There Once Was a Time Called Christmas
I live in the house without a television. Let me clear that line up. I live in a house without a television hooked up. There were three TV sets capable of entertaining me at my last house in Delaware. Because a now ex-girlfriend was living there mostly as a tenant the last 11 months I was paying for television there. Also because I’m a notorious tightwad I wasn’t going to pay Direct TV or a cable company to install service at two homes. I did buy MLB-TV this recently concluded baseball season but by Labor Day the Nationals had me so honked-off I stopped watching. Then I signed up for Netflix, watched House of Cards over two weeks and every Longmire episode over a few days. Now there isn’t much to watch. The Christmas offerings on Netflix are scant.
The other day I went to half-a-dozen stores to find a DVD of George C. Scott playing Scrooge (and a thank you to Target, store number six). At Walmart I stumbled across an old Christmas show by the name of House Without a Christmas Tree. I vaguely remember seeing the special when I was in elementary school. Then it just seemed to vanish like snow on a hot day. I pulled 5 dollars and some change from my pockets and bought a copy.
Much like George C. Scott the star of House Without a Christmas Tree could also explode like a volcano on the screen. The late Jason Robards played the bitter father and as one reviewer said the pain of the character was etched on his face. The show, which was really a televised play according to the review I read, is emotionally draining, although. I’ve a few other conclusions.
House Without a Christmas Tree is set in Nebraska just after World War Two. The play is fiction but based on the culture of the time. There is a Christmas tree in the classroom of the little girl the story also revolves around. The kids exchange gifts and one boy dresses as Santa Claus. The little ones practice carols at school and the students perform a nativity play for their parents from the stage of the school auditorium. When the show first aired on television in 1972 many of these practices had already been run out of schools. The religion classes had been moved off campus and students were dismissed early on Wednesdays to attend instruction at their churches. I’ve been gone a long time and suspect there aren’t any longer early dismissals.
I started kindergarten in the fall of 1967. I came home from school in December and sang a song for my mom. Miss Wright had taught us Away in a Manger. If someone offered me 5 dollars I could probably still sing it and remember the lyrics. During that era the teenagers from high school put up trees on the four corners at the main intersection downtown. Freshman through seniors competed and bonded with the experience. Christmas is part of a shared culture. The trees on the corners disappeared long before I made it to high school.
The critics tell us it’s a good thing to eradicate Christmas from schools and the public square. After all, some non-Christian walking past a tree at Main and Genesee Streets might have a seizure and roll around on the ground and into the path of a passing milk tanker. Such a scene would’ve been chalked up to being possessed by a demon but we’re now told good and evil are all relative to individual needs and wants.
Nebraska in 1946 and Cuba, New York in 1967 certainly were much more homogenous than in our current day. “Our diversity makes us stronger,” is what the elites shout. I first heard that statement 20 years ago at a news conference. The Chancellor of Syracuse University mouthed it with the same reverence as if he’d just been handed tablets carved by God or whatever the man worshipped. The writer and former Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan likes to ask, “Where’s your evidence?” when some nitwit makes the diversity claim.
An overwhelming majority of Americans still identify as Christians and while they sometimes quibble over how to celebrate Christmas most enjoy the celebration. A Muslim friend I worked with in television didn’t like going to the mall until it was decorated for Christmas. He loved the lights, trees and garland. He found the excitement among his co-workers, many looking forward to seeing family they hadn’t seen all year, to be infectious. I think he also liked many of the hokiest of TV specials.
It’s not that we didn’t learn about their culture at school. We did. The course was called social studies. Now they are living in the United States. The land of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Those words from Jefferson are an inheritance from Christianity. The faith says the king is no better in the eyes of God than me. Over the centuries men then argued they could read and understand the Bible on their own. If you didn’t need a middle-man to explain God then you certainly didn’t need a monarch telling you what was right and what was wrong. Especially when the ruler could lop off a head because he didn’t like the look of a guy.
The House Without a Christmas Tree was set one year after the end of the greatest conflict then known to man. Unless you were one of maybe a few dozen on the payroll of the Nazis and the Japanese everyone was willing to secure what we held dear. Today the President says if we just lower the temperature and give our jobs away to other countries all will be fine.
It’s Christmas. Go watch some of the old shows. Keep the torch burning.