I Love Stories.
One of the things I love about Christmas is the power of story which runs through the season. It’s like a layered cake with so many different flavors, sweet tastes and textures.
In my family we feast on this cake almost from the moment the Thanksgiving feast ends. Some of the layers are weighty and dense, serious literary endeavors like A Christmas Carol by Dickens or Little Christmas by George Macdonald. The reading out loud of one or both of these is a sacred tradition for my family. Others are light and fluffy but also very tasty and satisfying; like White Christmas or Muppet Christmas Carol. These also we partake of without fail each year. We also sometimes have time for It’s a Wonderful Life, Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th street and the Grinch.
Then there are the multitude of smaller sprinkles throughout the cake, things like Frosty, Rudolph, Santa, Christmas Elves and so forth which we dip in and out of through the season.
But it is not just these stories that make Christmas what it is. It is also the stories that we are creating as a family by partaking of these stories. The cake we make is our cake, as we eat it together. Sure there are times when one or a few partake together, but for many of these events we gather all nine of us together. I insist everyone from youngest to oldest sit and listen while I read Christmas Carol. My oldest daughter insists we all watch White Christmas together.
This year, I was noticing, as we decorated our tree together (another tradition) how much of story there is in our tree as well. Most of our decorations (of which there are many) tell some kind of story. I snapped a few pictures for you this year. Here’s a just a few chapters of the Pastormac Family Story.
For those of you who’ve never met him, this is Frankenpine. He is our hybrid artificial Christmas tree. He came our way when a local Nursery went out of business, selling all their artificial Christmas Trees at a steal. We joined forces with some friends of ours and listed these trees on ebay (when I had my ebay business). This one tree could not be sold because it was not a complete tree. It was instead one artificial tree with no top, and a completely different species of artificial tree on the top. He leans dangerously to the side because the stand he sits in is for yet another tree. He is pre-lit and every year is a hold-your-breath moment to see which bulbs light and which ones don’t. He’s a misfit, like Rudolph and the gang and we love him. I am also amused by the idea of a nursery selling artificial trees and artificial trees coming in various species. Until Frankie, we always had real trees, but there is so much story and character to Frank, they we haven’t truly missed our real trees.
The items which decorate Frankenpine also tell their own stories.
Every year, the same ornament is always the last one to be placed. After the beads, after the ornaments, tinsel, after the roast beast when all the who’s down in whoville–no wait, that’s not my family. Where was I? Oh yeah, AFter the beads, the ornaments and tinsel, we place the last ornament. Every year a different child does it. We’ve followed a very strict order from youngest to oldest and then back again, through the years. This final ornament is a reminder to us of the story which anchors all the other stories. In our family, we feel no qualms about feasting on the Christmas stories of legend and myth. However, the truth is we gorge ourselves on these stories with full awareness that each of these layers is only an attempt to get at the true story.
I love stories, in part, because I believe all stories are a quest for the one Great Story; the story of the universe, the beautiful love story, sacrifice story, adventure story, and Christmas story which all other stories strive to become. I am speaking of course of the Gospel which begins with The Christmas Story (no not the “shoot your eye out one.”) as recorded in the Gospels by Matthew, Mark and Luke (and in a different but equally true way by John.) This is the story which even a pre-christian C.S. Lewis said was one of great power, and to which his friend Tolkien (according to legend) replied ,”Well yes, but the great difference between this story and all others is that it is true.”
So, each year on top of Frankenpine, above all the other stories, watching over us as we read, and sing and feast, sits our final ornament, high above us, proclaiming by it’s presence just as her real counterparts did so many years ago and more recently even a comic strip character with a blanket recalled: