This little fold out of Santa Claus is one my favourite memories from childhood of Christmas. In the lead up to Christmas we have enjoyed watching the christmas movies on television and some beautiful pop opera concerts. There are some good books too. I am very fond of the story by Clement Clarke Moore on the “Visit from St. Nicholas”. I am sure you are already familiar with it, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to share it with you below.
(Author: Clement Clarke Moore)
A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads;
And Mamma in her ‘kerchief and I in my cap
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a minature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A ubndle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave m eto know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!”
It comes around just once a year, and we can spend the remainder of the year counting down to it. For many people, Christmas can be a devastating time, not just for individuals but families too. There are so many expectations and too much opportunity for disappointment. For business and enterprise, especially the retail trade, Christmas is supposed to be one of the most profitable times of the year. This is as people are encouraged to go out and buy products, and that the receiver does not even want, for the sole purpose of having “some” gift to give away to friends and family. This is also, quite often the most profitable time of the year for the loan sharks, pawn brokers and money lenders. This is, as people (without means or going beyond their means) can succumb to the pressure and fall further into debt.
But products and things, really are not what Christmas is about. To reclaim the joy of Christmas we need to go back to where it all began. With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and the promise of forgiveness and hope, faith and joy. I do not read the bible nearly often enough. I have however been enjoying the free daily devotions from Nicky Gumbel. His daily bible reading for Christmas Day begins as follows:
Today we celebrate the ‘central event in the history of the earth, the very thing the whole story has been about’ (C.S. Lewis).
(source: http://www.htb.org.uk/one-year-bible/read/2011-12-25 17.38pm on 26.12.2011). If you are interested to read the bible reading for Christmas Day you can see it by clicking here.
I have resisted the charms of commercial consumerism. I have not been spending time nor money on buying presents and cards to send to people. We did however take part in the Christmas spirit of giving, by purchasing “virtual” christmas gifts from charities. At least in this way we feel that we are helping to make some small contribution to a cause that can help people in need. For this too though, one needs to be ware of those who take advantage of people’s generosity and avoid those “fake and scam” pleas for contributions. I came across one recently, that I identified and managed to avoid, but I will not get into that here. There is so much need out there, and so many things that we can do to help, in so many ways. That is certainly food for thought…
It is too easy to forget but our health, physical, mental and spiritual health is, and must be our priority. If we can achieve good health then we are very fortunate indeed and have much to be grateful for. Peace of mind though can be difficult to achieve or maintain. At festive times, like Christmas, sad memories can arise. We think of, and pray for those people who have lost their loved ones. You only need to switch on the news to hear all about the violence, misery, tragedy and death that occur, particularly leading up to Christmas. The parent’s who have lost their child or children. The children who have lost their parents. Those who have lost their partners. Those who are nursing their family members who are sick and those in hospital. For people who have suffered from crime and assaults. It is these trying times that can cause even the strongest of us to falter and feel helpless. It is especially then, in these times that we must learn to ask for help, and over come pride and accept help.
This Christmas was a sort of reunion for us. It had been a while since my friend Ian and I had played as a duo on the pipe organ and piano at our local church. But this year, I went back and played the pipe organ for our church. I was not feeling well Christmas Eve and even worse on Christmas morning. I spent the entire time during the service running between the pipe organ and the bathroom. Rather embarrassing, but what could I do? Helpless I’m afraid, but fortunately I managed to always get back into the Church in time to play the hymns.
Our Christmas festivities started on the 23rd of December. It was the day that my cousin Carol came down from Auckland to join us, and the same day that we met up with some old friends Stuart and Nigel. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, so it was fabulous to be reunited again and catch up on the old days! (Yes admittedly, beginning to show our age here! he he).
Our food indulgence began on Christmas Eve with a roast Lamb for dinner to share with my old chum David and my cousin Carol. On Christmas day we enjoyed more time with family and friends. More roasts (traditional English) plus some good old Tongan favourites, with Tara leaves in coconut and chop suey. A buffet of desserts followed.
Regardless of my efforts to be selective, I still ended up eating more than I should. Will definitely be spending all of January (at least) trying to work off all the extra calories I consumed! After dinner I took advantage of the captive audience to perform a little concert of some of the pieces I had been working on at the piano. Seeing as it was Christmas, we also took the opportunity, to sit around and sing Christmas Carols, yet again.
Among the more traditional Christmas Carols, we also sang that lovely New Zealand Carol called “Te Harinui”. It took me a little time to locate the music, and once I found it, the print was so unclear that I had to squint at it, but nonetheless I managed to guess what the notes should be, and my efforts were just good enough to allow me to make notes that sound roughly close to how they should.
The lyrics and music for Te Harinui can be found on the NZ Folk Song website.
Just in case you fancy joining in and singing too, the words for Te Harinui are below:
- Not on a snowy night
By star or candlelight
Nor by an angel band
There came to our dear landTe Harinui
Glad tid-ings of great joy
- But on a summer day
Within a quiet bay
The Maori people heard
The great and glorious word
- The people gathered round
Upon the grassy ground
And heard the preacher say
I bring to you this day
- Now in this blessed land
United heart and hand
We praise the glorious birth
And sing to all the earth
(source: http://www.folksong.org.nz/nzchristmas/te_harinui.html at 21.49pm on 25.12.2011)
All this sitting around not doing much is surprisingly tired. We had a little tour outside in the garden. But my plans to go for a long walk (to walk off dinner) or for a swim at the thermal spa, never quite eventuated. As democracy prevailed, and after some discussion we decided to stay put at home instead. Again, our entertainment was provided by the good old television network, and I particularly enjoyed the singing by those including Hayley Westenra, and Il Divo, and others that I have found and posted below.
As for the new year, my resolution as usual is to do more exercise (we’ll see …) and to try to improve at keeping in touch with friends and family. With people spread all across the globe now, and trying to figure out time zones, it is not an easy task. But with technology today, there is little room for excuse, so I will make more of an effort in 2012 to keep in contact with those held dear. On that note, to all my dear friends and family reading this, please accept my apologies for not keeping in touch over recent years. Be assured that you have nonetheless been in my thoughts and in my prayers.
From all of us, my husband and I, and my parents, we wish you all the very best for the coming year!