'Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even my spouse.
The dining room table with clutter was spread
With pedigree charts and with letters which said ...
"Too bad about the data for which you wrote;
Sank in a storm on an ill-fated boat."
Stacks of old copies of wills and such
Were proof that my work had become too much.
Our children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.
And I at my table was ready to drop
From work on my album with photos to crop.
Christmas was here, and such was my lot
That presents and goodies and toys I'd forgot.
Had I not been busy with grandparents' wills,
I'd not have forgotten to shop for such thrills,
While others bought gifts to bring Christmas cheers,
I'd spent time researching those birthdates and years.
While I was thus musing about my sad plight,
A strange noise on the lawn gave me such a great fright.
Away to the window I flew in a flash,
Tore open the drapes and yanked up the sash.
When what with my wondering eyes should appear,
But an overstuffed sleigh and eight small reindeer.
Up to the house top the reindeer they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys and 'ole Santa Claus, too.
And then in a twinkle, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of thirty-two hoofs.
As I drew in my head, and bumped it on the sash,
Down the cold chimney fell Santa - KER-RASH!
"Dear" Santa had come from the roof in a wreck,
And tracked soot on the carpet, (I could wring his short neck!)
Spotting my face, good 'ole Santa could see
I had no Christmas spirit you'd have to agree.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work
And filled all the stockings, (I felt like a jerk).
Here was Santa, who'd brought us such gladness and joy,
When I'd been too busy for even one toy.
He spied my research on the table all spread
"A genealogist!" He cried! (My face was all red!)
"Tonight I've met many like you," Santa grinned,
As he pulled from his sack a large book he had penned.
I gazed with amusement--the cover it read
Genealogy Lines for Which You Have Plead.
"I know what it's like as a genealogy bug."
He said as he gave me a great Santa hug.
"While the elves make the sleighful of toys I now carry,
I do some research in the North Pole Library!
A special treat I am thus able to bring,
To genealogy folk who can't find a thing."
"Now off you go to your bed for a rest,
I'll clean up the house from this genealogy mess."
As I climbed up the stairs full of gladness and glee,
I looked back at Santa who'd brought much to me.
While settling in bed, I heard Santa's clear whistle,
To his team, which then rose like the down of a thistle.
And I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight,
"Family history is Fun! Merry Christmas! Goodnight!"
|We're too late. It's already been here.
|Mulder, I hope you know what you are doing.
|Look, Scully, just like the other homes: Douglas fir, truncated, mounted, transformed into some sort of shrine; halls decked with boughs of holly; stockings hung by the chimney, with care.
|You really think someone's been here?
|Someone or some THING.
|Mulder, over here - it's fruitcake.
|Don't touch it! Those things can be lethal.
|It's O.K. There's a note attached: "Gonna find out who's naughty and nice."
|It's judging them, Scully. It's making a list.
|Who? What are you talking about?
|Ancient mythology tells of an obese humanoid entity who could travel at great speed in a craft powered by antlered servants. Once each year, near the winter solstice, this creature is said to descend from the heavens to reward its followers and punish its disbelievers with jagged chunks of anthracite.
|But that's legend, Mulder - a story told by parents to frighten children. Surely, you don't believe it?
|Something was here tonite, Scully. Check out the bite marks on this gingerbread man. Whatever tore through this plate of cookies was massive - and in a hurry.
|It left crumbs everywhere. And look, Mulder, this milk glass has been completely drained.
|It gorged itself, Scully. It fed without remorse.
|But why would they leave it milk and cookies?
|Appeasement. Tonight is the Eve, and nothing can stop its wilding.
|But if this thing does exist, how did it get in? The doors and windows were locked. There's no sign of forced entry.
|Unless I miss my guess, it came through the fireplace.
|Wait a minute, Mulder. If you are saying some huge creature landed on the roof and came down the chimney, you're crazy. The flue is barely six inches wide. Nothing could get through there.
|But what if it could alter its shape, move in all directions.
|You mean, like a bowl full of jelly?
|Exactly. Scully, I've never told anyone this, but when I was a child my home was visited. I saw the creature. It had long white strips of fur surrounding its ruddy, misshapen head. Its bloated torso was red and white. I'll never forget the horror. I turned away, and when I looked back it had somehow taken on the facial features of my father.
|I know what I saw. And that night it read my mind. It brought me a Mr. Potato Head, Scully. IT KNEW I WANTED A MR. POTATO HEAD.
|I'm sorry, Mulder, but you're asking me to disregard the laws of physics. You want me to believe in some supernatural being who soars across the skies and brings gifts to good little girls and boys. Listen to what you are saying. Do you understand the repercussions? If this gets out, they'll close the X-files.
