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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - December 24, 1970, Lethbridge, Alberta 4 THE tETHBRIDGE HERALD Thursday, December 24, 1970 Margaret LiiclthursI. HEN Dickens wrote "A Christmas over a hundred years ago, it was the exception rather than the rule for working people to be granted Christmas Day off. While some fam- ilies might gather together in the evening to dine and to sing carols, it was not regarded as a time for any specific celebrations. Today, however, we are gradually coming to look upon Christmas as a season which reaches from the light- ing of the candle on the first Sun- day in Advent through lo Epiphany, January 6. Many factors blend to- gether to make up this season the gay decorations lighting the homes and streets, the exchange of greet- ing cards, parcels smuggled into se- cret hiding places, visits back and forth with family and friends, and familiar hymns and songs sung over and over. Interwoven throughout the superficial events of the period is the reminder that the meaning of Christ- mas is veiy special indeed. There are those who feel that the significance of Christmas has become lost in these extraneous activities Which tend to reduce our reverent response. We are reminded that San- ta Claus and the Creche are not syn- onymous. We are warned that Christ- mas has become too commercial, that we spend too much money on things we can't afford, often for people we honestly don't like. We allow our ears to be assaulted by tinny Christmas carols spewing out from business es-- tablishments who press on us all kinds of Christmas "deals." We sus- pect within ourselves that we use too much of the time as an excuse for meaningless frivolity. Doubtless these objections which are reiterated every year, are well justified. We must then always be on our guard lest we become tempted to smother the real reason for Christ- mas under a blanket of contempor- ary banalities. But as observers of Today's while Christmas may be as much a pagan festival as it is a religious event, it seems people become friend- lier, warmer and more aware of each other during the Season of Christ- mas. The aged are visited, the poor are helped, the neglected are remem- bered, the lonely comforted. We are ashamed of our thoughtlessness and promise ourselves to uphold the Christmas Spirit throughout the en- tire coming year. We won't be one hundred per cent successful of course, but even if we improve a little in our relationships with eacli other it helps for a better, happier society. And tiiat's what Christmas is about. By Art Buchwald gfcf LTHOUGH there was a great deal of excitement at the time of the merger of Santa Claus and the conglomerate of Consolid a t e d KraiCs Consortium United, it did not work out as well as everyone had expected. If you recall, a press conference was held at the North Pole where Harley B. Dickens, the chairman of the Board of Consolidated, announced that his company had bought out Santa Claus for mil- lion worth of Consolidated stock, which was then selling at a share. Mr. Claus was reluctant to sell the oper- ation, but his wife had insisted. "You're getting old and you have lo think about your security when you stop she said. Dickens loid the press there would be absolutely no change in the Santa Claus operation, and it would continue as it had in the past. Santa Claus would still be in charge, and the only tiling that CCU would contribute would be top flight management, resources and efficiency. Dickens pointed out that since CCU was a worldwide com- pany, more children would benefit from Christmas than ever before. "We are not changing the image of Santa he said. "We'll just be streamlining it." After pictures were taken of Mr. Claus and Mr. Dickens, the chairman returned lo New Y'ork and for several months Santa Claus continued to operate as he had dono in the past. But one day a CCU systems analysis ex- pert reported to Dickens that made a study of the Santa Claus setup and he had several suggestions as to how to improve it. M; individual to HiiiiU; i.-> time-consuming It tskes 10 elves working l-r.'irs ;i day lo open end read ail UK: mail. This is wasteful and inefficient ar.d uvcrlimc to (ill all the orders. "I therefore that wn make all chiWrai wrilc Claus on computer cards, checking off the toys they want. We would put a warning on the cards that any child who bends, folds or mutilates a card would be automatically cut off Santa's list." Dickens okayed the idea, and although Santa Claus protested vigorously that it would take the personal touch out of Christ- inas, the chairman assured him that Con- solidated would run a large advertising campaign explaining that the comp u t e r card would actually make writing to Santa more fun. A computer complex was installed at the North Pole and several gnomes were hired to feed it. Unfortunately, a few months later, while Santa Claus and his elves were hard at work, the Consolidated stock started slip- ping. From a share, it went down to S10. Dickens ordered economies. First he depleted the work force in Santa's toy shop by 50 per cent. Then, instead of a list of 100 toys for children to choose from, he cut it down to three. He announced "regretfully" that because of the state of the economy, there would have to be a handling charge on every par- cel delivered more than 30 miles from the North Pole. Once again, Santa protested, but lo no avail. The Consolidated stock was now sell- ing at S2 a share, and Dickens telexed Mr. Claus, "Get rid of the reindeer." This was loo much for Santa Claus, and he took hia life savings, and offered lo buy back his own company. By then Consolidated had filed for bankruptcy, and the creditors were happy