The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 9 (December 1, 1937.)
That Certain Season.
There may he uncertainty in the East, the situation in the West may be fraught with dubiety; the North and South may doubt the integrity of the international binnacle; Germany may suspect the stability of its daily sausage; Italy may wonder how much longer spaghetti will be shorter; the League of Nations may question the future; the whole world may hesitate on the ropes. But in the midst of uncertainty one thing is certain—Christmas! You can stop a train, a bung-hole or a tooth—but you can't stop Christmas.
It approaches with the inexorability of rent day and measles. One moment you are reassembling your digestive apparatus after the strain and stress of one Christmas, and the next you are preparing to ginger up the gastric processes for another Christmas.
One can almost say, “That was a nice Christmas won't it be,” and still preserve the sequence of time, so fast do Christmases pull a bluff on the calendar.
They are like steps in a stairway upon which one mounts to the “gods.”
That is, if one retains intact a reasonable degree of infantility—an innocent joy in things that don't matter a hoot in the daily double-entry of joy and borrow.
The Heart Buoyed Up.
If you can chaffer in the market-place, bargain in the basement, buy on the ground floor and sell out on the roof, and still retain a secret belief in Father Christmas you are one up on yourself.
You don't believe in Father Christmas?
Well, all we can say is that you ought to be tickled with goose feathers and prodded with wish-bones. You should be rolled in pudding rinds and trounced with turkeys' giblets. You should be pickled in wassail and soaked in sac. You should be put back on the bottle until temporary infancy brings you back to rompers.
But of course. you believe in Father O'Christmas. Everybody does, but some are afraid to confess for fear of forfeiting the respect of their children.
For Father O'Christmas is Irish. He's a lad. He's the man who brings the moonshine; the magician who makes incredibility the hallmark of validity so that things are as they seem and believing is seeing. He it is who casts Reason's mumbled “mumbo”, to Logic's limbo where everything is sensible and dull.
Carnival Within the Walls of Whimsey.
Father O'Christmas is the nebulous necromancer who waves a wand and makes the impossible possible; who creates disorder in the old order and turns the tables on Earnest Endeavour, the boy with the two left-handed feet. It is Father O'Christmas who holds high carnival within the walls of Whimsey and tosses peevish Perseverance from the ramparts of Razz. He it is who paints the portals of Posh pink, puce and purple and gives Reality the raspberry.
He prods you in the wish-bone and—lo!—you are high. He whispers of things men have forgotten in their hopeless endeavour to cope with the blessings of civilisation and—hey, presto!—you are as one who has looked into the well and found it well. He it is who page 23 makes your mind Yuletidy, who broadcasts the glad Yuletidings and gets you lit up with the glow which won't wash off.
True, he is radiation rather than a reality, a pervasion rather than a person, but when the year, grown fired, staggers to the tape, it is old Whiskers Christmas who heartens it with that clarion cry “Here's pudding in your eye!”
He is everywhere from Timbuctoo to Tampico, from Choctaw to Lockjaw, from Beyrut to Bayrhum, from Shanghai to Yoho.
From the wastes of Alaska to the stretches of Elastic, something swells and palpitates like Murphy's eye after the wake. From Leghorn, Tinhorn, Shoehorn and the land of Poll Angus (the Fair Maid of Haggis) comes a stirring in the hotpot of Humanity, in the soup of civilisation. It is Father O'Christmas coming up for his annual breather.
Then You'll Remember.
Presently he will prod you in the midriff of memory and a procession of faces, names, boyhood and girlhood companions, relations, distant and not so distant, will troop past the saluting base of Recollection.
You will notch a resolution not to send Aunt Osprey a bundle of cigars as you did in the Christmas confusion of last year. You will make a mental note that Uncle Aubrey drinks nothing stronger than dillwater and a faint regret will recur for the bottle of Haggis Bloom you sent him last Yule. You will remember old Sebastian Stoop with whom you robbed orchards in the green days of youth and whose adult existence is a perpetual catch-as-catch-can with a large family and a small income; you will note an O.S. hamper for Sebastian! You will think of father's brother Bill whose life has been a thing of joy and borrow, of punting and panting, and you will resolve to keep up the old family custom of the “quid nunc.”
You will suddenly feel ashamed of yourself for neglecting friendships throughout the heat and burden of the year. You will feel a skunk. A lump will rise in your throat. You'll decide to do the decent thing next year—but you won't.
These are some of the things Father Christmas will do to you in the restive, festive season.
The Universal Weapon of Goodwill.
And, at the last moment, you will probably resort to that universal weapon of goodwill, the handkerchief; but the fact remains that to think of a handkerchief you must think of a nose and, to think of a nose, you must think of the nose's nearest and dearest. Therefore, the humble handkerchief is as effective a thought reviver as a bale of hay or a pantechnicon of pate de foie.
After all, the chief function of Christmas is to combine goodwill with good fill, to remove repressions, to scupper the ship of gravity and take to the boats of levity; to take your own life in your hands, to unwind the bandages from the brain and to plunder the Aladdin's cave of Cheerful consciousness.
Fortunate for you that Father O'Christmas comes to tickle you into temporary inanity, to take you by the arm and hoist your elbow with a bumper of benediction.
He is the one man who is the same man to all men. Dictators bow before him; Jingoists substitute laughing gas for mustard gas and admit that the pan is mightier than the sword. Finance's strong-room is the oven and Commerce's coin is minted by the cook. Stern Duty “dukes” him and Wisdom welcomes him, for:
One touch of Christmas makes the whole world kin,
'Dolf Hitler, Mussolini, Bill and Min,
Tom, Dick and Harry, Stalin, you and I,
For once are one. We needn't even try
To get ourselves in proper Christmas nick,
The Merry Monarch, SANTA, does the trick.
“Where beauty vies in all her vernal forms, Forever pleasant and forever new …”
The grand harmony of forest and mountain in the South Island of New Zealand. A scene in the famous Hollyford Valley between Lake To Anau and Milford Sound.
(Rly. Publicity photo.)