|Scully, listen to me: It knows when you are sleeping. It knows when you're awake.
|But we have no proof.
|Last year, on this exact date, S.E.T.I. radio telescopes detected bogeys in the airspace over twenty-seven states. The White House ordered a Condition Red.
|But that was a meteor shower.
|Officially. Two days ago, eight prized Scandinavian reindeer vanished from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Nobody - not even the zookeeper - was told about it. The government doesn't want people to know about Project Kringle. They fear that if this thing is proved to exist, then the public would stop spending half its annual income in a holiday shopping frenzy. Retail markets will collapse. Scully,they cannot let the world believe this creature lives. There's too much at stake. They'll do whatever it takes to insure another silent night.
|Mulder, I ...
|Sh-h-h! Do you hear what I hear?
|On the roof. It sounds like ... a clatter.
|The truth is up there. Let's see what's the matter.
On Christmas Eve, a young boy with light in his eyes
Looked deep into Santa's, to Santa's surprise,
And said as he nestled on Santa's broad knee,
"I want your secret. Tell it to me."
He leaned up and whispered in Santa's good ear,
"How do you do it, year after year?"
"I want to know how, as you travel about,
Giving gifts here and there, you never run out.
How is it, dear Santa, that in your pack of toys
You have plenty for all of the world's girls and boys?
Stays so full, never empties, as you make your way
From rooftop to rooftop, to homes large and small,
From nation to nation, reaching them all?"
And Santa smiled kindly and said to the boy,
"Don't ask me hard questions. Don't you want a toy?"
But the child shook his head, and Santa could see
That he needed the answer. "Now listen to me,"
He told the small boy with the light in his eyes,
"My secret will make you sadder, and wise."
"The truth is that my sack is magic. Inside
It holds millions of toys for my Christmas Eve ride.
But although I do visit each girl and each boy,
I don't always leave them a gaily wrapped toy.
Some homes are hungry, some homes are sad,
Some homes are desperate, some homes are bad.
Some homes are broken, and children there grieve.
Those homes I visit, but what should I leave?"
"My sleigh is filled with the happiest stuff,
But for homes where despair lives, toys aren't enough.
So I tiptoe in, kiss each girl and boy,
And pray with them that they'll be given the joy
Of the spirit of Christmas, the spirit that lives
In the heart of the dear child who gets not, but gives."
"If only God hears me and answers my prayer,
When I visit next year, what I will find there
Are homes filled with peace, and with giving, and love,
And boys and girls gifted with light from above.
It's a very hard task, my smart little brother,
To give toys to some, and to give prayers to others.
But the prayers are the best gifts, the best gifts indeed,
For God has a way of meeting each need."
"That's part of the answer. The rest, my dear youth,
Is that my sack is magic. And that is the truth.
In my sack I carry on Christmas Eve day
More love than a Santa could ever give away.
The sack never empties of love, or of joys,
"Cause inside it are prayers, and hopes, not just toys.
The more that I give, the fuller it seems,
Because giving is my way of fulfilling dreams."
"And do you know something? You've got a sack, too.
It's as magic as mine, and it's inside of you.
It never gets empty, it's full from the start.
It's the center of lights, and of love. It's your heart.
And if on this Christmas you want to help me,
Don't be so concerned with the gifts beneath your tree.
Open that sack called your heart, and share
Your joy, your friendship, your wealth, your care."
The light in the small boy's eyes was glowing.
"Thanks for the secret. I've got to be going."
"Wait, little boy," said Santa, "don't go.
Will you share? Will you help? Will you use what you know?"
And just for a moment the small boy stood still,
Touched his heart with his small hand and whispered ...
'Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house
Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care.
In hopes that Jesus would not come there.
The children were dressing to crawl into bed,
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.
When out of the East there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I few like a flash
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray
I knew in a moment this must be The Day!
The light of His face made me cover my head
It was Jesus! returning just like He had said.
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.
In the Book of Life which He held in His hand
Was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;
When He said "It's not here" my head hung in shame.
The people whose names had been written with love
He gathered to take to His Father above.
With those who were ready He rose without a sound
While all the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees, but it was too late;
I had waited too long and this sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight;
Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.
In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;
The coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There's only one life and when comes the last call
We'll find that the Bible was true after all!!!
'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And Mamma in her 'kerchief and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave a luster of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a minature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer;
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid then eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer! and Vixen!
On,Comet! on,Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas, to
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
Abundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry,
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread ;
He spoke not a word but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the dawn of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight,
" Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night."
