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Thursday, December 21, 2023

Christmas 2023: Return of a Tradition

To be honest, I don't know if I should do this.  It seems like it would be more ideal to bring this back during a better Christmas.

But when would that be?  We aren't guaranteed a tomorrow, much less a holiday that could be years from now.

It's like this: for a very long time, every year in the days before Christmas, I would post an article that I wrote for my college's newspaper, in 1998.  A few weeks ago was the twenty-fifth anniversary of it getting published.  When I started this blog some years after college, that essay seemed like a good thing to make a holiday tradition out of.

I just checked and the last time I did that was in 2013.  Ten whole years ago.

In 2013 I was recently back home from spending a week in voluntary commitment to a psychiatric facility, because of depression.  Well, a few other things that preceded that too, that had also really hit home.  I don't know how I managed to eke out the tradition that year.

And then in 2014, Dad passed away just before Thanksgiving.  There was no keeping the tradition after that.

Since then I've struggled to keep the blog going at times, occasionally wondering what is the point of it.  But I always seem to make myself realize that this is, as it always has been, a chronicle of the human condition, seen through the eyes of one particular and peculiar person.  With all his strengths and weaknesses, warts and all.

And then there was my picking up stakes and traveling across America, looking for a new place to hang my hat.  It was a quest that brought my dog Tammy and I all the way to California.  That didn't work out so friends invited us to stay with them in South Carolina for awhile.  Now I'm living in a real home, and have had a serious career under my belt.  Unfortunately the current economy made me have to look for other work.  Which is very sad, because I truly loved my job at the Department of Mental Health.

 Well, I guess... things could be much worse.  Despite circumstances there is still a roof over our heads, food on the table, a car that still runs.  Tammy and I are together and Lord willing will be for many more years to come.

And for the first time in a very long time, definitely since before the worst of the manic depression cranked up in stark earnest, I've found an abiding faith in God again.

I suppose if nothing else, that by itself qualifies the return of the tradition this year.

So here it is, for the first time in a decade.  And with that I am going to take a few days off from blogging.  Allow myself a period of reflection and consideration, as much as might be possible.  Maybe it will be a season in which I can draw further close to God.  I would really like that.

Until next time, Merry Christmas.  And now...



 Originally published in The Pendulum, Elon University, 12/03/1998

Celebrating the Christmas season means celebrating the memories

Chris Knight

     Some of the best memories that we take through life are about the times we cherish the most. And sometimes, it doesn’t take much to bring back the joy.

     Last Friday as I was driving around Greensboro, the all-time coolest Christmas song ever came over the speakers.

     Who knows what this genius recording artist’s name is? Does it really matter? Whoever he is, he’ll forever be remembered as giving us the immortal sound of “Dogs Singing Jingle Bells”:

Arf arf arf,
Arf arf arf,
Arf Arf Whoof Whoof Whuf…

     Ahh... you know how it goes.

     And there’s the ever-beuh-beuh-beauh-beautiful rendition of Porky Pig singing “Blue Christmas” and the Chipmunks and of course “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero,” but hearing those dogs singing “Jingle Bells...” ahhhhh.

     It brought me back to the very first time I heard that: on the radio coming back from school just before Christmas in 1982. I was in third grade at the time. And it brought back memories of the Christmas we had.

     It was cold and very cloudy. I remember that because Santa had brought me a telescope and I didn’t get to use it that night. Which wasn’t too big a worry, ‘cause me and my sister had our brand-new Atari 2600 to play with!

     Another Christmas memory: To this day, I’ll never forgive Anita for the pounding she gave me in “Combat.” I don’t care how fancy Sega or the Playstation get... they’ll never touch the 4-bit pleasures of the Atari!

     There have been many a Christmas since then, and I remember each one well, for all the little things they had with them.

     I’ll never forget Mom and Dad taking me and my sister to see Santa Claus at the mall in ‘84. That morning Dad asked if I’d come with him to cut firewood, so we rode the tractor into the woods. There had been snow earlier in the week, which lay around us in the crisp, cold morning.

     Dad also brought his 30-30 rifle, why I still don’t know. After we had the wood loaded, Dad asked if I wanted to try shootin’ the gun.

     There I was, a ten-year old kid, holding what looked like an anti-aircraft cannon in my tiny hands. Well, I aimed at this tree like Dad told me to, and pulled the trigger.

     To this day I cannot describe the colors that flashed before my eyes, or the sound in my ears. When my existence finally returned, I was flat on my back in the snow, and blood was gushing from between my eyes where the scope had hit my nose from the backfire.

     That night Santa saw the bandages and said “Ho ho hoooo, and what happened to you, little fellow?”

     “I got shot, Santa,” was the only thing I knew to say.

     Hey, was I gonna lie to the Big Man? Uh-uh, no way was I gonna lose all that loot!

     The following year’s Christmas I remember for many things, but especially feeding the young calves on our farm. It would be the last year our family would be running a dairy farm, and I had started helping with some of the work around the barn.

     Dad set up a Christmas tree in the milking room, with wrapped-up boxes beneath it.

     Tinsel hung from the front doors of the barn. And there was something about the feel of the place there, that has always held a special place in my heart, as if we knew that there would not be another Christmas like this one.

     I wish there had been another Christmas on the farm, because there’s something I wish I could have seen. And as silly as some people might find this, I really believe that it happens.

     You see, if you go out at midnight on Christmas Eve, you will see all the animals in the farmyard, and in the fields, and in the forests, and wherever else they may be, stop where they are.

     And then they kneel.

     They kneel in remembrance for another night, long ago. It was Christmas, but how many people could know it then?

     Nothing remarkable, to be sure: Caesar had decreed a census through the land, and each man went with his family to his town.

     One man in particular took his wife, a young woman quick with child. But there was no room for them at the inn. So that night, in a dirty and filthy stable and surrounded by animals, a child was born.

     You see, it’s easy for us to forget. At this time of the year, we are too overwhelmed by the consumption and the material and the glitter and all the customs that come with Christmas.

     And it’s too easy for us to forget that Christmas is, before everything else, a birthday.

     But the animals, who watched over Him as He lay as a newborn babe, two millenia ago... the animals have not forgotten.

     And so they kneel every Christmas and give glory to the newborn king, and in awe that God would send His Son to live among us in the greatest act of love.

     And to teach us many things, but especially to “love one another”. And to bridge the gap between man and God.

     The birth of Jesus Christ: the greatest Christmas present there will ever be. His birth, which would give mankind the greatest present it could ever ask for.

     Who in the world on that night could know the price that this present would someday have?

     Heaven and Earth sang praises to His glory on that night. The animals have always remembered that night. And Heaven and Earth still praise and sing unto Him.

     And if you only take a little time out from how busy things become at this part of the year, you can hear the singing, too. And it is a great temptation to join in that chorus.

     And perhaps in hearing, we will not forget the real meaning of Christmas, either.

     This Christmas Eve night I plan to be outside, with the same telescope that I got for Christmas all those years ago, and trying to envision a bright star over Bethlehem. Around midnight, I’m going to take a walk over to my aunt’s farm.

     Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men.

Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”