THE CHRISTMAS OF OUR DREAMS.
/ ? ant *"■'"'* '* " Christmas this year. It feels loss like Christmas every year. Indeed, if it weren't for the children and their toys, wa wouldn't kr.ow it was Christmas at all." Remarks such as these wo hear every day. We make them ourselves. Each succeeding Chrisimas catches us up unawares, and we have to borrow our festive feeling from the children, to whom Christniases are raie events, each one separated from tho ]«vt by an infinite space of time, . and each still bringing with it infinite po sibilitif! of joy. What, then, makes Christmas a real Chri tmas? Why does it' interest become less insistent, and ite fulfilment more disappointing as the years paes over our heads? Why do we sec so cftrn in the grown man and woman the air of superiority to or weannces of tho Christmas festivities, and the indulgent smile for the children who am still wildly enthusiastic and excited? What have wc lo"* with the of the years? What makes Christmas a real Christmas? Ask the littlo children, and they will tell yon: "Chiit-tmas dinner and toys and a Christmas t-"e and Santa Claus." But why does the Christmas dinner mean so much more than any other dinner? Because it is Christmas, of course. Why do the Christmas toys have a. special and peculiar value? Because they come off the Christmas tree, of course, or because Santa Claus brought them. Yes. but they aro only tovs, all the same. You could get them the samo at any time of tho year. Oh, but these arc diffe-.cnt, because this is Christmas, you see! Or perhaps you don't see, being but a purblind adult; but beyond that the child cannot get Of the"old-yomg child, too common in days, who dotx not believe in Santa Claus and all the fairyland that he represents, we need not speak. Disillusionment must inevitably come, but when it comes too soon childhood has already lost I its gracious charm and bartered its precious I birthright. To su.-h children, indeed, | Chrimrnas may be like any other season of the year—may mean only ex+ra indulgence* and extra But the normal young child has the world-wonder in his eager eyes when he gazes at tho Chri-tmas tree—that absurd tree, like no other tree on earth, that grows toys and sparkling l ; ghis and dazzling tineel in place of'flowers; that wonderful tree, so obviouslv imrn<=siblo and unreal, and yet the most, Teal tree in the whole world ; that miraculous tree, that disappears each | Christmas, only to roappeaT, fresh laden I with fresh delights, when Christmas comes again. | And when wo are older, and help to ! decorate the Christmas tree for the ch'l- ; dron. and to act Santa Claus for their ; delight, what have wc then to make , Christmas a real Christmas? Ask these nHer children, and thev will tell you: "Christmas naities, and sending lovely | Christmas cards, and giving and eetting I Christmas presents, and Ints of fun." j Tii«v are giving now as well as getting. I .Mid'the fun, the gaiety, the profusion of ! good things, suggesting plenty for all the j world, the free "interchanee of gifts as the ! token of a creat pood-will, combine to make Christmas etill a real Christmas. And perhaps already the more thoughtful of these older ehilaTcn aro cnn?cions in their hearts, that it is the great background of good-will and love that makes ' Christmas to tV-m different, fvnm any I other season, and Christinas guts more I valuable than any others. But when nvmhood and womanhoo.-l claim us, and eifts have become common things purchasable by money; when the giving of Chrisimas gifts has become something of a trial and something of a t;ix on our time ;>nd resources, and we I almost lock on the whole business as a. stupid exchange of marketable commodi-ti-'S, what have wc then to make Christmas a Teal Christmas? The wonder of childhood i has left uk. and the fresh interest of I youth, and we shake our heads and say: Ono Christmas is very like another, and none of them like what Christmas used to be. We have, lost Santa Claus, and have put nothing in his place. We have lost our belief in the happiness of all the world, and our horizon is bounded by sordid reality. But mostly we do not realise, tho meaning of our discontent. Wo wonder what is missing, whether it is the flavor of youth or the atmosphere of home, and we offer sometimes one excuse and sometimi-5 another for our common placoness and our lack of inspiration. Why is Christmas no longer a real Christmas? Ask the young woman who has made her home in tho colonies, but whose early Christmascs were spent in the keen air of the dear country which wc all call Home, and she will tell you: '"Yes, you have Christmas dinner here, turkey and plum pudding, even if it is too hot, and Christmas gifts and' Santa Claus. and more gaiety than ever we have at Home ; but I miss" the frost and snow, the warm blazing hearth, and the cosy fireside with the Christinas logs, and the mistletoe and the holly. It isn't Christmas without these things." And she thinks that maybe if she wore Home again, and saw the country white with snow and Jack Frost on the window' panes, and the red holly berries brightening the cosy room, and the mistletoe in its time-honored place over door and curtained window, she would get back again the real Christmas feeling. Another will tell you that it is youth that is missing, that the. real Christmas feeling cannot be called up any longer by Christmas dinner and Christmas gifts and Christmas festivities. The flavor of youth is lacking, and all our longings are merely vain longings to drink again at the well of childhood. Ajid tho man who has left the home of his childhood will tell you that he ha.s not had a real Christmas since he left home. Ho has had all the outward show of Christmas, to be sure, has had more generous Christmas dinners and more expensive Christmas gifts, and has enjoyed to tho full the social gaiety of Christmas time. But these things are not enough, he will tell you. It is home that makes Christmas a real Christmas —the sheltered home with the mother in it, and the brothers and sisters and the family gatherings and the merry comrades of his youth. Why is Christmas no longer a real Christmas? Ask the mothe« left in the old home, and she will tell you: " No, Christmas is not what it used to be. We don't get the winters we used to get, and Santa Clans has lost his meaning for us now that tho children are grown up. But most of all we miss the faces of old friends. Xo, Christmas is not' what it used to be." So it would appear that at every age it is something other than turkey and gifts and festivities that make Christmas real. To all of us, indeed, it suggests material comforts, the good things of life, the festiv-3 gathering, the kindly gift, the comfort of the home fireside, the presence of friendly faces. But for the child you must add his delight in the miraculous distribution of the good gifts; and for the youth you must add his unbounded belief in the happiness of the whole wide world, and his new sense of sharing with others the good things given; and for the young man or woman you must add an uneasy sense of incompleteness ; and for the older man or woman an aching 'sense of loss. What have we lost with the passing of the years? Some will tell you that Christmas has become real for them again in their caring
BY ELIZ. H. B. MACDONALD, M.A., M.D, i [Special:,* Written fob, the ' Stab.'] [copxeiqht.]
