By G.D. Maxwell
And so it came to pass, as it does around this time every year, that the days were completed to deliver a Christmas column. I guess this is it.
When William the Wise proposed the Max the Wise Guy a Dialogue Café on the subject Christmas: Universal Story or Marginal Myth , the Summer of Fires was still upon us. Undaunted and often insensate, any project with a three month deadline seems like a good idea at the time. That was then; this is now.
The first rule of writing is this: Write what you know. If I put any faith in that rule, I'd have quit this job after the first dozen weeks.
The first rule of being a columnist is this: Being completely unqualified to offer an opinion on a subject is an insufficient reason to forego offering an opinion on said subject. Ich bein ein Kolumnist!
And the first rule of succeeding in either academics or politics is this: Not understanding a question is no reason to keep from answering it if you can restate it as a question you know the answer to.
Finally, the first rule of replacing a question you can't answer with a question you can is this: The fuzzier the better.
So for those of you who thought skipping my feeble attempt to explain the meaning of Christmas Thursday night at the Chateau would spare you my thoughts on the subject, guess again. For those of you who think this is just a transparent attempt to weasel out of writing a Christmas column by using my Dialogue Café presentation on the Meaning of Christmas as a cheap two-fer, you've been paying way to much attention.
Act I: Happy Birthday Jesus
As any fool will tell you, Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus. If Away In a Manger and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem isn't enough to convince you of this simple fact, the word alone should suffice.
Christ·mas: December 25 th , widely celebrated as the birth of Jesus. From the Latin (Christ) being the nickname Jesus was given by his close friends + (Mass) being an almost incomprehensible Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy intoned in a dead language and designed to offer children their first real glimpse of eternity.
Still, doubts linger in an increasingly secular society. A recent poll conducted by USA Today found the birth of Jesus was mentioned by fewer people as the "True meaning of Christmas" than was, in order, getting presents, office parties, cookies and dropping a small fortune to decorate the house.
Using the power of modern technology I reached Jesus through www.channelthedead.com and put the question to him. For the sake of brevity, I'll abbreviate what was quite a lengthy correspondence.
Max: Happy Birthday, dude!
Max: So, some people claim you weren't really born on Christmas. Any truth to that?
Jesus: You're born; you die. It's really all about what you do in between, isn't it? Is the exact date really that important?
Max: That's deep. But let's face it, you're an important guy. Many would say the most important guy ever. Yet, we can't be certain about when you were born and we can't nail down your death - sorry, bad choice of words - we can't pinpoint the date of your death closer than the six week period within which Easter generally falls. Doesn't that seem kind of, well, odd?
Jesus: You either believe or you don't. My family never made much of a fuss about my birthday. Falling as it did around Christmas, it just kind of got lost in the overall festivities. And to be completely honest, I'd pretty much lost track of time right before I died; those Roman guards weren't what you'd call an educated bunch. I doubt if they knew Thursday from Friday let alone March from April.
Max: Yeah, I see your point. But it must kind of cheese you off that so many people have lost sight of what the holiday's supposed to be about. I mean, let's face it, you're running well behind a new Playstation on a lot of people's lists.
Jesus: C'est la vie. Historically, among the moneyed classes, it was always about gifts.
Max: You mean the three kings of Orientare.
Jesus: Tell me you didn't say that.
Max: Sorry. Did you appreciate their gifts?
Jesus: I never really saw the gold. My folks said they put it aside for college but I was more into the trades. I liked the frankincense but the myrrh stunk. It was enough to raise the dead.
Max: Tell me you didn't say that. Well, to close, do you have any parting thoughts on all the greedheads who've hijacked your birthday into a pre-bankruptcy festival?
Jesus: To hell with 'em.
Max: You kill me, dude.
Act II: You'd Better Watch Out
Reached at his North Pole workshop, Santa Claus was kind enough to take time out from his busy day to answer a few questions.
Max: Hi Santa.
Santa: Ho Ho Ho!
Max: So Santa, most of the people I've asked have admitted that, in their heart of hearts, Christmas is really mostly about presents. How does that make you feel?
Santa: Overworked. What do you want for Christmas?
Max: That's not really important. I just want to talk to you for a couple of minutes.
Santa: Oh, a cell phone. No problema. OK, what else?
Max: No, I don't want a cell phone. I just want to get at the Meaning of Christmas.
Santa: VHS or DVD?
Max: It's not a movie, Santa. It's a question. Do you think Christmas has become too commercial?
Santa: Which commercial did you see it on? Canadian Tire? The Future Shop?
Max: Okay, let's back up. In the rush to buy presents and not look cheap or lazy to friends and family, have people really lost the meaning of Christmas?
Santa: Well, if you don't have the time, gift certificates are always appreciated. If more people went that route, the elves and I could kick back a little more and enjoy the season ourselves.
Max: Nick, you're kind of pissin' me off here. It's really a simple question: Is Christmas too commercial?
Santa: Wait a minute. You're not. let me see.. You weren't by any chance born in Iowa were you? Moved to Arizona at a young age, then New Mexico.
Santa: This interview is over. You're on the Permanent Naughty List. I'm not wasting time with you.
Act III: Happy Holidays
Several years ago, MP John Bryden tabled a private member's bill to have Christmas declared part of Canada's heritage and elevated to the status of a national holiday, a cultural holiday if you will.
Bryden, an active member of the United Church, only wanted to recognize the modern reality that for many Canadians, Christmas is an important, but not religious, holiday. This well-intentioned, leave-no-nonbeliever-behind effort was quickly dubbed the Get Christ Out of Christmas bill and Mr. Bryden was soundly pilloried in press and pulpit.
Reached at home, I asked him about the effort.
Max: Mr. Bryden, I'd like to ask you about your efforts to get Christ out of..
Well, whatever it means to you, Merry Christmas.