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I always have liked a poem entitled “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas. He talks about his Christmases growing up in Wales, which you remember from your geography class, is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. The poem talks about wolves, cats and firefighters. The poem begins on Christmas Eve and the author tells stories about all of his Christmases growing up in Wales.

What makes the poem fun is that every house and almost every family has had the same Christmases. There is a big meal with aunts, uncles and cousins attending. There is the after dinner food coma where people sit in the living room or parlor and take naps. There are late afternoon card games and cigars where the women gather in the kitchen away from the men.

In Wales there was no National Basketball Association on TV or indeed any TV at all then. Some people take a brisk walk after dinner whiles other engage in polite conversation. And there is snow plenty of snow. As always there were good presents and necessary present. Good presents being toys, candy, games and other amusements. Necessary presents being jackets, mittens, scarves and other cloths. Christmas Night always featured music and of course Christmas Carols.

We all know that the reality of such stories and poems like “A Christmas Carol” or “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” paint a picture of family togetherness and no strife. Yet we have all had Christmases that indeed there was strife in the family, and Christmas dinner was not such a grand meal. In real life, things are often more complex. Our Christmas may be haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past and Present with the Ghost of Christmas Future throwing a damper on the party.

My family is probably much like yours. We share our kids with the in-laws, so not everyone makes it home for Christmas. When we do have everyone home for Christmas, someone usually has a cold or picked up whatever is going around. We have hosted the family Christmas for several years now and it requires some foresight.

I have no one left of my immediate family so we host my wife’s family. Planning needs to be done to accommodate various health and mobility conditions, some people are vegans others are true carnivores. Green bean casserole must make an appearance, as well as baked corn.

Dinner is served at 1 p.m., and when you look over the table you remember the people who are not there. After dinner, either basketball or football makes an appearance on the TV. People used to play cards after dinner but no more; the true card players have passed on. We never did gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols.

Yet, promptly at 4 p.m., people leave our house to return home to keep an old tradition to get back and milk the cows. Never mind there are no farms left or cows to milk. The parents, grandparents and great grandparents are now far removed from those earthly chores yet tradition is tradition.

Dylan Thomas ended his poem this way: “Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”

Long before Christmas existed the Druids, Celts, Romans and Greeks realized that we had to celebrate the return of the sun and the light. The Christian religion borrowed the time around the Winter Solstice to celebrate the rebirth of the light. It is that light we celebrate.

My Dad would always say on Christmas Eve how happy he was to be home, warm and dry. I cannot improve on that but to say to you: from our house in Lake Hallie to your house wherever you are a Merry Christmas to you and God bless us, everyone.

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John R. Andersen of Lake Hallie is a former state employee who remains active in the fields of fire prevention, government and education.

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