to take anything could get. "We were millionaires on Santa said to his wife as he put Ihc last touches on a doll house. "But I stopped believing in myself." "I was wrong, Mrs. Claus said tearfully. "Better you should work for your- self and die with your boots on." The first thing Sanla Claus will do be- fore making his deliveries tonight will be to load the computer on his sleigh and drop it on llarlcy Dickens' iioir.c. (Toronto Telegram News Service) e rehtrlmti IN the rural, area ot 1 Manitoba w here 1 grew up, marked tile years by two spe- cial events, the Christ- mas Tree concert and I lie c h u r c h picnic. Both were highlights in our community life, and they spell- ed a kind of magic which turn- ed our rather ordinary lives into something' quite fascinating. It was the early days of lira Second World War and Ihe com- munity, which was just begin- ning to recover from Ihe de- pression, was now showing the signs of strain from the war. Most of our boys had enlisted and there was a kind of lonely pall over the little community. For the first time in 100 years or so the annual picnic had been by-passed and 1 was hor- rified to hear, on my arrival borne in December, that the old Sunday School superintendent had decided there was no one able or willing to cope with the Christmas concert. J was scandalized. "No con- 1 said to Mum, "why what will the little children think? It's practically their birthright." "Well, it's just not easy to put one on these Mum re- plied. "You have to realize Margar- et, that communities go through stages of expansion and reces- sion. You hate to see any changes in patterns here, yet you haven't actually been in- volved yourself for a couple of years. Those of us old enough to do anything are a little tired, and it seems we don't have the energy lo organize picnics and Sunday school concerts and vhal-have-you they are too demanding. Then you have to consider the change in our way of living. It isn't so easy for people to get to church now with gas rationing. If they come once a week that about takes all they can spare, there's noth- ing left for them to travel on for the luxury of a Christmas tree or a party. That's why things are kind of dull around here." However, I wasn't as con- vinced as Mum was that all was lost. I couldn't help re- membering all the lovely Christ- mas concerts I'd attended in the church, with their recita- tions and carols and nativity pageants and finally Santa Claus, coming down1 the aisle, lugging a bag of candies and oranges and little gifts. Other children now in the community shouldn't be denied this pletely, I decided, so I went to call on our old minister and told him that I would under-, take to do something. "Fine, just fine, Margaret, but you won't get loo much help from anybody, not this year. My wife, like your mother isn't too well, the Sunday school teachers likewise, and anyway, they have enough to do with- out taking on any more. How- ever, you know we'll give you all the support you will need." I decided that would be fine with me and began to make some plans. I said one after- noon, "why can't we have the concert in place of church, or after church, or incorporate it in the service someway? In that way Ihe kids would have their day and it wouldn't put a strain on the gas rations." Mother thought that over. it does sound like a good she agreed, "but it would be difficult for you to get people logether for rehearsals." "I'll figure out I replied. And I did. My sugges- tion met with the session's ap- proval and I went ahead plan- ning my program. I decided to call it Christmas Eve in our neighborhood, and this was lo take place in a typical home. There would be carol lingers, which would be our six person choir, (here would be a story, read by our excellent superin- tendent, there would be the us- ual small pageant around a creche, and a few recitations which I dispensed to little chil- dren for their mothers to coach them in. This type of program wouldn't require any special re- honrsal.s at all which would probably make Ihc spontaneity of it even better. 1 sel. mother and the minis- ter's wife and a couple of other women lo making angel's wings and dug around in the cup- boards for old dressing gowns suit able for shepherd's cos- tumes. 1 had only one prob- lem, and it was a large one; I cuukiu't find anyone to play Santa, and not only thai, Ihc old Santa Clans suit had come upon bad times, probably by mice, in the church attic. "Do wilhout a moth- er said practically. "N o t h i n g I said, "that's the whole climax of the concert." Seeing I was adamant on this matter she suggested Duncan McKenzie. "He's big enough, goodness knows, but I don't know if he'll do it. You know how shy he is." "That's an I agreed, "if he'll do it. I'll give him a call." Duncan was a bashful bache- lor of Paul Bunyan size who lived out back in the newly bro- ken prairies. He was in his mid- thirties and nobody had ever seen him make sheep's eyes at a girl yet. But he understood a little of the needs of the com- munity at that time and rather to my surprise said he'd play Santa as long as he didn't have anything to say except Merry Christmas everyone. I promised him he wouldn't be faced with speeches, and hung up feeling I had the whole thing wrapped up. "Well so far so my mother said as she wound' up more navy blue yarn for sea socks, "now what about a San- ta Clans "Heavens to Betsy, I'd forgot- ten about that. I wonder if that old tiling can be mended." "I doubt Mum said, "and it's too late to send through the catalogue for more material. Why don't you ask Rosa if she has something she could use? She's very handy at dying stuff, maybe she could fix up a sheet somehow, nobody would notice." Rosa was our local s e a