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... Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver

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What would it take to put Christmas back in our public schools?

It's unclear who, if anyone, was offended by Christmas and/or its metaphors yet somehow Christmas as we know it has almost disappeared from our schools. Kids today grow up never knowing the pleasure of singing carols in complex harmonies or understanding the way Christmas traditions reflect natural seasonal phenomena in our wintry hemisphere. Worse still, the replacement 'Winter / Solstice' festivals celebrate nothing much at all with insipid, watery jingles that sound more like ad slogans. Should we revert and, if so, how do we bring it about?
Biblitz wants to hear from you!

Blast Biblitz your favorite Christmas traditions and any suggestions on how we might put the old metaphor back in public education, what's left of it.


Staying Alive

Real Poems for Unreal Times

Edited by Neil Astley

Journey of the Magi

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The snow was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot

(-- pgs. 427-428)

The Time-Life Book of Christmas


Produced by the Compage Company
Published in 1987

Whenever palm trees come alight with multicolored globes, and Salvation Army Santa Clauses tinkle bells on Hollywood Boulevard, I remember Christmas Day of 1940 when my father I called upon our 61-year-old Uncle Claude, known to the world as W. C. Fields. Having declined all invitation to celebrate the season, Uncle Claude was at home, alone, when we arrived, sunning himself in the yard of his residence on De Mille Drive.

... "At least," Fields muttered, "they don't serve the tainted day here with snow. Sleigh bells give me double nausea!"

He arose and retreated to the shade, carrying his wrought-iron garden chair. "All right," he said, "I supposed you'll go blatting to all the world about it, but I'm going to tell you why I eschew Christmas and other silly holidays. It's because those days point up a thing called loneliness. An actor on the road as I was for so long - finds himself all alone on days when everyone else has friends and companionship. It's not so good to be in Australia, or in Scotland, or in South Africa, as I was on tour, all alone on a Christmas Day, and to see and hear a lot of happy strangers welcoming that two-faced merriment-monger Santa Claus, who passes you by.

"We're all lonely enough as it is. By God, I was born lonely!"

Now Fields slowly started rocking on his stationary chair, one eye on the gin bottle atop his portable bar constructed from a red, four-wheeled child's wagon. Some weeks earlier he had been at Soboba Hot Springs, a California health resort, where he was compelled to partake only of the native waters. He had imbibed nothing more powerful than ginger ale ever since the repair job.

"But Christmas and New Year's and Thanksgiving and all the rest," he eventually said, "make me even more lonely. So I observe only one day - April First. That's my day. It's Adam's birthday, too. If I remember correctly, the Holy Writ relates that Adam was created on April First. It explains a lot of things, expecially politics and psychoanalysis."

Uncle Claude's gaze returned to the bottle of gin. "I've just reached a momentous decision," he announced. "I've either got to take a drink or shoot all the Santa Clauses infesting the boulevards." He made himself a triple martini. "It may interest you to know," he added, after a few sips, "that tomorrow I am removing both your names from my will. It was a hefty bequest, too. Oh well, if you prefer mistletoe..." (From Sleigh Bells Give Double Nausea, A holiday visit with W. C. Fields, by Will Fowler, p. 246)

Breakfast at Tiffany's


A Short Novel and Three Short Stories

By Truman Capote

But before these purchases can be made, there is the question of money. Neither of us has any. Except for skinflint sums persons in the house occasionally provide (a dime is considered very big money); or what we earn ourselves from various activities: holding rummage sales, selling buckets of hand-picked blacberries, jars of homemade jam and apple jelly and peach preserves, rounding up flowers fro funerals and weddings. Once we won seventy-ninth prize, five dollars, in a national football contest. Not that we know a fool thing about football. It's just that we enter any contest we hear about: at the moment our hopes are centred on the fifty-thousand-dollar Grand Prize being offered to name a new brand of coffee (we suggested "A.M."; and, after some hesitation, for my friend thought it perhaps sacrilegious, the slogan "A.M.! Amen!")...(From A Christmas Memory, p. 162)


God Bless us, everyone.

