[An Image of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their elder children
around a Christmas tree.]
The idea of a benevolent "spirit" with which one should enter the holidays is, perhaps, of a more recent vintage. Prior to the Victorian period, Christmas was but one of many religious holidays. It may have retained a special religious characteristic that set it apart from other Saint's days and the like, but I don't believe that there was the individual expectation of a merry disposition that we have come to expect. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol did much to perpetuate this notion, setting out a stark dichotomy between the Scrooges and the jolly Fezziwigs of the world. The truth is that most of us lie somewhere in the middle - approaching the Christmas season with our own unique bundle of good wishes and simultaneous uncertainties weighing on our mind. But the longing for expressions of the superlative Christmas experience seems universal. Last year I wrote about the mythology of the "Christmas Truce" of 1914 along the trenches of the Western Front.
A blogger should possibly refrain from quoting themselves in subsequent posts, but somehow this snippet from last year again seems appropriate:
We sympathize with the desolation of the soldiers - far from home, cold, lonely, uncertain of whether this may prove to be their last Christmas, suddenly aware (as we all become after a great crisis, loss, or change has taken us unaware) of all the normal Christmases with our loved ones that we took for granted. We can imagine their hesitation and uncertainty at crossing the battle lines, not knowing if they were walking into a trap. We may sense their longing to fully trust the promises of friendship of their fellow human beings. It must have been the conundrum of daily life writ large - the courage required to present ourselves as genuine and vulnerable to our fellow human beings with the hope that we will meet with genuine friendship in return, while simultaneously braving the possibility that we might not be.
A very Merry Christmas to all my readers from the Idle Historian, and always remember the classic line from the film It's A Wonderful Life:
"No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends"
Read more reflections on history, idleness, and the art of living from the Idle Historian in To The Idler The Spoils