Christmas Prose Competition 2008
Xmas Glurge, Please Forward by dmitrigheorgheni
Email users, beware. 'Tis the season to be glurged. Early and often.
The season in which my nearest and dearest, ignoring my pleas for peace in cyberspace and a little respect for my inadequate spam filter, continually give in to the urge to push the 'Forward' button, again and again, filling the public inbox I otherwise reserve for business correspondence and e-coupons with descriptions of dying tots whose words of wisdom put the philosophers of the ages to shame.
Glurge is a term of art used to describe stories in circulation, urban legends and the like, which have been so rewritten as to constitute propaganda. There may (or may not) be a kernel of factuality in the account, but the general intent of these writings is to bypass the logic circuits and head straight for the tear ducts.
'God smells like rain, you know?' 'And the little girl's 57-cent legacy became a cathedral.' 'This moving poem was left behind in a nursing home...'
Glurge is an assault on the mind and heart. I object to being the vict-, er, recipient of same, as I then have to spend even more time researching the source of the schlock - er, inspirational piece of writing. There is a helpful website for glurge sufferers. I leave you to find it, being no tattle-tale.
At Christmas, the glurge rains thick and heavy upon us. It develops a partisan edge as well, including complaints that we have lost the 'true meaning' of the holiday season.
Yesterday's glurge yield tore it, though: whoever wrote the poem (and I use the term loosely) about the lack of reverence for the religious holiday as a parody of 'The Night Before Christmas' exceeded my goodwill-toward-men quotient by several orders of magnitude...
Western civilisation is threatened by a lack of public (as opposed to private) prayer? To whom, pray tell? The Dutch Sinterklaas?
After wondering whether the 'poet' in question, whom I would cheerfully have introduced to William Topaz McGonagall1, was aware that the Christmas poem par excellence had been penned by someone other than its attributed author2,I began to speculate: Just when did we lose the True Meaning of Christmas?
Was it when Gene Autry recorded that horror about the reindeer with the glowing nose? When Macy's decided to have a parade in honour of the modern Mithras?
When Prince Albert imported that silly German tree custom? When, allegedly, Martin Luther invented same?
Was it when Dickens revived the moribund holiday in the 19th Century? Or when the Puritans outlawed the drunken brawl in the first place? (Does anyone know, or care, that it was once a crime in Merry Old England to eat a cooked dinner on the 25th of December?)
Was the True Meaning of Christmas lost back when blood was shed over whether the saviour of mankind was born on the sun god's birthday or Epiphany? Or before that, when a devout worshipper of Sol Invictus decided this upstart religion was just the thing to keep the Roman army in line?
I don't know when the meaning was lost. But I know when it was found.
Not in front of a feed trough. Not in the House of Bread, Bethlehem. Not by magi, shepherds, or other pageant extras.
Come with me in your imagination to a dusty hillside. No particular season, but warm enough that the idle folk are out there without a coat on. Being idle and in search of - what? entertainment, hope? - they are listening to the latest speaking sensation, a joiner from up North somewhere, some backwater, ignorant place where the people are so poor they live on animal fodder. Where a rich kid has two manure piles behind his house...
If Jesus had been English, he would have been a Geordie. If American, a hillbilly. If German, he would have come from East Frisia.
This man has been nattering on about how it's all right to be simple: Don't worry about tomorrow, he says. Worry about being whole in yourselves. Love your neighbour, tell the truth. God is planning us a better world. Just get ready to live there. You don't need a diploma, you need a heart.
All well and good, but reality rears its ugly head in the form of dinnertime, and these people who are usually lucky to eat once a day are getting restive. Pretty big crowd, too, and the self-important gits the teacher has around him are trying to wrap their heads around the demand that they actually feed this, er, multitude...
When a little boy gets it. He really does. He walks up to the man who has been talking about sharing, and...does. His whole lunch. Five little rounds of pita bread, cooked by his gramma in the good, old-fashioned way, on a griddle over a dung fire, and a couple of those nice, salty dried sardines they get from the Med...
I can taste that meal. It tastes like salt, and yeast, and love.
I don't care what your religion is. I don't care how much you think you know. If you feel at this point the urge to dismiss this story, or to explain it away3, if you can't stand on that hillside and feel the wonder of it rising in you, then I feel sorry for you.
For then, and only then, will you have lost the true meaning of Christmas.
Best wishes of the Season to you all, and may your larder ever be full of good things.