The First Christmas

The National Gallery of London


Text and Illustrations attributed to Frances Lincoln
Extracts from the Authorized Version of the Bible
(the King James Bible), the rights in which are vested in the Crown, are reproduced by permission of the Crown's patentee, Cambridge University Press

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Text is beside a wondrous color plate of The Adoration of Kings by Jan Gossaert, p. 16)

The Merry Heart


By Robertson Davies

There are many people - happy people, it usually appears - whose thoughts at Christmas always turn to books. The notion of a Christmas tree with no books under it is repugnant and unnatural to them. I had the good luck to be born in such a family and, although my brothers and I were happy with such insubstantial gifts as skates, toboggans, and the like, we would have been greatly disappointed if there had been no books. My father expected the latest Wodehouse, and some vast wad of political recollections - the Life and Letters of Walter Hines Page when I was very young and the awesome six volumes of Lloyd George's war memoirs, much later, were the sort of thing that he, and he alone in our family, could read - and my mother wanted and received novels of idyllic rural life by Mary Webb or Sheila Kaye-Smith.

For me, a standby for years was the annual collected volume of the English boys' magazine Chums, through which I chewed greedily, consuming the historical serial (the boy who did wonders in the army of Wellington or the navy of Nelson); the contemporary serial (the boy whose mother sacrificed to send him to a good school - these were all boarding schools - and who emerged victorious from some scandal in which he had been accused of theft or secret drinking, and carried the school to victory in the great cricket match); the comic serial, about disruptive groups of boy conjurors, boy ventriloquists, and boy contortionists who reduced their schools to chaos and their masters to nervous prostration by their side-splitting japes and wheezes. None of these wondrous boys were int he least like the boys I knew in Canada, but that merely gave them the appeal of the exotic. In between the pages of these I read the articles about careers (civil servant, church organist, veterinary) and about how to make a serviceable violin out of a cigar box and some picture wire.
I particularly relished a column of comic backchat between two wags named Roland Butter and Hammond Deggs. Here is a sample of their wares: RB "Why did the djinn sham pain and whine?" HD "I dunno." RB "Because the stout porter bit 'er." HD "Oh, crumbs!" It was not until much later in life when I came under the spell of Demon Rum that I savoured the full richness of that one.

Before Christmas there was always a period of expectancy during which my parents urged me to read Dickens's Christmas Carol. Every year I tried and every year Christmas Day and new books arrived to find that I had got no further than the appearance of Marley's ghost. I was a slow reader, moving my lips and hearing every word, but I knew the story. It was inescapable. At school no Christmas passed without several children being dragooned into a re-enactment of the Crachits' Christmas Dinner, for the entertainment of parents. Early in life I developed a distaste for the Cratchits which time has not sweetened. I do not think I was an embittered child, but the Cratchits' aggressive worthiness, their bravely borne poverty,

their exhultation over that wretched goose, disgusted me. I particularly disliked Tiny Tim (a part always played by a girl because girls had superior powers of looking moribund and worthy at the same time) and when he chirped, "God bless us, every one," my mental response was akin to Sam Goldwyn's famous phrase, "Include me out." (From Christmas Books, pgs. 258-259)


Very Good, Jeeves


By P.G. Wodehouse

Every year, starting about the middle of November, there is a good deal of anxiety and apprehension among owners of the better-class of country-house throughout England as to who will get Bertram Wooster's patronage for Christmas holidays. It may be one or it may be another. As my Aunt Dahlia says, you never know where the blow will fall.

This year, however, I had decided early. It couldn't have been later than Nov. 10 when a sigh of relief went up from a dozen stately homes as it became known that the short straw had been drawn by Sir Reginald Witherspoon, Bart., of Bleaching Court, Upper Bleaching, Hants.

In coming to the decision to give this Witherspoon my custom, I had been actuated by several reasons, not counting the fact that, having married Aunt Dahlia's husband's younger sister Katherine, he is by way of being a sort of uncle of mine. In the first place, the Bart. does one extraordinarily well, both browsing and sluicing being above criticism. Then, again, his stables always contain something worth riding, which is a consideration. And, thirdly, there is no danger of getting lugged into a party of amateur Waits and having to tramp the countryside in the rain, singing, 'When Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night." Or for the matter of that, 'Noel, Noel!'

All these things counted with me, but what really drew me to Bleaching Court like a magnet was the knowledge that young Tuppy Glossop would be among those present.

I feel sure I have told you before about this black-hearted bird, but I will give you the strength of it once again, just to keep the records straight. He was the fellow, if you remember, who, ignoring a lifelong friendship in the course of which he had frequently eaten my bread and salt, betted me one night at the Drones that I wouldn't swing myself across the swimming-bath by the ropes and rings and then, with almost inconceivable treachery, went and looped back the last ring, causing me to drop into the fluid and ruin one of the nattiest suits of dress-clothes in London.

To execute a fitting vengeance on this bloke had been the ruling passion of my life ever since. (From The Ordeal of Young Tuppy, pgs. 203-204)