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the shack,
Not a thing was a movin' from the front to the back,
The kids were in bed, I believe we had nine,
The wife in her curlers was lookin' real fine.
A cold wind was blowin', up the holler it moaned,
All seven dogs on the porch howled and groaned.
The boys were all dreamin' of weapons and guns,
For killin' God's creatures, there's no better fun.
The girls in their feminine dreams were attuned,
To getting those gallons of Wal-Mart perfume.
The wife wanted jewellry, like rings with big rocks,
I wanted my Chevy down off the blocks.
Then in the yard such a noise did commence,
Like something was caught in the barb-wire fence.
I ran to the window and saw pretty quick,
The man makin' the racket was Good Ol' St. Nick.
You may think of Santa in your own mind's eye,
Dressed in a red and white suit, but I've got a surprise.
That old boy's an Arkie, our fair state he won't fail'er,
He married his cousin, and they live in a trailer.
On Christmas, of course, a sleigh for his rig,
He hooks the thing up, to a razorback pig.
He climbed on the roof, with his bag full of goodies,
He backed down the fireplace, all dirty and sooty.
Fat legs in his britches, chubby hands in his mittens,
I admit from the back, he looked like Bill Clinton.
He turned toward the tree, his eyes all aglow,
He was an Arkansas boy, from his head to his toe.
His neck was a red one, his shirt said "Light Beer",
There was no red hat, his cap read "John Deere".
He left all the presents, with an air of delight,
Then it was back to the chimney, and into the night.
He ran into the yard and threw his bag in the sleigh,
Then he yelled at the dogs to get out of the way.
And I heard him exclaim as those pigs took to flight,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night ...
Or maybe it was a "bud lite"
'Twas the night before implementation and all through the house
Not a system was working, not even the mouse.
The programmers hung by their tubes in despair
In hopes that a miracle soon would be there.
The users were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of transactions danced in their heads.
When out of the Monitor came such a clatter
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a guru programmer (with a sixpack of beer).
His resume glowed with experience so rare,
And he turned out great code with a bit-pusher's flair.
More rapid than eagles, his programs they came,
As he whistled and shouted and called them by name.
On Update! On Inquiry! On OOP! On Delete!
On Sequel! On Timeout! On Methods Complete!
His eyes were glazed over; fingers nimble and lean
From weekends and nights in front of a screen.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Turning specs into code; then he turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger upon the RUN keys
The system came up and it worked PERFECTLY!
The Updates updated; Deletes they deleted;
The Inquiries inquired and Closing completed.
He tested each whistle, and tested each bell
With nary an edit, for all had gone well.
The system was finished, the tests were concluded,
The client's last changes were even included.
And the client exclaimed with a snarl and a taunt
'IT'S JUST WHAT I ASKED FOR---BUT NOT WHAT I WANT!'
'Twas the night before solstice and all though the co-op
Not a creature was messing the calm status quo up.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Dreaming of lentils and warm whole-grain breads.
We'd welcomed the winter that day after school
By dancing and drumming and burning the Yule,
A more meaningful gesture to honor the planet
Than buying more trinkets for Mum and Aunt Janet,
Or choosing a tree just to murder and stump it
And dress it all up like a seasonal strumpet.
My lifemate and I, having turned down the heat
Slipped under covers for a well-deserved sleep,
When from out on the lawn there came such a roar
I fell from my futon and rolled to the floor.
I crawled to the window and pulled back the latch,
And muttered, "Aw, where is that Neighborhood Watch?"
I saw there below through the murk of the night
A sleigh and eight reindeer of nonstandard height.
At the reins of that sleigh sat a mean-hearted knave
Who treated each deer like his personal slave.
I'd seen him before in some ads for car loans,
Plus fast food and soft drinks and cellular phones.
He must have cashed in from his mercantile chores,
Since self-satisfaction just oozed from his pores.
He called each by name, as if he were right
to treat them like humans, entrenching his might:
"Now Donder, now Blitzen", and other such aliases,
Showing his true Eurocentric biases.
With a snap of his fingers, away they all flew,
Like lumberjacks served up a plate of tofu.
Up to the rooftop they carried the sleigh
(The holes in the shingles are there to this day).
Out bounded the man, who went straight to the flue.
I knew in an instant just what I should do.
After donning my slippers, downstairs did I dash
To see this trespasser emerge from the ash.
His clothes were all covered with soot, but of course,
From our wood-fueled alternative energy source.
Through the grime I distinguished the make of his duds ...
He was dressed all in fur, fairly dripping with blood.
"We're a cruelty-free house!" I proclaimed with such a heat
He was startled and tripped on the logs at his feet.
