"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Five Days to Christmas: Tiny Baubles, Glittery Bits

From “The Christmas Tree” by C. Day Lewis in A Single Star: An Anthology of Christmas Poetry    compiled by David Davis:

Put out the lights now!
Look at the Tree, the rough tree dazzled
In oriole plumes of flame,
Tinselled with twinkling frost fire, tasselled
With stars and moons — the same
That yesterday hid in the spinney and had no fame
Till we put out the lights now….

So feast your eyes now
On mimic star and moon-cold bauble:
Worlds may wither unseen,
But the Christmas Tree is a tree of fable,
A phoenix in evergreen….

From Christmas in the Good Old Days: A Victorian Album  by Daniel J. Foley:

“When the December issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book appeared in 1850, that old German custom, the Christmas tree, became a conversation piece all across America. Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor, had ‘borrowed’ a picture from The Illustrated London News and entitled it ‘The Christmas tree — a new American custom.’ In the years that followed, churches and homes were decorated lavishly with colorful trees and greens of every description, accentuated with red berries, cones, and dried seed pods. ‘Bringing home Christmas’ meant gathering greens with all the family participating. Charles Dickens, with his ‘Christmas Carol‘ and other holiday stories, had been largely responsible for the revival of this feast of the heart and the home….

“At a time when tinsel, glitter, and baubles were unknown, laurel leaves, sprigs of pine, cedar and hemlock, bittersweet berries, trailing stems of ground pine, ferns, thistle heads, clematis plumes and other wildings were used to make elaborate patterns and tracery around doorways, on mantles, dadoes, and window frames, and wherever space was available for adornment.”

From “Christmas Tree” by Laurence Smith in The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems edited by Michael Harrison and Christopher Stuart-Clark:

Star over all
Eye of the night
Stand on my tree
Magical sight
Green under frost
Green under snow
Green under tinsel
Glitter and glow
Appled with baubles
Silver and gold
Spangled with fire
Warm over cold.

Six Days to Christmas: Angels (and Gnomes and Elves) Among Us

From “Christmas Carol” by Sara Teasdale in Vintage Christmas Traditions edited by Linda Davies:

The angels came from heaven high,
And they were clad with wings;
And lo, they brought a joyful song
The host of heaven sings.

The kings they knocked upon the door,
The wise men entered in,
The shepherds followed after them
To hear the song begin.

The angels sang through all the night
Until the rising sun,
But little Jesus fell asleep
Before the song was done.

From “Wild Holidays” in Gather Ye Wild Things: A Forager’s Year by Susan Tyler Hitchcock:

“Thank goodness for holidays to cheer us through the cold. And thank goodness for wild evergreens to ornament the way…. I come now, under a winter sun cold and shiny, gathering wild evergreens and gay red berries to decorate home for the holidays….

“Mountain laurel is my favorite Christmas evergreen. It can be gathered throughout the eastern mountain regions of this continent. Though harmful to farm animals that might happen upon it (and also to humans, were they to taste the unappetizing leaves), mountain laurel’s looks appeal. Its snarled, striated shrub-trunks open into bouquets of glossy evergreen…. You’ll know you’re in a mountain laurel thicket when you have to stoop to pass under overhanging boughs….

“These are magical places, shaped for elves and gnomes rather than for people.”

Seven Days to Christmas: When Nature Does the Decorating

From Old Christmas by Washington Irving:

“There is something in the very season of the year that gives a charm to the festivity of Christmas. At other times we derive a great portion of our pleasures from the mere beauties of nature…. The song of the bird, the murmur of the stream, the breathing fragrance of spring, the soft voluptuousness of summer, the golden pomp of autumn; earth with its mantle of refreshing green, and heaven with its deep delicious blue and its cloudy magnificence, all fill us with mute but exquisite delight, and we revel in the luxury of mere sensation….

“But in the depth of winter… our thoughts are more concentrated; our friendly sympathies more aroused. We feel more sensibly the charm of each other’s society, and are brought more closely together by dependence on each other for enjoyment. Heart calleth unto heart; and we draw our pleasures from the deep wells of living kindness….”

From “Christmas Feeding Station” in Following their Star: Poems of Christmas and Nature  by Maxwell Corydon Wheat: 

bulbs of red, green, gold in the tree
tinsel, ribbons, a scarlet bow
The birds come anyway

white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches
black-capped chickadees, white-throated sparrows
song sparrows with dark dashes and “stickpin” gold finches,
house finches awash with red
evening grosbeaks, yellow with bold white patches
jays in brillance of clear sky after snowfall
cardinals in cassocks and crests of scarlet

The birds are their own decorations

Eight Days to Christmas: Red and Green

From “Ichod, The Ice Troll” by Santa Claus, in Santa’s Christmas Storybook by Sheila Black:

“Under Owl’s supervision, the work began. The sparrows flew to town and found spools of red and green thread with which to string the decorations. The squirrels gathered nuts and polished them with their little paws until they shone silver and gold.

“The raccoons picked red berries and pine cones and strung them into long, loopy chains. Meanwhile the cardinals and blue jays and other brightly colored birds found all the feathers they had lost and, using their nest-building skills, wove them into ornaments with their agile beaks. The deer and elk helped, too, fetching branches of holly from the forest meadows.

“One by one, the animals hung these decorations on the towering blue spruce. At last, the tree was ready. The animals gathered together to admire their handiwork.

“Their tree had no glass balls or lights like those on other Christmas trees, yet it was no less beautiful without them. From bottom to top, the great spruce glimmered with bright berries, tufts of feathers, colorful dried leaves and flowers, and gold and silver nuts. At the very tip top was a snow-white star made from wild swan feathers, and around the bottom Owl (who prided himself on being able to read and write) had carefully arranged holly branches to spell out the words:

“Merry Christmas!”

From “A Holly Day” in Christmas is Coming! Poems  by Charles Ghigna and Debra Ghigna:

A holly tree,
A holly berry,
A holiday,
And we are merry.

A star above
To wish upon,
A winter’s eve,
A snowy dawn.

All red and green
Along the way,
A holly time,
A Christmas day.

Nine Days to Christmas: Silver and Gold

From “December, the Christmas Tree” in The Book of the Year by Fritz Peters:

“Deep in the winter night, the family will come one by one, carrying great and small boxes, brilliant in all colors, ribboned in red and green, silver and gold, bright blue, placing them under me with the hands of their hearts, until all around me they are piled high, climbing up into my branches, spilling over onto the floor about me.

“In the early morning, with all my candles burning and all my brilliant colors standing out and twinkling in their light, the children in their pajamas and woolen slippers rub their sleeping eyes and stare at me in amazement….

“In the evening, the people stand around me and, looking at me, with their faces shining in my light, they sing and sing, their wishes and joy clambering up into and through my branches, filling the room up to the very roof, passing out into the night and the snow, fainter and fainter….

“In the final stillness the mouse creeps out, hurries across the floor and under my branches, searching and nosing, brushing the branches gently, finding crumbs, secure in the silence of the Christmas night and sharing what comes to all creatures… for I am the Christmas tree.”

From “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” by Eugene Field in Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, and Other Bedtime Poems, edited by Linda C. Falken:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old Moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,”
Said Wynken,
Blynken, and Nod.