Why can't we celebrate with a little Christmas stuffing?
'Tis the season to read reflective columns that refer to those less fortunate than ourselves and Ebenezer Scrooge, and then attempt to send the reader away smiling with a feeble joke.
As British comedian Stephen Fry once asked, why aren't we thinking about those less fortunate than ourselves all year round?
Does this mean Christmas needs to be turned into a guiltfest, an occasion for hand-wringing that we all have too much stuff or eat too much? For many in the developed world, Christmas has become a secular celebration of abundance and quite rightly so. Surely it's a good thing that we no longer know the insecurity, malnutrition and disease that come with not knowing where our next meal is coming from. Can't we celebrate this once a year by putting an ample spread on the table without guilt?
In these overly health-conscious times, we are more likely to be assailed than wassailed, bombarded with dietary advice rather than allowed to enjoy ourselves, warned of the possibility of the 'Merry Christmas coronary'. Does this new Puritanism really fit the spirit of the festivities?
Charles Dickens, son of a chronically indebted father, was no stranger to the insecurity of poverty. In his A Christmas Carol, the central miserly character, Scrooge, manifested the essential humanity and compassion he gained by sending the poor Cratchit family a turkey, the makings of a fine Christmas feast, not by lecturing them on the need to eat five fruits and veggies a day.
Sometimes, though, the smallest gesture can be the most telling in revealing human compassion. Take this example in an antique joke, on loan from the Museum of Jewish Humour.
An elderly man walks into his local deli, sits down and tells the waiter with a sigh: 'Oy, what a day I've had! Please, a bowl of chicken soup and a kind word.'
Five minutes later, the waiter brings him the chicken soup.
'Waiter, thank you, but you forgot the kind word.'
'Don't eat the chicken soup.'
Here's wishing all our readers a very Merry Christmas.