Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Eve Tradition - Twas The Night Before Christmas Recited by Me

What better thing to do on Christmas Eve than to bring back this warm chestnut from blog days past.  It worked before.   It will work again.

Just imagine us in front of a warm Christmas Eve fireplace. Snug as bugs in rugs. And I open this book to read it aloud to all assembled. 

How utterly delightful! 

How comforting! 

How could I possibly get through the whole thing without making a bunch of snarky comments? 

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

Okay, it's me now. An ignoble start to this Christmas chestnut, because right from the get-go, you find out they've got rodents in this place. 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. 

Giving rise to another horrible childhood nightmare when Monte, my "alleged  friend" up the block who liked to spew a lot of Catholic hate my way, told me that St. Nicholas was obviously Catholic and didn't visit Protestant homes. 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; 

I have never dreamed of fruit. Even once. 

And Mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap, 

Bedtime headwear? The only person I ever saw in a nightcap was Fred Mertz. And what's with the nonsense about a nap? When you go to bed at nighttime, it's not a nap. It's called "going to sleep!" 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. 

If there ever was commotion in our neighborhood, we didn't immediately think it was Santa Claus. It was probably the woman next door coming home drunk from the local gin mill. Once, she fell right through my grandmother's lilac bush. 

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash. 

"Threw up the sash?" You never should have tried to eat it in the first place. 

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below, 

If I was reading this as a kid, I would have started to giggle at the mention of "breast" and probably not get through the rest of the poem. I'm just saying... 

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, 

This is one of the only Christmas passages that gave you any perspective on the size of the reindeer. Were they babies? And, if so, is this not animal cruelty? Making these things run all over the world in one night?? 

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. 

Had we no prior experience with Christmas, would we immediately know it was St. Nick? On any street corner in December, there are tons of imposters. There are myriad ways that a scam artist could bilk thousands of unsuspecting children on Christmas Eve. After all, nobody is awake to demand proper identification. 

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!" 

Okay, no mention of Rudolph. When does he get invented? And perhaps he was nothing more than a urban legend designed to get Gene Autry a couple of Gold albums. And don't you wonder just a little about Vixen? With a name like that, I wonder which of the other reindeer she was doing. The smart money is on Dasher. 

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all! 

I typed that just as Clement Moore wrote it originally. What's with the inability to capitalize properly? 

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; 

Dry leaves? How do these turn up in a winter poem? My guess is that Moore started writing this in September or October and simply got sidetracked during the process. I know just how deadly writer's block can be. Who knows? Maybe this was supposed to be "Twas The Night Before Halloween." 

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too. 

So is this proof that Santa only brought toys? That runs contrary to some other images we have. Of Mr. Claus riding a Norelco razor up and down some snowdrifts. And Santa was prominently displayed on that carton of Kent cigarettes my mother always got as well as the box of Canadian Club my dad got from his friends around the corner. 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. 

The way our roof was arched, there was absolutely no way that the sleigh and reindeer could have kept their balance. At least, three of those suckers would have tumbled off. Right into Grandma's lilac bush, lying next to the drunken neighbor. 

As I drew in my head, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. 

You see, this always presented a major problem in our house. There was one chimney fireplace. In Grandma's dining room. And it was sealed with cement. I once asked her how Santa Claus could get in. She told me not to ask a lot of stupid question. 

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; 

Dressed in fur? Are we absolutely 100% sure that there was a Mrs. Claus? Because the image I'm getting is Liberace. Except no gay guy allows himself to get this dirty ever. 

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. 

You see a sprightly old gentleman? I'm seeing a homeless bum down in Santa Monica. 

His eyes---how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! 

Possibly warning signs of melanoma or even high blood pressure. 

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; 

One verse later, we have our medical diagnosis. "Mouth drawn up like a bow." He's had a mild stroke. 

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; 

A stroke brought on by heavy smoking. 

He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly. 

I never understood this image. Do me a favor. Take a jar of jelly and empty it into a bowl. It doesn't shake. It just lies there. Inert. Now, if Moore had known about Jell-O at the time, this reference would have worked. But, then, you have the rhyme problem. Jell-O, bellow, hello, mellow. The whole poem falls off the proverbial map. 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; 

Another misnomer. Fat people are not always happy. Most are depressed, having eaten themselves into a coma for deep seeded psychological reasons. 

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; 

Or maybe I did. An old guy winking and making overt gestures. Hello, Pedophile. 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, 

Head twisting. Body jerking. I'm thinking Parkinson's. What about you?

And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; 

Once again, I'd ask my grandmother how Santa could get out with a sealed up  chimney in our house. Once again, I'd hear, "You ask too many stupid questions." 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle, 

I never knew what a thistle was, let alone how much down you got from one. And, how about the noise this bunch generates as they leave? For what purpose? Aren't they simply going to fly over to the house next door? 

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night." 

Yeah! Me, too! 

Dinner last night:  Leftover orange chicken.

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