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Sigh, Christmas is nigh. I get all teared up and mushy during the period from around Dec 1 to Dec 30th. 31st, I get pissed and behave like a prick, but 1st to the 30th, you could knock me down, pinch me and stamp on me and I’d smile on benignly and say ‘Thank you, how kind of you… wait, you forgot ta kick me in the butt. Here, put on these hobnailed boots.’

The mood sets in on December 1 when the car radio begins blaring non-stop Christmas carols. Every band worth its name pitches in with its own version of famous Christmas numbers. It’s the 9th taday and I’ve already heard 6 versions of ‘Rain drops on roses’, some virtually unrecognizable as that ‘Sound of Music’ favorite.

The whole thing builds up to a kind of crescendo and suddenly it is the 25th and there you are, standing by the large living room window and looking out into the street as a light curtain of snow drifts down almost vertically in the still air. Even though it is seven in the morning, it is still dark and lights are on in most of your neighborhood. Folk are awake, their kids excitedly opening their presents.

Across the road, a front door opens and the Bastiens’ three kids spill out, screaming and squealing, brand new snowboards under their arms. ‘Nicholas, n’oubli pas tes mitaines’ (Don’t forget your mittens), Sara Bastien calls out to the oldest but they’re already a block away, racing to the snow slide that the city snow clearance guys have fashioned out of all the cleared snow.

I crane my neck and see a ramshackle Volks Passat parked at the Mirons’ driveway.  Serge Miron is a retired Surete du Quebec vice squad detective and the VW wreck belongs to his drug addict son, who drops by just once a year, on Christmas Day. I remember him as a kid growing up, a nice respectful little guy who mowed my lawn for $5 a pop, every summer. Somewhere along he must have decided he wanted to be a loser. Last Christmas I remember waving to him and he just stared right past like I wasn’t even there.

Suddenly there is a beep beep of a heavy vehicle backing up. I crane some more and there’s Samuel Montpetit, the guy who is under contract to clear the driveway snow in our neighborhood. Driveway snow is not the municipality’s responsibility.

Sam comes in whenever the snow is over 4 inches, that’s the understanding. He sits high above inside a heated cabin, on a huge snow plow. Because he leans out to keep an eye on the terrain, he has to leave the driver side window rolled down half way. He compensates by frequently reaching down between his legs and picking up a brown paper wrapped Jack Daniels and swigging from it.

In that cold, the alcohol is too busy trying to keep you warm to get you high. Drinking alcohol in freezing weather is the single most pleasurable activity. After sex, of course. Making sex so pleasurable is probably the only thing that the Almighty Lord got right, I have ta admit. He didn’t make homework or getting the groceries or doing the dishes the most pleasurable when He could very well have if He wanted ta. He made sex the most mind blowing thing instead.

But this piece is not about sex. Do you have ta put words in my mouth?

The custom of attending midnight mass on the 24th has all but disappeared. Nobody wades through snow to get to the neighborhood church anymore. With no donations and no funds coming in for much needed upkeep, churches have turned into sarcophaguses. Church mice are way poorer taday than when the term ‘poorer than a church mouse’ was first coined.

On another note, Christmas, for Christians, has turned into the most stressful period of the year. Planning your gift giving, within the constraints of your budget, the parties, the booze. Hey, by the time Christmas is over, even a blue collar Christian family here ends up dropping minimum two to three grand. The number of cardiac arrests peaks during the Christmas break, no kidding.

Divorces have compounded the complexity of inviting to dinner and gift-giving. You have your mother’s family and your father’s family, your children from your own present and earlier marriages, your children’s children and your children’s children from previous marriages. Throw in a few pretty sis-in-laws and you end up attending three four turkey roasts in one evening, driving through blinding snow across town to get to them.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love big white Christian women. But I’m happy to be on the outside, looking in. This time of the year, I don’t want ta be even Scarlett Johanssen’s boyfriend, thank you, though I wouldn’t mind a passionate smooch or two with her under the mistletoe (when that Persian woman who lives in my house isn’t lookin’ of course).

Come ta think of it, Johanssen is a Nordic name and the Norse first associated the mistletoe with celebration. The mistletoe is a charming little parasitic plant that grows on trees such as the oak and the cedar. The Norse myth about the mistletoe is a beautiful one. The story goes that Balder, the son of the Norse goddess, Frigga had a nightmare where he saw himself dying.

I’ve seen myself croak it in my dreams countless times. Once out of exhaustion even, after making love 15 times in one night (my dreams used ta be a little extreme). Balder however took it as a bad omen and so did his Mom when he told her. It scared her shitless, for should he die, all life on earth would end. To prevent his death, Frigga despatched emissaries to the air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant, seeking an assurance that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on or below the earth.

But Balder had one enemy, Loki, the god of evil and Loki knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under it, but was a parasite which lived on cedar and oak trees. It was the crummy mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of mistletoe and handed it to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it, striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the slain schmuck. For three days each element tried to breathe life back into Balder but failed.

Finally Frigga managed to bring him back to life. I have no idea how. The tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy, Frigga began kissing everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that whoever stands under the mistletoe, cannot refuse a kiss.

And so, the quaint tear-drop leaves and bunches of crimson orange berries are thought to bring good fortune. Kissing Scarlett Jo under the mistletoe is excellent fortune. Ask any guy between 12 and 92 and he’ll back me up on this. If you’re kissing someone under the mistletoe, do so by all means, just make sure the mistletoe is located south of her chin. Kidding. Forget I said that. Heh.

No, I still think its stressful being a Christian.

All the aggravashun over what? Just one God?