Works in the Herald 1933

"I have been thinking lately," said my little bald monologist, as he sat with me at dinner the other night. "I have been thinking a good deal about the Christmas spirit and its various manifestations and reactions upon the individual."

Our regular waiter, Charles, who knew all his fads and foibles, was back again. So the little man was once more happy and garrulous.

"In its most exalted form, I have heard it said, the Christmas spirit is a peculiar mental state that causes us to behave, at Christmas time, in a way that we should behave throughout the year. Among my own friends I number at most but one or two of these rare and fortunate ones who seem able to keep constantly happy by perpetuating this spirit indefinitely, not only by an attitude of frank, even ostentatious friendliness, but in the matter of gifts and little unselfish services.

"Yet even these excellent men have very definite drawbacks. They are forever embarrassing their friends by creating obligations that are not always easy, and sometimes costly to fulfill. Keeping in mind the temperament of such a man, I often find myself wondering if he is not among the most ingeniously selfish ones of the earth.

"It is a far call from those seemingly altruistic friends I first mentioned to another friend of mine who seizes upon the Christmas spirit for the purpose of self-indulgence, not only of rather gross appetites, but of a maudlin sentimentality that, for eleven and a half of the twelve months in the year, he holds in check.

"A few weeks before Christmas he rids himself of all repressions and inhibitions that have kept him decent and his family reasonably happy in his work-a-day world. Sipping a little too eagerly from the wassail bowl, he then goes about upholding his reputation as a right good fellow and a true sport.

"During this season he is constantly falling upon the necks of other slightly unsober men, vowing eternal brotherhood and adherence to an altruism that is humanly grotesque. His eye radiates goodwill and loving kindness; and his family, upon which he showers strange gifts of price, have come to regard Christmas as a season of apprehensive dread, not knowing how or when each day he will return. Their sole comfort and consolation lie in knowing that January the second will find him making various and vehement resolutions that will be faithfully kept till Christmas comes again.

"We have the best authority for believing that it is more blessed to give than to receive - yet, I wonder.

"Our friend Charles, yonder, is really the only happy and untroubled man of my acquaintance at this season of the year. His course lies plain before him. To receive the adequate amount with polite gratitude is almost an obligation forced upon him by his position as a superior servitor. With us, never with him, rests the obligation to give. It is a tradition, beautiful in its simplicity, enshrined in age-long custom, unhampered by any doubts that other giving awakes.

"Dear me; how I have been chattering. Please accept, sir, my conventional assurances; though you will readily appreciate my fixed belief that goodwill is far more beautiful when inferred than when vulgarised with speech."

And my bald friend toddled off, leaving me in a state of vague discomfort. When Christmas comes nearer, I know that his gratuity to Charles will comprise the perfect sum, perfectly given and perfectly received.

But it is my first Christmas with Charles; and for such a perfect being what gift from me will not be too small to seem niggardly, not loo large to be vulgarly ostentatious?

Dear me, Christmas time really is a very difficult season.

Herald, 19 December 1933, p8

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002