I have a somewhat unusual relationship with December 25th, the day we all know as Christmas – it’s my birthday. Fortunately, I had parents who went out of their way to make sure I didn’t feel slighted, as has been the case with other Christmas babies I’ve met. We had Christmas in the morning and my birthday in the afternoon. When everyone else had already unwrapped all their presents and getting that “is that all there is?” feeling, I still had more presents coming my way. So, I can’t say that I have ever resented sharing my birthday with Jesus, even though he was actually born sometime in April.
As an adult, I could easily do without both Christmas and a birthday. Neither mean what they once meant to me. Obviously since I am neither Jewish or Christian, the season has no religious significance for me, and I still reject the over-commercialization of the season but have come to live with it. It’s bigger than me, so no matter how much I gripe, it ain’t going away.
As everyone should know by now, the celebration of Christmas originated from the Winter Solstice festivals. And I think that fact gives those of us who have nothing invested in the religious aspect of the holidays an excuse to go ahead and celebrate. Now, while I usually start out like a Scrooge, by the time the day rolls around I’ve got a couple of Christmas movies under my belt and I’m ready to get into the mood with some secular holiday tunes like Brenda Lee’s Jingle Bell Rock, or perhaps something more poignant like John and Yoko’s Happy Christmas (“War is over, if you want it”).
This year is different. I have the specter of cancer hanging over my head. And as well, serious health issues facing other members of my family. Stuff like death tends to put a pall on things, if you know what I mean.
Despite all that, I am trying to keep my heart light and hope that by next year all our troubles will be out of sight, to paraphrase the song (Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas) that Judy Garland sang in 1944, which expressed the sentiment of so many people at that time when the world was at war.
Therefore, in that spirit, let me present you with a little poem by e.e. cummings. It is by no mean one of his major poems, but anything by cummings is just all right with me. Accompanying the poem is a painting by the poet himself. You can actually purchase the original here, if you can pony up $12,500.
According to Random House, “In a warm and touching poem, e.e. cummings describes the wonder and excitement of a young brother and sister who find a little tree on a city sidewalk and carry it home, where they adorn it with Christmas finery.”
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“little tree” was originally published in The Dial Vol. LXVIII, No. 1 (Jan. 1920). New York: The Dial Publishing Company, Inc.