He stood back up dazed, but with mirth in his eyes.
It was then that I noticed his unhealthy size.
He was almost as wide as when standing erect,
A lover of fatty fried foods, I suspect.
But that wasn't all to make sane persons choke:
In his teeth sat a pipe that was belching out smoke!
I could scarcely believe what invaded our house.
This carcinogenic and overweight louse
Was so red in the face from his energy spent,
I expected a heart attack right there and then.
Behind him he toted a red velvet bag
Full to exploding with sinister swag.
He asked, "Where is your tree?" with a face somewhat long.
I said, "Out in the yard, which is where it belongs."
"But where will I put all the presents I've brought?"
I looked at him squarely and said, "Take the lot
"To some frivolous people who think that they need
To succumb to the sickness of commerce and greed,
"Whose only joy comes from the act of consuming.
Thus sending the stock of the retailers booming."
He blinked and said, "Ho, ho ,ho! But you're kidding."
I gave him a stare that was stern and forbidding.
"Surely children need something with which to have fun?
It's like childhood's over before it's begun."
He looked in my eyes for some sign of assent,
But I strengthened my will and refused to relent.
"They have plenty of fun," I cut to the gist,
"And your mindless distractions have never been missed.
"They take CPR so they can save lives,
And go door-to-door for the used clothing drives.
"They recycle, renew, reuse - and reveal
For saving the planet a laudable zeal.
"When they padlock themselves to a fence to protest
Against nuclear power, we think they're the best."
He said, "But they're children - lo, when do they play?"
I countered. "Is that why you've driven your sleigh,
To bring joy to the hearts of each child and tot?
All right, open your bag; let's see what you've got."
He sheepishly did as I'd asked, and behold!
A Malibu Barbie in a skirt made of gold.
"You think my girls will like playing with this,
An icon of sexist, consumerist kitsch?
"With its unnatural figure and airheaded grin,
This trollop makes every girl yearn to be thin,
"And take up fad diets and binging and purging
Instead of respecting her own body's urging.
"To welcome the shape that her body has found.
And rejoice to be lanky, short, skinny or round."
Deep in his satchel he searched for a toy,
Saying, "This is a hit with most little boys."
And when did he put in my trembling hand
But a gun from the BrainBlasters Power Command!
"It's a hit, 'to be sure," I sneered in his face,
"And a plague to infect the whole human race."
"How 'bout grenades or some working bazookas
To turn all of our kids into half-wit palookas?"
I seized on his bag just to see for myself
The filth being spread by this odious elf.
An Easy-Bake Oven - ah, goodnes, what perfidy!
To hoodwink young girls into household captivity!
Plus an archery play set with shafts that fly out,
The very thing needed to put your eye out.
And toy metal tractors, steam shovels and cranes
For tearing down woodlands and scarring the plains,
Plus games like Monopoly, Pay Day, Tycoon,
As if lessons in greed can't start up too soon.
And even more weapons from BrainBlasters Co.,
Like cannons and nuchucks and ray guns that glow.
That's all I could find in his red velvet sack ...
Perverseness and mayhem to set us all back.
(But I did find one book that caused me to ponder ...
Some fine bedtime tales by a fellow name Garner.)
"We need none of this," I announced in a huff,
"No 'business-as-usual' holiday stuff.
"We sow in our offspring more virtue than this
Your 'boys' offer some things they will never miss."
The big man's expression was a trifle bereaved
As he shouldered his pack and got ready to leave.
"I pity the kids who grow up around here,
Who're never permitted to be of good cheer,
"Who aren't allowed leisure for leisure's own sake,
But must fret every minute - it makes my heart break!"
"Enough histrionics! Don't pity our kids
If they don't do as Macy's or Toys 'R' Us bids.
"They live by their principles first and foremost
And know what's important," to him did I boast.
"Pray, could I meet them?" "Oh no, they're not here.
"They're up on the roof, liberating your deer!"
Then Santa Claus sputtered and pointed his finger
But, mad as he was, he had no time to linger.
He flew up the chimney like smoke from fire.
And up on the roof I heard voices get higher.
I ran outside the co-op to see him react
To my children responsible, kindhearted act.
He chased them away, and disheartened, dismayed,
He rehitched his reindeer (who'd docilely stayed).
I watched with delight as he scooted off then.
He'd be too embarrassed to come back again.
But with parting disdain, Do you know what I said,
When this overweight huckster took off in his sled?
This reindeer enslaver, this exploiter of elves?
"Happy Christmas to all, but get over yourselves!"
E-mail contributions to Rob Nelson.
Nov 1, 2001