When The Idea Bucket Is Empty, Write About The Bucket Being Empty

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I just realized Christmas is a-comin’ and the geese are getting fat – well not at our house, we are turkey people.

I have a problem with Christmas; not the holiday itself, but I have been writing two or three columns about jolly old elves, drummer boys, and Ebenezer Scrooge every year since December 1995 and I have run out of things to say.

I can’t keep ranting at poor old Dr. Seuss for introducing the world to the Grinch, but I shouldn’t complain really, his Christmas Eve raid on Whoville kept me going for years. Old Santa hasn’t been treated well by me either. I had him arrested in a RIDE program way back when. Of course the old geezer getting pulled over was alcohol related as well it should have been (Think about it, a drink at every house adds up, and hunk or two of Shriners’ Christmas cake can only sop up so much of the hard stuff.)

St. Nick was also hauled up on environmental charges. You might remember that one, Prancer leaked a toxic substance in the middle of Front Street.  Santa got away of course, the rookie cop didn’t realize that once he laid his finger alongside his nose he was long gone up somebody’s chimney. You would think the nose business would be one of the first things the OPP teaches on their training program. I must speak to the Commissioner about that.

Photo by Chris Maher

For eight years I wrote and performed a one-man comedy show at the Stephen Leacock Museum here in Orillia. The Little Drummer Boy was a star performer. The carol wasn’t even written until 1941 and was first recorded by, believe it or not, The Trapp Family Singers. I saw Maria in Stowe, Vermont, many years ago. She was a little beyond the running up and down the side of a mountain by that time and her favourite thing was liniment for her arthritis.

Oh, yes, the Drummer Boy, regardless of when he first started hammering his drum, he is now part of the Christmas industry. One of these days I’m sure he will be smack dab in the middle of the manger scene on the church lawns and in another hundred years, he will be named the patron saint of percussion musicians standing beside Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson. (You probably never heard of them, but they were the greatest — with apologies to – I don’t know who is drumming now – Ringo Starr?)

I got away with some pretty far-out stuff about the First Christmas and surprisingly got few comments from the audience when I stepped over the line. I got some though, and usually from the more religious people, but they forgave me of course because that’s their job.

Even they must have wondered how Christmas got so far off from the Biblical version. Somehow the Three Wise Men, a bunch of shepherds, and a whole flock of sheep all wormed their way into the stable. Joseph should have booked ahead he must have known the Bethlehem hotels would be jammed. After all it was Christmas weekend.

Over the years Bethlehem story has been enhanced a little bit more and more every year until it is far more mystical than what was originally written. The Christmas and Biblical movies add more and more miracles and computer-enhanced special effects, which means that the public’s belief in what actually happened in Bethlehem 2000 years ago is being manipulated by the entertainment media – but then what isn’t?

I’m sure many people actually believe Mary and Jesus were sporting halos and the stable was bathed in divine light. Joseph not so much, poor Joe is almost a minor character in the annual Christmas pageant – as well he should be I suppose. After all, he really had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. He is like the taxi driver who rushes an expectant mother to the nearest hospital.

But what I find puzzling is how a few verses in the New Testament have been enhanced into one of the most glorious events in human history. That humble birth has grown to epic proportions with angels singing from on high, quite a handsome bunch they were too according to the carols, illuminating the sky over Bethlehem.  A few shepherds with their flocks are routinely crammed in and around the stable, a stable that is not even mentioned in the Bible. The number of visitors that night varies somewhat according to the vision of the artist who painted the picture. Wise men and their gift-laden camels were trooping into Bethlehem from the East following a star that doesn’t show up in any astronomical charts as far as I know. By the way, what happened to the gold, frankincense and myrrh? They should have been the richest family in Nazareth. Something fishy was going on.

I’ll have the Commissioner check out their financial advisor when he finishes Santa’s nose thing.

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