Literary Hook: ‘Tis the season to be jolly’: A ‘Christmas Reflection’

By Christine Swanberg

Author and Poet

The recession has been difficult. Though we have seen some progress in the stock market in 2008, there seems to be a nagging concern about retail this holiday.

This holiday, it seems many people are still cutting back on Christmas, simplifying, mostly out of budget constraints. Yet, sometimes it just feels good to keep things simple, doesn’t it?

Although this poem was written nearly 20 years ago, perhaps it has a special meaning these days when people are living more frugally because of the economy. Perhaps you actually enjoy the holidays a little more that way. Who’s to say?

This poem first appeared in Slow Miracle, from Lake Shore Publishing. It also appeared last year in this column, and since receiving good feedback on it, here it is again for the season. Know that it is OK to keep it simple. Know that it is OK to say no when the season becomes stressful rather than joyous.

Christmas Reflection

You walk down the cold basement stairs,

“Tis the season to be jolly” on your mind.

When you open the cool closet doors,

familiar musty shelves of boxes,

crates of memories and junk sift together

like the butter cookies you no longer eat.

Scrawled on the crumbling cardboard:

Textbooks. Hawaii. Wedding. Will.

Christmas. Christmas. Christmas.

Dusty, plastic holly cascades from one.

A too cute Santa winks from another

(his good eye stolen by the cat).

Forty years of grab bags, office parties:

so many well-intentioned little gifts.

So bless the crafto-maniacs who slide

into your life, who leave the tacky ornaments

you finally have the courage to throw away.

Yes, bless them. But not this year.

No. Today, you’ll choose just one,

perhaps a small, crystal manger scene

close the chilly doors with a snap,

and scurry up the stairs. You might place it

nestled among four Advent candles

on the white lace of an old dining room table.

When you turn on white lights of the chandelier,

prisms sparkle. Stars on the ceiling!

“Silent Night” you might be humming,

lighting candles in the warm room,

or maybe another song will come to you:

“Tis a gift to be simple, a gift to be free.”

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

From the December 2-8, 2009 issue

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