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McGan's Meditations
Who is 'Father Christmas'?

Who is "Father Christmas"? I could never figure out who this guy was because I enjoy all things Victorian about the same as I would perhaps enjoy walking into an airplane propeller. They recently had a Victorian "street walk" in my town, where people try to recreate a fictional holiday setting, dress up in period clothing, look all Victorian and stroll the festive sidewalks, peering into warmly lit shops and blah blah blah. Pa - lease! Glad I missed it.

But getting back to Father Christmas, I did a little research and I guess he is supposed to be Odin, or somebody. The Vikings brought gifts over on the ships from the North Pole or whatever frozen, snow covered country they originated from. Upon landing, the Vikings took a holiday from raping and pillaging and instead, enjoyed curling up in front of a roaring fire and sipping eggnog with the locals. During the following days the Vikings, for lack of destructive activity, would lop the tops off of young fir trees with their battle-axes and deliver one to every home. They were decorated with shiny glass baubles and hair plucked from the Viking's beards by young children. This was later replaced with tinsel. Then, Odin would come down to Earth on an eight legged reindeer with a shiny, glowing red nose, hide in the bushes around camp fires and listen to what children wished for. On Christmas Eve, Odin would deliver gifts to the Children, or have the entire village burned to the ground, depending on his level of "cheer".

After some centuries, he became bored and wanted to reinvent himself so he draped some ivy around his head, changed into a big red robe, fashioned a large walking stick with little bells and became... an elf. No, my mistake. He actually became Father Christmas. Now, it's painfully obvious that Father Christmas looks exactly like "Father Time", who scares the hell out of elderly residents in nursing homes. As a matter of fact, the guy who plays Father Christmas in my town also plays... Frosty The Snowman. No, just kidding, he also plays Father Time! I'm getting so confused with all these characters so let's move to another topic - mince pies and another disturbing Victorian standard, the fruitcake.

Apparently it was once believed that you had to bring a mince pie to every house you visited and the residents of that house had to, in turn, give you a mince pie. Kind of pointless, wasn't it? But if you didn't do this it was considered bad manners and you would have bad luck in your attempts to find that special gift for your mom (Mother Christmas) and she would be angry and vengeful toward you for at least a couple of weeks, until she returned your gift to the mall and exchanged it for what she really wanted. It was also a tradition to have two people simultaneously tug on the first pie of the season. The one who came away with the bigger piece could make a Christmas wish. It rarely, if ever, came true, but it was always a big hit and made for being jolly. You had to eat these things for the twelve days of Christmas, until you were so sick of mincemeat pies, that just the mention of it would induce projectile vomiting.

Then there were fruitcakes, a loaf of bread-like substance so dense that if you dropped one off the Empire State building, it would end up in China, which would be a good place for it except that it would probably incite a world war and cause the passage of Revelations to come true, where the "Kings of the East" would send forth two hundred million horsemen who would cross the Euphrates river and that would put them... you guessed it, right at the North Pole.

As far back as my distant childhood, I remember fruitcakes on the kitchen counter around the holidays. It was never clear where they came from. Nobody ate them and they were quickly "re-gifted”. They are disdained by everyone. I believe that they are conjured up from a mix of candied citrons, raisons, nuts, and currants, and are rolled into a Yule Log so frighteningly appalling that even Tiny Tim wouldn't touch one with a crutch. Many people become depressed around the holidays. It's all about the fruitcakes, trust me.

So, have a safe, happy, and Victorian-free Christmas. Unless that's your thing. If it is, keep your mincemeat pies and fruitcakes to yourself or I'll ask Father Christmas to have some Vikings visit you for the holidays. Ho ho ho. Merry CHRISTmas.

Michael McGan - 18th December 2004

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