for the poor. They will tell you: "It is the poor that make Christmas real in the Old Country. Christmas is the yearly festival of the poor. We do not caro for Christmas dinners for ourselves, but for the poor slum child and the poor sick child and the suffering poor in the hospitals wo try to keep alive the spirit of a merry Christmas. Without this care to brighten other lives, to bring a brief hilarious happiness into joyless homes, Christmas would be to us no real Christmas." Truly the thought for the poor is closely connected with all our ideas of Christmas. To me every Christmas Eve brings back an incident I witnessed some years ago—a simple incident which brought home to me poignantly the sordid tragedy and cruelty of poverty. I had turned from the cosy warmth of the home fireside to look into the street below. I looked into a city street, a quiet residential street that connected the main busy thoroughfare with its noisy thronging crowds and blazing lights, with the main thoroughfare of the city's slums. Such juxtapositions are not uncommon in tho great Home cities^—thronging prosperous life within a stonesthrow of squalid poverty, respectability eide by side with misery and suffering and crime. Just opposite my window, coming from the slum side and advancing towards the city, came a street singer and with him a little child. They advanced very slowly, the man with slouching gait and cap drawn down over his debased face. He was very shabbily dressed and sang as lie went, stopping occasionally in the middle of a line to throw a villainous scowl at a passer by who had given him no coin, or again to snatch from her band a coin given to the child. The street was wet and muddy, and it was bitterly cold, not the keen exhilarating cold of a sparkling frosty night, but the raw, damp, penetrating cold that freezes the blood. The littlo child looked not more than four years of age; she was bare-footed and clad in scanty rags. She walked along shivering, but contentedly enough, her little blue feet and pinched yet innocent face making an irresistible appeal to the pity of the passers-by. Scarcely one passed without noticing the child and pausing to give her a coin, for it was Christmas Eve, the birthnight of the Christ who loved little children. No one, while I watched them, gave to the man, for he was an evil-looking fellow. Whenever the child received a coin it was snatched from her, but that she seemed to understand and she made no murmur. While I watched them, fascinated by the cunning cruelty of the scheme, I saw a boy of seven or eight years of age, a poor boy too by his dress, stop and watch the child for a time and then quietly and timidly go up to the little mite and put something into her hand, then dart off. The child looked cautiously at her gift and closed her little hand tightly on it with a sudden movement of joy: at the same time she gave a half-frightened upward look. The man saw the frightened glance and suddenly caught the little hand to take the expected coin. The child resisted and looked up pleadingly. Then she burst into pitiful tears. The man .had snatched her treasure, glanced at it contemptuously, and pitched it with the anger of disappointed greed far across ■ the muddy street. It saw it v.■'..?,! it ■'lc.'i." it v.;ia only a birthday colored sweetmeat. But to the little child, with her pleading eyes and shivering body—it was her whole wealth, and all her Christmas joy. I turned away with hatred in my heart, and impotent pity—hatred for the cruelty of the man, and for the cruel conditions that had made tho man possible—and impotent pity for the child whom I could not help. Since then I have never been able wholly to forget the poor, the degraded, hopeless poor, on Christmas Eve when tho shops are bright and thronged with happy buyers, and the streets are gay with radiant children overladen with gaudy toys. Often the vision of that tiny defrauded child comes to check my thoughtless gaiety and to remind me th.it not yet may me truly speak of " goodwill among men." Vet we may not lay the nattering unction to cur souls that the poor, those who have less of this world's goods than wo have, are dependent on us for their real Christmas joy. That is a gift that wc can neither give nor withhold. There are pleasures among the socalled poor that the poor rich do not dream of. 1 Itnow a woman who sometimes tells her friends that until sho was almost grown up Christmas goose was to her the food of the pods, a thing to dream about. She was one of a largo, poor family, whose yearly luxury was a goose sent them at Christmas by an almost unknown distant friend. They wero too poor | to think of buying a goose or turkey or any other expensive Christmas delicacy. When Christmas came and the goose arrived, the mother at once remembered so many others, friends and neighbors, oven poorer than herself, who had no fairy | goose fent them, that s-he knew no rest until the had invited them in from the highways and byways to share the Christmas goose. And even then the choicer parte would be carefully set aside and carried to a sick friend or two who could not join the feast. Each year the children, half fearful at their own selfishness, hoped no one would he asked next Christmas, but