Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Solstice, Bodhi Day are all December celebrations that inspire, if not encourage, reflection, love, family and forgiveness. Yes, Festivus too. In my culture Christmas suspends time in favor of the emergent soul and its budding faith. It’s also true that, for many, Christmas trappings include traditional family sports arguments, an abundance of food, and gifts galore. The more years I pile on, the less time I choose to spend with the trappings.
On the eve of this Christmas, the house is filled with the noise of two generations of kids; the older kids vying to be young and the much younger adopted siblings squabbling with each other and vying to be old. I find myself grateful for the solace of baking pies and my wee office embraced by hundreds of friendly books piled on and under my desk or stacked somewhat orderly in book cases. The pungent odors of baking spices brightens the room. The noise distanced by several rooms, a closed door, and a yard sounds like music. No one needs me now. It’s my time for reflection and gratitude.
Like a leaf caught in a meander, I wonder why. Why the cruel and unnecessary human and animal violence? Why the divisions of culture and religion each claiming a superior position? Why the false flags and political subterfuges? Why the homeless? Why the homeless veterans? Contemplating why is like pondering infinity, it ties the brain and the soul in knots.
Gratitude is a much easier branch on the river of life; the current is strong and defined. Like you, I can trace my family back to the Revolutionary War and the founding of this country I love. Family members have fought, died, been crippled physically and emotionally, and survived in every war and major U.S. military action. Most fought in the uniformed services, but many contributed in support services. Tonight and tomorrow, our family will celebrate Christmas according to our own traditions because my forefathers and millions of their brethren kept the United States alive. All people in the countries we call the Free World can tell the same tale.
Most of us find comfort in the celebrations of December. We relax our bodies and our paranoia to celebrate a dream of what might be. That’s not always been wise. George
Washington attacked the Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas in 1776. Surprise. It was Christmas 1862, when Confederate cavalry commander John Hunt Morgan launched a Christmas Raid into Kentucky. The Rebel horsemen attacked Union supply convoys, destroyed bridges and fought any Yankee troops they found. Surprise. And, around Christmas 1916 there was a terrible battle on the Eastern Front north of Riga between the Germans and Russians. On Dec. 23, two Latvian brigades
surprised elements of the Kaiser’s 8th Army. During the “Christmas Battle”, about 40,000 troops supported by 200 big guns attacked the German lines. By the end of Christmas week a quarter of them were dead. No surprise. In December 1941, Britain was forced to surrender Hong Kong to Japan and in 1944 Patton rolled into Bastogne. Surprise. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Nixon launched the Christmas bombing campaign on Hanoi in 1972. Beginning on December 18th and continuing for eleven days, the air assault Codenamed Operation Linebacker II painted Hanoi’s skies with B-52 Stratofortresses and 2,000 strike aircraft. More than 20,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the city making it one of the largest air campaigns in history.
Fewer tales are told of soldiers quitting the battle for a night of peace and quiet. History.com relates one such event in 1914. “…Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer….” These are the men and women who take care of our rude and nasty business on Christmas when diplomacy fails.
Tonight is no exception. Men and women around the globe are watching tracers, stuck in mountain hellholes, or eating dinner in a mess tent far away and down the road. We thank them and the contractors who support them. Today we are fighting a hellacious enemy dedicated to reforming the world in his own image. He is not likely to call it a night and meet in the middle for a hot toddy or friendly game of cards. Gifts and boxes
have been sent and donations made, but it is not enough. The candles in our window remain lit in faith that there is a way home.
Our teenage boys want to be soldiers. They want to huddle in tanks, shiver on decks, and march through the night to save a way of life. I know what that reality looks like and I want them home fighting over whether the last throw of the football was a fair catch.
Merry Christmas from our home to yours. We wish each and every one of you a safe and joyous Christmas. However you celebrate this time in your culture, I am pulling for the human race to survive and thrive together in mutual respect. It’s time to prepare the apples for the next batch of pies.