only the exceptional child who affects a superior air when the doings of good St Nicholas come under discussion. There are but few of the small denizens of the nursery who do not pin their faith to that ruddy faced, generous old gentleman. It was whispered that the vogue of Santa Claus would decrease with the introduction of steam radiators, and his doom be finally sealed when the use of coal gave place to gas logs, and a slot meter. Fortunately the rumour was an idle one. The rising generation has not acquired the habit of stern common sense or of disbelief, that at times animates ourselves and which verges so closely on cynicism. Kris Kringle might, of he chose, become up to date, and forsaking his fur-trimmed coat, his sleigh and his reindeer, appear in a khaki clothes and a motor car, but the chances are that there would be lively remonstrances at the innovation on the part of the young people, who cling to traditions, bless them, and refuse to abate a jot of the ancient observances.
There are some few misguided persons who claim that for every child who hangs a borrowed stocking from the chimney piece with prayer and patience and a good stout nail, there are dozens who do so indulgently, possessed of a half amused sense that they are hoodwinking their elders, and a certain knowledge that the Noah’s arks and drums and sweetmeats of the morrow come straight from the department stores instead of from Santa Claus and the land where toys grow as wild as daisies in June. True there are some few children who are premature pessimists. There is something uncanny in the lack of faith, and something quite as appalling in their precocity. Such little mental monstrosities are content that Christmas customs should fall into descetude, and are willing to take their gifts without pretence and wax tapers provided the cost of said pretence and tapes comes to them eventually as toys and sugar plums or whatever they most desire. Fortunately such miserable little old men and women are no more typical of happy, healthy childhood than a misanthrope is of humanity.
With us grown-ups, Christmas is misused in many cases, and in others through no fault of our own, it is not the ideal season of happiness. Here, as often, we have little sense of values and how to make the best of things is a task we are utterly incapable of fulfilling. To some of us, Christmas means turkey and cranberry sauce, and a supreme occasion. To others it means headache, ill temper and much disappointment. It means jewels and gee-gaws and rejoicing to some, and heart-burnings and envy to such as are not above an occasional tilt with the tenth commandment. Christmas is essentially the season of remembrances. It is the time of all others to make an end of quarrelling, and to have done with misunderstand. If we ignore the opportunity it offers to do away with petty troubles and to bury the memory of long forgiven injuries, we miss the true spirit of the time, no matter how lavish we may be in our gifts to others.
There is nothing sweeter than to receive a token of friendship freely given, a gift that is merely an outward symbol of a deep and lasting affection. The modern love of show and ostentation has left its mark here as elsewhere, and the Christmas gift is sometimes sent of necessity rather than as a free-will offering. It is even said that in certain households presents have a carefully ascertained market value, and that it is as much an established rule to return these with something worth just as much in dollars and cents, as it is to observe the commonest courtesies of life, or keep up with the fashions. But as rumour is ever ready to put the worst construction on every combination of circumstances, its safe to doubt her here and to believe that such cases are so far the exception that they’re not worth taking into consideration. One of the greatest joys of life lies in giving, and in the message of love it bears with it, the Christmas gift takes precedence of all others.
Christmas in the country is idyllic and desirable from a distance, and eminently satisfying at short range. The memory of one spent calls up a picture as brilliant as a lithograph in many colours. It summons up a vision of little robin red breasts, carols, snow clad fields, and gaily decorated trees, mingled, it is true, with holly and cranberry sauce, and mistletoe, all in a rather hopeless state of confusion; but mellowed by a glow of genuine feeling, and softened by a haze of jollity and happiness. Christmas spent under the proper auspices in town, though not so pleasant, is nevertheless joyous. Its dark side is like an unsuccessful sketch in sepia, dull and dark and full of blemishes. Its other side is as Christmas should be everywhere, a season of happiness untouched with selfishness, and full of thought for others; a season where the gospel of all is “peace on earth, good will towards men,” backed up by a practical determination to do more than preach; a resolve to observe the spirit as well as the word of the most welcome message ever given to man.