There is nothing else as real Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 09:00
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“Isn’t it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for – I don’t know what exactly, but it’s something that you don’t mind so much not having at other times.”

Author Kate Langley Bosher, who wrote during the late 1890’s and early 20th century, said this. And I’m sure you know the sort of loneliness she means. I knew this feeling especially well as a child during Christmas holidays. See, on one side of the family I was much too young to keep company with my grown-up cousins and just a little too old to be part of the games my cousins’ children played.

And this is how my own Christmas tradition started – watching Christmas movies. There’s this one movie that used to appear like clockwork on TV during the festive season. I’ve watched it in Duiwelskloof, Rustenburg, even Heystekrand – everywhere the family gathered. But, no matter how much I’ve Googled, I cannot find its name.

The theme is a bit macabre; something about a woman in a wedding gown sitting all alone at a huge table with beautiful place settings and cakes covered with dust, while rats wind their way in and out of the semi-fossilised food. Okay, yes - like that.

In my own defence I must say it’s not the only childhood Christmas movie I remember. I love the 1946 movie – ‘It’s a wonderful life’ – where, after attempting to commit suicide on Christmas Eve, a man is rescued by a guardian angel and shown what his hometown would be like had he never lived.

Of course, ‘A midnight clear’ is my ultimate Christmas tearjerker. Set in France in 1944 it’s about American and German soldiers spending Christmas together before their cooked-up surrender plan turns bad and both sides are forced to fight each other.

Tearjerkers aside, if you want something that has been inspiring people for more than a hundred years, you should watch ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus’. This is the true story of an eight-year-old girl’s 1897 letter to ‘The New York Sun’ and the editor’s answer.

Virginia O’Hanlon’s friends told her that there was no Santa Claus and when she went to her father for the truth he advised her to take her question to the experts – the editors of the newspaper.

Veteran editor Francis P Church had covered the Civil War for ‘The New York Times’ and had worked on the ‘The New York Sun’ for 20 years. When controversial subjects had to be tackled, the assignments were usually given to Francis.

Francis’ answer became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business. In 1932 his answer was adapted into a cantata, the only known editorial set to classical music. In 1974 it was adapted into an Emmy Award-winning animated television special, in 1991 into a made-for-TV movie, and in 1996 into a holiday musical.

Francis told Virginia that the world would be dreary if there were no Santa Claus! “It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”

“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.”

“The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

Francis wrote that “there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond.”
Is it all real? Ah, girlfriend, it is as Francis told Virginia: In all this world there is nothing else as real and abiding.


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