I’m drawn to candlelight, big crystal bowls of it, and the way choir voices fill a church. I probably should’ve been a Methodist hymn writer. My impulses are dutiful. Well, at least in the morning. By afternoon, my impulses are like bottle rockets.
I blame Christmas.
Christmas is temptation; Christmas is soothing. I like the cozy aspects, I like the fire … the chili blubbering on the stove, a snow game on TV.
Christmas is the blanket God drapes across the world.
Don’t believe? That’s OK. Occasionally, I have doubts too.
Blame our collective disappointments. A certain cynicism is bound to take hold.
But after 65 seasons, I still lean hard into Christmas: the hope, the faith, the eggnog. A holiday doesn’t get to be 2,000 years old for nothin’.
There must be something to Christmas, to its magic, or Christmas would no longer be around. There must be something to its deeper truths, to the way it whispers to our hearts.
Hey you. Yeah you. Come here. Hold me. It’s Christmas…
Look, what do I know. I’m the worst publicist Christmas ever had. I have holes in my sweater and soup stains on my soul.
I mean, I’m not even sure how electricity works, or who’s playing third base for the Dodgers this spring. Or where, exactly, God gets His (or Her) hair done.
But I’m sure of Christmas. To me, it’s the surest bet around.
Quick, name something older than Christmas? The pyramids? OK.
Greek myths? Al Pacino? They’re all older than Christmas, but not much else comes to mind.
As you probably know, the holidays were all but cooked in the mid-1800s when Dickens re-lit the candle — with simple language, about simple people with universal problems.
Before Dickens, folks had given up on the holidays, worn out from too much industrial work, in dirty cities that seemed on the verge of collapse.
Life was sooty. Bosses were bad.
In England and America, Dickens’ 66-page ghost story salvaged the cheery elements of Christmas — the values of a good home, the good buried deep in ordinary men.
So, if you don’t like the holidays, blame Chuck.
Far as I’m concerned, Dickens and Frank Capra captured Christmas best, with honorable mentions to Charles Schulz and Dr. Seuss. In fact, you could argue that LA, this Bethlehem by the sea, gave the world Christmas as well.
Yes, LA — pools and palm trees and smarmy TV agents. Yet, in the mid-1900s, Hollywood’s lyricists and directors mimicked what Dickens did: gave Christmas a certain glow.
Go figure, huh?
All I know is that I’ve got a crooked tree in a very crooked world.
Traditionally, just days before the holiday, I start adding tree water to my gin, maple syrup to my hair. Poor Posh. At one point, my late wife realized she married an elf.
“He’s Irish,” a priest explained. “It’s the same thing.”
“Can I get an annulment?” she asked.
“Can I shoot him?”
She didn’t and the rest is Christmas history.
We raised a litter of elves. We took Christmas — as Clark Griswold did, as Capra and Dickens did — to the next level. And sometimes the next level down.
When the kids were small, the Christmas tree fell off the car on the way home from a Burbank lot.
“Dad?” came a voice from the backseat.
“The tree escaped.”
I’ve always tried to teach the kids that perfection is overrated. That Christmas can be a slog, yet it sparkles with funny little flaws.
At Christmas Eve service one year, just as the lights went down, my 2-year-old son insisted on singing Happy Birthday super loud in a hushed church.
Happy birthday, dear Jesus. Happy birthday to you…
Christmas is laced with irony. Rudolph was an outcast. Mary was homeless.
“When I was about 4 years old, I thought ‘O Tannenbaum’ was a Jewish Christmas song as we went to temple with our friends, the Tannenbaums,” wrote a reader/friend, Suzy
Well, gotta go. I have cards to mail and gifts to buy. Most of all, I have to get inordinately upset at other drivers, at that crammed parking garage near Macy’s.
I dread the insanity. I like the faces. I cherish the vibe.
So hold me. It’s Christmas.
9 thoughts on “Hope, Faith and Eggnog”
Every Christmas is special and disappointing in its own way. You always remind us that both can be true and it’s OK. Thanks for another beautiful post. Enjoy that little red haired Christmas elf sitting on your stairs. She’s definitely special. Merry Christmas, Chris. And Happy Birthday, Jesus.
I’m 65 and get a present from Santa every year !
Feliz Navidad, Joyeaux Noel, Fröliche Weihnachten, Kalo Kristoyena (Greek) and a very, very Merry Christmas to you, Suzanne and your entire lovely family, Chris Erskine. Here’s looking at you Kid! (oops wrong movie), God Bless Us Everyone!
Your words, as always, are delightful. But I gotta tell you, those pictures you post of Catty Cakes twice a week, bring such warm joy and an ear to ear smile on my face. This one is a pip. What a doll!
Christmas is all you say it is, for sure…but it feels really great when it’s all packed away in the garage or the attic and the New Year begins.
“At Christmas Eve service one year, just as the lights went down, my 2-year-old son insisted on singing Happy Birthday super loud in a hushed church.
Happy birthday, dear Jesus. Happy birthday to you…”
I would have burst into tears on the spot, Chris. What a moment.
And don’t forget, Festivus for the rest of us.
Santa Runs Down…
Now is the time for waxing brief
To give the mind and eye relief
Where went the grail of brevity
Once said the soul of levity?
Quick words thought the heart of wit?
How hard, to say the half of it;
Wait! wait! This thing is running on
Once more your eyes are put upon
I’ve simply got to get control
And let a half speak for the whole
Oh! How sincere my sentiment
For fewer words, self-evident
To say exactly what is meant
The love of you is my intent
Since less is more, here it is:
I wish you warmth—and Merry Christmas !!
Oh, Christmas! Now 1 day past; all that waiting, the presents, food, decorations, family & friends! But there’s 12 days of Christmas, so we’re good! The hope, the love, the faith, be it wobbly or strong, it’s the soul reaching upwards to God & His infinite love for us!