The Shadow on Christmas

December by

The seemingly eternal human mix of high-minded good intention and ruthless materialistic exploitation come together in a temporal microcosm every Christmas. Good versus goods, you might say, our economics hopelessly tied to the excessive and wasteful production of the latter, never more obviously, desperately so than at this time of year.

Christmas was never an uncompromised good time for me as a child, negotiating the season with little consciousness of the greater issues. My father’s recent war experiences as a medic in North Africa undoubtedly undermined any ability he might have had to see anything other than pretension in the holiday. My mother did her best to engage the spirit of it regardless. The food was wonderful, but the actual….supposedly celebratory….meal was often conducted in the mute aftermath of the annual argument.

Neither of my parents had apparently been the beneficiary, as I was, of actually having awoken in the middle of the night to see Santa Claus and his team of steaming reindeer cantering along the snow-clad street below the long bay-window of our third-floor London flat.

I came to see the legitimacy of my father’s skepticism but never did buy fully into the toxicity of it. There was no hypocrisy to my mother’s efforts to make the season special.

It had little to do with presents. In the rationed aftermath of WWII there were relatively few. My mother and I would adorn the tree and criss-cross the ceiling with strings of cut-paper decorations. She was a singer of considerable talent and we would carol together or partake of the ecstatic auditory feast of Ave Maria and the Hallelujah Chorus broadcast on the BBC.

It was later pretty easy to enjoy Christmas when my lady and I got together and even more so when our daughters came along. During their early Sunshine Coast childhood we lived simply, just outside the boundaries of Gibsons and then on Nelson Island. We would often surround a long table with friends and dine on duck or turkey or venison, the meal crowned with plum pudding and traditional trifle.

We eventually learned to hike the woods for new wind-falls from which a treetop could be removed and, with a little judicious drilling and temporary grafting, be made into a more-than-adequate Christmas tree.

There was a lead-up week or two of caroling accompanied by my guitar. Presents would have been limited to one or two of reasonable value, so there was little in the way of clutter to be cleared away. Much of what there was would be folded for re-use the next year, put away with the decorations.

We had much to be thankful for, not least of it being our affection for one another and the beauty of our surroundings. And it is, after all, the turning of the year towards ever-longer days.

My lady would create a creche, not required by my own metaphysics but not something I felt moved in any way to object to. I was the beneficiary of her kindness and generosity of spirit and unconcerned with her particular ways of sustaining it.

Now it is my daughters that carry it all on. I play for the carol-singing on Christmas Eve, drive down to Roberts Creek the next morning to witness the opening of presents and, of course, share the dinner and the company of their own extended families.

But how could something as well-intentioned in so many ways as Christmas not automatically bring to our minds the stark contradictions to its purported spirit of the world in which we live and the terrible ways in which we so often affect it? It is there in the undertow at the same time as it warrants our taking a break from awareness of it.

And so, I offer this song that is about that: My very own Christmas Carol, featuring the exquisite guitar interpretations of Robbie Steininger and the powerful production skills of Bill Buckingham.



 [audio:|titles=No Believer]


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This