m- slress, a little brown wren of a woman who, from my teenage vantage point, I'd always thought of as terribly dry and mousey and middle-aged. I walked over lo Rosa's and while she poured me a cup of lea I explained whal I needed. "Why, 1 Ihink I could help" she agreed, "1 have some bright red tint here, and 1 can use what's left of the cotton batting on the old suit, as trim. I'll got at it light away, but I think I'll have to have a try-on. Who's to be Duncan McKenzie, I replied. "Oh." Rosa, suddenly w cut pink lo the roots of her neat brown hah-, dropped the sheet she was planning to dye, ant! looked out the window in con- fusion. "I'll ask him to c o m e around and you can fit him I said. "In fact I'll bring him around, myself." When I got back home, I told Mum what had happened. "Fun- ny, you know, she agine, Rosa! I bet she has a crush on Duncan." Mother looked a liltle too pla- cid and pleased with hers c 1 f. "Duncan never looks at a wo- man, although I've heard that the new school teacher keeps running over with pies and cakes. I don't think he'll bite on that old trick. Now Rosa is a different matter, she'd make him a good, steady sensible wife, but he doesn't know it. We've been trying fo get them together for years." My youthful romanticism was suddenly all flamed up over this little tidbit ol local interest and I made sure I was there fo check on progress when Kosa fitted Ihe baggy Santa suit over Duncan's hefty frame. But I was i m m e n s e 1 y disappoint- ed, for the two of them scarce- ly exchanged a word. Not a word, and certainly not a look 1 could construe as loving or romantic. I was crushed, and I was certain Mother was all wrong. The Sunday of the concert was clear, sunny and cold, but people came from afar lo share in our experiment. The Christ- mas tree looked almost as love- ly as it had years ago. We had a brief worship service then a kind of coffee break which gave the parents time lo get I h c U' kids primed to say their pieces, while the angels and shepherds dressed for the pageant. Looking back now after thir- ty years I think this must have been one of the sweelesl after- noons I've ever spent. Every- thing went just right. We all joined in the carols wilh such lustiness one of the stovepipes rattled and threatened to come down. When Sanla came Ihunip ing down the aisle, with shy little Rosa trying to straighten his lumpy pack on a rather skimpy suit, the children shrieked I ith delight. Duncan caught the spir- it, too, and forgetting his ton- gue lied ways he chattily handed out candies and oranges and lillle gifls fo all the kid- dies. It was a great day, and I went home quite satisfied with it all, to report to mother. "The choir did very well, sing- ing Good King Wenceslas, with the minister as 1 explain- ed, "the page kept forgetting to step in his footsteps, hut that was ali right. Johnny Reid sang Rudolph the red nosed rein- deer and do you know I think wonder if they shouldn't have him trained." Ittfrtmt N Indian Christ m a s carol, said to have been written by the Jesuit martyr Jean de Brcbeuf in 1641 has become immensely popular since it first came to light in 1966. It was printed in a lillle book containing stories of the Huron Indians and their Jesuit Super- ior, Father Brebeuf. Originally written in Huron, the card, Je- sous Ahatonhia (Jesus is bom) tolls the Indian version of Jesus' birth, in a lodge of broken bark, of how he was wTapped in a rabbit skin and showered with pelts from neighboring chiefs. More than a century later an- other Jesuit, Father de Velle- neuye heard the carol sung by Huron descendants in Quebec and wrote it down. In letters to fellow priests soon after he became Superior of Huronia in the 17th century, Father Brebeuf noted that Urn Indians had liked, his carol and had built a cedar and fir cha- pel lo symbolize Ihe manger. The Huron nation had its zen- ith in the rich fur land south of Georgian Bay from about 1610 to 1650. But diseases ravaged the tribes, reducing their num- ber to about from Ihe or- iginal and the continuing war with the Iroquois further decimated them. About 1650 they left Huronia, scattered and broken. Father Brebeuf and oth- er Jesuits were burned at the. stake when their mission at StP. Marie was sacked by Iroquois and burned to the ground. Twas in the moon of winter- time When all the birds had find That mighty Gitchy Manitou Sent angel choirs instead Before the sun the stars grew dim And wandering minstrels heard their hymns Jesus your king is born Jesus is born In Excelsi Gloria! "Yes, mother interrupt- ed impatiently, "that's all very nice, but what about I said blankly, "what about "Well, didn't she go home with Duncan or "I don't I replied, "I didn't notice." Then I thought back. "Fun- ny, now that you mention it, al- though I don't think they ex- changed two words, after all the candy was handed out, Dun- can turned lo Rosa with a kind of shy smile and handed her the very last bag. She took it as if it were gold nuggets, and smiled so happily she looked as pretty as could be." Mother looked pleased. "Well there, isn't that nice. I bet she'll start going out with him regu- larly and mother sighed and lay back as if she'd done a good day's work. "Some people just need a little shove." Mother was right. That sum- mer when I was home again I was happy to be asked to act as bridesmaid for Rosa. Sha looked really lovely, and on the ribbon on her bouquet she had traced a little red Santa suit. We never know just where our plans will lead us, but I like to think that that Christmas my restlessness and my concern for the community tradition made a few children happy. And I also like lo think I was involved in a reluctant Santa's romance. ran'i 10 pumttg 1'liota by Alice Kjiuoll ;