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Saturday, December 25, 2021


by Peter Neil Carroll

For most of the 19th century, the celebration of Christmas with Christmas trees and gift-giving remained a marginal phenomenon in American society. Most Americans remained skeptical about this new custom. Some felt that they had to choose between older English customs such as hanging stockings for presents on the fireplace and the Christmas tree as proper space for the placing of gifts. It was also hard to find the necessary ingredients for this German custom. Christmas tree farms had first to be created. And ornaments needed to be produced. The most significant steps toward integrating Christmas into popular American culture came in the context of the American Civil War. In January 1863 Harper’s Weekly published on its front page the image of Santa Claus visiting the Union Army in 1862. This image, which was produced by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast, represents the very first image of Santa Claus. —Thomas Adam, “How Christmas Became an American Holiday Tradition, with a Santa Claus, Gifts and a Tree,” The Conversation, December 6, 2021

Today isn’t my holiday;
neither did the Puritans celebrate Christmas—
only after huddled masses, tempest tost
slipped through Ms Liberty’s golden door
did Santa tumble down the chimney.
So what? says the bored look
in my child’s eye. All day we shall suffer
her shame, born to pagan parents,
she will see us through the eyes
of little friends who believe.  
Yes, Virginia, today we will dash to church.
Not to pray, mind you, but to see the unseen
wretched refuse lining on cold sidewalks  
and to serve those we will have
with us always, strung out
like light bulbs at St. Anthony’s.
At noon, we dollop beans and rice,
turkey, spuds, chopped carrots and greens.
Everyone polite, clean, stiff-backed,
without voice or tune
or jingled bell, only the scrape of chairs,
spoons tinkling in tepid cups.

Peter Neil Carroll’s newest collections of poems are Talking to Strangers: Poetry of Everyday Life  (Turning Point, 2022) and This Land, These People: The 50 States (Press Americana) that just won the 2022 Prize Americana. He is currently Poetry Moderator of and lives in northern California.