‘But there were cats… Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slide and sidle over the white back-garden walls.’ (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

‘But there were cats… Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slide and sidle over the white back-garden walls.’ (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

The Editor’s Desk: We need a little Christmas

It’s never too early to start celebrating the season, despite what anyone else might say

We’re halfway through November, which means December is almost here, and that can only mean one thing: accusations of a “war on Christmas” starting to fly, faster than snowflakes on the Coquihalla and just about as welcome.

Perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic. After all, the whole “war on Christmas” thing seems to have gone quiet during the pandemic, perhaps because anyone inclined to get worked up over perceived slights to the season had bigger fish to fry.

The pandemic also seems to have put paid to the idea — highly prevalent back in 2018/2019 — that turning on your Christmas lights, or even putting up your Christmas decorations, before Remembrance Day was somehow disrespectful of veterans. This idea went from being absolutely not a thing anyone had ever heard of or worried about to being everywhere, leaving quite a few people confused.

After all, stores here in Canada have swapped out Halloween decorations for Christmas ones on Nov. 1 for decades, with nary a word of reproach from anyone. It’s also not at all unusual for anyone who lives in colder climes, and who dislikes the idea of losing a finger or two to frostbite, to put their outdoor Christmas decorations up in early November, before you’re chipping icicles off the gutters.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that most veterans, past and present, don’t give two hoots when people put up their Christmas lights; indeed, some might say that they fought for the right of people to put their Christmas lights up whenever they want to.

Why do I think this? One of the most well-known and beloved Christmas songs of all time — “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” — was written and first performed in 1943, in the middle of World War II. The song conjures up a vision of a picture-perfect Christmas (“Please have snow, and mistletoe / And presents on the tree”), but the last lines make it clear it is written from the perspective of a soldier far from home: “I’ll be home for Christmas / If only in my dreams.”

Those vets who missed Christmas at home because they were away fighting would probably like to have pictured their houses and streets lit up by Christmas lights no matter when that happened. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the whole furore over when Christmas decorations should go up melted away in 2020, during the first Christmas of the COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as Halloween was over that year, people who had already put up their Christmas lights, or those who had not got round to taking them down from the year before (why, hello there!), turned them on, literal lights in the darkness — literal and figurative — around us. Suddenly no one seemed to mind the decorations, so here’s hoping that particular manufactured outrage has died its death.

Speaking of Christmas, I was reminded of Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales the other day, when three cats lined up to take the sun on a fence behind the Journal office:

“I was in Mrs. Prothero’s garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, although there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slide and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes.

“The wise cats never appeared.”

We’re still some way from Christmas, but I think I’ll dig out my TV version of the story, starring the great Denholm Elliott, and give it a re-watch. In the words of Angela Lansbury as Auntie Mame: “We need a little Christmas / Right this very minute.”



editorial@accjournal.ca

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