I have always been a fan of Christmas.
I love it all.
I still remember being awed by the Christmas tree at the Sunday School I attended as a child.
To me, a little girl perched in a front row pew, swinging my brown stocking legs beneath me, that tree was a thing of beauty.
I decided it was the tinsel that made it so magnificent and rushed home to cut the foil from my dad’s cigarette package into tinsel strips in an attempt to make my own tree one of such beauty.
I smile as I remember.
The church, the house I lived in as a child and my father are all gone now, but the memory still remains gentle and crystal clear in my mind.
And, for that, I am most grateful.
But maudlin memories from the past, no matter how poignant, do nothing to resolve the work, worry, stress and responsibilities that seem to be attached to the holiday season in today’s world.
It’s tiring, to say the least.
And then to make matters worse, there’s that Christmas music. It’s everywhere.
There is no escape from it. And you can be sure that even if the Christmas spirit has not found you, Christmas music will.
The other day, in keeping with the season, the radio station I was listening to played the song, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.
I sang along mostly because there was no one else in the car to say, ‘mom, you are so off key’ and also because I always sing along to Christmas music.
It wasn’t until later that I learned the story behind the song.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the celebrated literary critic and poet, wrote the lyrics.
Longfellow was the father of six children. His wife, Fannie had died tragically in a fire after Longfellow tried to extinguish the flames, first with a rug and then with his own body.
It is written that he feared he would be sent to an asylum, so intense was his grief.
Two years later his oldest son, Charles enlisted as a private with the 1st. Massachusetts Artillery. On Dec. 1, 1863, Longfellow received a telegram that his son has been severely wounded.
On Christmas Day of that year, Longfellow, a 57-year-old widowed father of six, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself wrote a poem reflecting the agony and sorrow in his own heart and the turmoil going on in the world around him.
I was humbled by the story. And as I listened to the words of the song, my own problems seemed pretty insignificant.
To me, the fact that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow could express in writing such depth of feeling, none of which is foreign to the human race, is truly an expression of the true meaning of Christmas.
(Excerpt from I heard the bells on Christmas Day)
And in despair, I bowed my head;
There is no peace on earth,” I said;
For hate is strong.
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail,
The right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
To all my readers:
A very merry Christmas! May you all enjoy the peace, good will and joy of the season!
Treena Mielke is the editor of the Rimbey Review.