Ever cognizant of “the reason for the season,” “Jesus is just alright with me.” Are you singin’ it with me? It’s one of those catchy tunes that you can’t get out of your head. Sorry, not sorry.
I admit, I’m going back a bit in time. The song I’m talking about was covered in 1972 by one of my fave bands of the time, The Doobie Brothers. It is “Jesus Is Just Alright.”
Back in the day, the word, “alright,” or “all-right” meant very good, or way cool in today’s parlance; even awesome. In the sixties and seventies, we used words like cool, groovy, nifty, swell, deep, neat, and far-out, to describe anything that was “most excellent.”
It was Bill and Ted (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989) who I recall, proclaiming, “be excellent to each other;” as well as just plain, “Excellent!”
I don’t have a problem with speaking of Jesus and Santa in the same sentence. If you do have a problem with it, I get it.
The manger, the wise men (magi from the East), the shepherds, the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the Inn with no room, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey too, the Star in the East, and the miracle baby. All these elements mean Christmas, to me.
I remember with great nostalgia, Christmas music and candlelight services, and Santa. I have no issue seeing all these delightfully enchanting, or as Bill and Ted would say, “most outstanding,” intertwining parts of Christmas all wrapped up in a pretty package. All these things are a highlight of happiness in an otherwise imperfect childhood, and I remember it all.
But let me go off on a little bit of a tangent, Bill, and Ted-style, where it’s okay to think of Joan of Arc as Noah’s wife. They weren’t so good at their Bible, but they were practical observers of life.
Well, in my book, Jesus is most excellent and so is Santa. I grew up with the book, more accurately the 1954 poem by Clement C. Moore “Night Before Christmas;” and that’s the book I’m referring to in this little oratory, from Bill and Ted’s point of view; just an observer. Oh, who’s kidding who? I’m more than an impartial observer.
“’Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” I memorized this all those years ago because the poem truly was one of the more momentous and mystical moments of my childhood.
The three of us girls would line up from our bedroom, through the kitchen, with our eyes closed, maybe even blindfolded, waiting for our parents to lead us into the tree-lit living room. Santa had arrived in the night, during the few seconds that I slept, lighting the Christmas tree, leaving stockings bulging with an orange, a few walnuts to be cracked open later, and I don’t remember what else.
My excitement in that kitchen was palpable, because “the stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.” We had no fireplace nor chimney, so our stockings laid atop a few presents under the tree. But I was certain as certain could be that Santa had been there.
In the wee morning of one Christmas day, tragedy struck. At least it was traumatic for my sister, Dee. During our Christmas morning line-up, she had stepped on a needle, which mangled itself through her pink foam-rubber soled slippers and wedged itself into her foot. I wonder if she remembers it quite like this.
But I remember Dad cutting away the flimsy slipper and untethering that dastardly needle from her foot, and nursing the wound. Finally, mom and dad sent us off to the living room to lap up the joy that Santa brought, ever so temporarily into our young lives.
About him being overweight, don’t get me started. “He had a broad face and a round little belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.”
Skinny Santa doesn’t cut it unless in comics, cartoons, or made-for-TV-movies, where he’s usually a costume-wearing, paid for hire, drunk. No, no, no, not my Santa. My Santa is everything good and generous, including his physique.
According to the poem, Santa was old, but lively and quick. And he came down the chimney “with a bound.” Even though his ho-ho-ho may be the cause of the jolly fat person stereotype, doesn’t mean, well, it doesn’t mean anything, Ted.
He smoked a pipe and had rosacea and had a close relationship with reindeer. Does any of that have to mean something, other than mystery and fun and happiness? Can’t we just let it be?
Just give me a little bit of leeway. For example, both Jesus and Santa are givers. Jesus is the ultimate gift and Santa gives gifts. For little kids, I don’t see a problem with explaining Santa as the fictitious embodiment in a red fur suit, of benevolent giving. Both Jesus and Santa are “just alright with me.”