“Christmas Carol Complaint Department, Jim Speaking”

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Coming up with something about Christmas can be a tad taxing since I have been writing columns every December for 26 years. I even stooped to having old Santa picked up in a RIDE program back in the late 90s. I haven’t got a thing from him since.As a matter of fact, neither did any of my friends – guilt by association I guess.

Last year it was The Little Drummer Boy who was maligned, as well he should have been, hammering on a drum while Mary was trying to get the baby to sleep. Oh, and the Three Wise Men; I didn’t want to forget those bozos. One of them was supposed to be a Persian. That’s Iran now. How bright was he? Can you imagine an Iranian going into Bethlehem just to go to a birthday party today? By the time the Israelis got finished with him, he’d be floating face-down where the Red Sea used to part.

Picking on the manger business almost got me ex-communicated from the United Church a few years ago. You have to do something really bad to get kicked out of the United Church. We even believe in dancing — although the tabletop thing is still discouraged. Unless the girl donates all the money tucked in her G-string to the Missions account of course. Then it is considered social work.   

Christmas started late this year. The radio stations didn’t start playing carols until the end of October. The little kids were trick or treating to the gentle sounds of Christmas in Killarney. I always liked that song. No one knows how to celebrate Christmas like an Irishman. They drink all day, get into a big fight and finally end up under the Christmas tree singing about flippin’ unicorns with the Irish Rovers.

Have you ever listened to the words of some of the Christmas Carols? Who writes these things? It sure wasn’t Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Take that old favourite, Good King Wenceslaus, Andy wouldn’t have touched that one with a ten-foot pole — well he couldn’t have anyway —Wenceslaus was the king of Czechoslovakia around 936 AD, so he would have had to touch him with a ten-foot cheque.

You know the song. It’s been around forever. Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the Feast of Stephen. Maybe it was Stephen’s birthday. A birthday was a big event back then because people didn’t have very many. Nobody lived all that long. If a guy looked after himself and didn’t get drafted by the army, he might reach 25 or 26. I know their CPP and Old Age pension kicked in when they reached 19. 

Where was I? – Oh yeah, King Wenceslaus. He looks out his window one morning – cold as hell according to the carol, the frost was cruel – even the horses were freezing up and had to get jump-started. The CAA guy was wandering around with a battery and a set of jumper cables. He’d sneak up behind the stallion and – actually that’s a bit too much information. Let’s just say, the hardest part after getting him started was to get him down off the roof. But Wenceslaus hangs his head out the window and sees this poor old geezer gathering winter fuel. The Christmas carol doesn’t say what kind of fuel he was gathering – most carols are shy on detail. I would think the old guy was carrying one of those red plastic 5 gallon Jerry cans they sell at Canadian Tire and he was wandering around looking for the best price on fuel oil.

A peasant had to be careful even back then. It would be 89.9 Korunas a litre one day and suddenly without warning, it was 103. There was no rhyme or reason for it. Today we know that it has nothing to do with the oil companies jerking us around. The price is controlled by some little sheik with an oil well in his backyard. If his missus needs a new BMW to take her to the Casbah, he just adds on a few riyals until it’s paid for.

But Wenceslaus sees this guy so he calls his servant, Hither Page. “Hither Page and stand by me.” He says. “Yonder peasant, who is he, where and what his dwelling?”

And Hither says, “How should I know? I’m ten years old. I haven’t been out the door since I was five. I spend all day answering your dumb questions.”

 “Do you want to make it to eleven?”

And Hither siad, “Come to think of it, he lives a good league hence underneath a mountain.”

“How far is a league?”

“Well it all depends on whether it is an American League or a National.”

“What’s the difference?”

“I think the pitcher has to hit in the National but it may be the other way round.”

“Are you yanking my chain, Page?”

“A little, but he lives over by St. Agnes fountain. You remember Agnes, cute little nun from Prague. The poor dear froze to death last January. Someone stuck her outside – thought she was a penguin.”

So the king packs a picnic basket and he and Hither take off down the road in a howling blizzard looking for this guy’s house. It was colder than a witch’s…  we,ll it was cold anyway. It isn’t long before Hither starts crabbing.

“Fails my heart,” he says. “I can go no longer.” I guess not. The kid was having a heart attack.

From that they made a Christmas carol. I don’t know if you’ve ever sung Good King Wenceslaus all the way through, there’s a whole whack of verses, but he never got to the guy’s house. The peasant never got to drink the wine. He never got the flesh or the pine logs thither. He got nothing. In fact he didn’t get the fuel either. When he got to the Esso station, the computer was down and he couldn’t use his card. The kid manning the pumps wasn’t going to trust him for five gallons of fuel oil. They found the poor old geezer in the spring. When the snow melted, he was thirty feet from the pump lying there in the slush holding on to an empty gas can.

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