each year the earne thing happened, and the. children's share of the fairy goose was not much more than a j good smell and a bone to pick. When this ! girl, almost grown up, had for the first' time as much Christmas goose as she j cared to cat, she wondered where its wonderful flavor had gone. She did not want j gocf c any more. It was the goose that I was barely tasted hut only smelt that was | to her tho royal Christmas fare; every ! mc.rsel of that was precious, too precious | almost to eat—a delicacy for a king. This j that sho might take or leave was only j common food. Indeed, there is a profound truth in this. Material things lose half their value when we have once possessed them, and it is the road whose end we do not seo that always leads to the land of our desires. Sometimes I think that because of this the poor live nearer to the eternal realities of life than do the envied rich. A poor mother told me once, with something of horror and something, too, of j justification in her voice, about the sad ending of a beautiful Christr-as doll that ■had been given to one of her children. This child was a gentle girlie of seven, who had longed for a real big doll to nurse and care for. At Christmas she got her heart's desire—a lovely wax doll, nearly as big as a real baby. She was delighted, and mothered her doll with the utmost devotion. Two days after Christmas a new baby girl came to the already crowded home, and one day, when the baby was only about two weeks old, this gentle, timid child was found in a quiet corner deliberately and determinedly c-mashing her doll. When discovered she looked up. innocent of wrong-doing, and explained j that it was only a dead thine, it never had I been anything" else, she didn't want any! dead dolls, she wanted her own real baby i sister to nurse. And never again would she play with dolls. She always preferred j babies, and was a trustworthy, gentle, j patient nurse, and I have no doubt that, m her heart she pitied tho poor rich chil-1 dren who would tnever bo allowed to nusee
a real oaby, and must spend their affeotion on unresponsive dead things. For years afterwards, at least, she looked on this particular baby sister, who came- at Christmas time, and for whom she smashed her doll with peculiar affection, and spoke of her often as her Christma* present from God. So, even at Christmas time, too need not squander a worthless pitv on those poorer than ourselves in worldly goods, who yet may be infinitelv richer in the rea, Christmas gifts. Who shall sav that the children of eight and nine and ten years of age, who have saved their scanty halfpennies for mor.ths to be able to play Santa Llaus to the smaller ones of three and four and Five, and who tpend a glorious afternoon in selecting g fts whese value must c not exceed tneir Tittle .tore of coppers, know less of the red Christma,, joy thl« the enddren of the well-to-do, overladen •nth K ,its, but never tasting the jov of sacrifice? For still the intargible J t£ngs are the real things, and the th ngs that we can grasp and have are lo;t for over as we grasp thorn. .The Christmas turkey that we will always look forward to is t£ one wo shall never eat. There aro ~ gifts so real as those wo loig:-d for and did not get; ihwe is no Santa Claus so gloriously possible as the one who was sometimes so busy with the other child™ that he lorgot to tome to us. I fc j s tha imperfection of fulfi'ir.ent that beeps alive our desire the pj , t ial that makes us l"ok for the perfect. There is no road hke that our feet have never torchedthe child that never was ours; there is no Christmas like the Christmas of our This it is that we have lonfc with the passing of the years. We have fe* the ■ bnstmis of n„r Dreams. W e have let the porgeous dreaiis of childhood fade into tno light of common day. We have let thorn fade, instead of transmuting ■v»n into the wid-r aspirations an§ larger hope;? of manhood. AH unconsciously we aw reaching out after the IJiritmaa of our dreams, and ever - ; t eludes us. Wo cannot state our Teal Christmas in term-* of turkey and plum puddms, nor m terms of gifts and festivities, nor even in tenns of home and friends, nor of pond-will towards the poor and suffering. For our real Christmas includes all of these Urines, and is greater than them nil. It in an elusive dream, a wild, fantastic dream cf happiness and delight for all tho'people of the earth, an incredible dream of universal lore and joy. a great wild dream, as wild and incredible to most of ns as the religion that was born on that finst Christmas n : ght a dream of spiritual gifts, g : fts of peace and good-w : ll and joy, distributed freely to th© ffpod and ill al'ke, to the rich and poor alike, by a. spiritual Santa Claus. And to-day how wild and fantastic is our dream! We dare not speak of ''peace and good-will among men " on this Christmas Day that looks down on broken bodies and breaking hearts nrd unutterable ruin and. dii?a£ter. liut still xrtf <lreaum. H.B.M.
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THE CHRISTMAS OF OUR DREAMS., Evening Star, Issue 15683, 23 December 1914
THE CHRISTMAS OF OUR DREAMS. Evening Star, Issue 15683, 23 December 1914
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