A Kernel of Magic

Father Christmas

Father Christmas (Photo credit: Scottwdw)

“No matter how tired and cranky, how jaded or cynical, how utterly tiresome Christmas becomes, there is always a kernel of magic at its core, isn’t there?” – Will Ferguson

The magic at the core of Christmas is what makes the season enchanting. Whether it is the wonder of the original Christmas story, our family traditions that lighten up the dark days, or even belief in that jolly old elf—the feeling that the season elicits is magical.

Canadian author, Will Ferguson, wrote a charming little memoir called “Coal Dust Kisses”, which harkens to his childhood days. He and the other children brought up around the Cape Breton coal mines had proof positive that Santa had visited their houses on Christmas Eve. The proof was not in the presents beneath the tree, but in a smudge of coal dust on their foreheads.

Coal mining

Coal mining (Photo credit: Toban Black)

Ferguson’s grandfather worked in the mines before he found a job at the Canadian National Railroad; but Ferguson himself  never saw the inside of a mine shaft, and in his words: “God willing, never would”. Born in Cape Breton, he became part of a tradition that comes from being in a coal mining area. It was Father Christmas that Ferguson’s father waited for on Christmas Eve; and on Christmas morning he had evidence that the gentleman “had tiptoed through houses, late at night, covered in soot…”  He “would stop to kiss children on the forehead when they lay sleeping…” When the children awoke in the morning, there on their foreheads were “coal dust kisses.”

The author waited for Santa Claus who replaced Father Christmas over the years, but the tradition of “coal dust kisses” carried on. He remembers the “stampede of feet towards the bathroom mirror”  on Christmas morning, when he and his siblings crowded into the bathroom and “stared in awe and wonderment” at the smudge on their foreheads—providing the elusive proof positive that Santa Claus had left his calling card. This, he said was “a moment of magic” captured in countless yuletide photographs.

He has continued the tradition with his own family, taking the “Scottish coal-mining tradition…from Cape Breton to the northwest woods, from Ecuador to southern Japan, and back again to Canada.” Tradition, handed down from generation to generation travels easily. The jolly old elf takes his magic with him wherever he goes, or wherever we go.

The magic of Christmas belies the sometimes gaudy pomp and circumstance of commercialism (which we have to admit has its place and puts food on the table for many). Believing in something for the sake of believing without question does not seem to be a simple thing. We need proof, whether it be in “coal dust kisses” or something else that we can see, touch or feel.  Sometimes though, we have to just believe in the magic of Christmas and not dissect it until we no longer recognize its wonder.

So what proof do you have of the magic of Christmas? What is your “kernel” of Christmas magic?

P ~ Is for Pants (as in Ms. Bossy-Pants)

Scrooge stars alongside his grandnephews on Du...

Scrooge stars alongside his grandnephews on DuckTales. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, I know I am stretching this alphabet thing a little here using P for Pants when the real title is Ms. Bossy- Pants–but be kind to me–I have brain cells dying as we speak:

Do you ever buy a book thinking that it is the one that will solve all your life problems? That once you read it, you will have all the knowledge you need to get your ducks in a row? Right now my ducks are scattered hither and thither, and no amount of bribing, cajoling, or organizational tips have enticed them into a nice neat row. I am thinking that Huey, Dewey and Louie have minds of their own and getting in line or standing in a row is not something they are ready to be charmed into.

Many times I will justify buying a book because I think I will write about the topic it is so convincingly putting forth. Sometimes I make a mistake and the book does not deserve space in my bookshelf. But we all have to live with bad choices.  Case in point: a book I picked up about a year ago said in its blurb that it would find order in my life. It lured me in hook, line and sinker.  Its cover was orange (my favourite fall colour), the font of the title alluring, and its promise to shed my life of disorder, turmoil, mayhem and madness (okay I am exaggerating slightly here) was more than I could bear. I just had to have this book.

But, I do not like the book—it is just a bit too bossy. And while a lot of what it says is right, I don’t care. I do not want to follow its dictates, as smart and practical as they are. And that is what I think is wrong with the book. It has no sense of humour. If I am going to be convinced to be more organized and to give up my most prized possessions while doing it, I need to do it with a smile on my face, and not by taking my marching orders from someone who knows better. If I am going to listen to someone I want them to convince me that it is my idea to clean out my closet, or throw away those clothes from high school, or give up my collection of Mad magazines. I do not want them to tell me.


Bossy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The magic bullet here is the way that one goes about being bossy. You can be bossy without really being bossy and get your point across. The book (that I am not naming on purpose as I do not want the author and her “people” to find me and make me dust and vacuüm as punishment for not appreciating their book) is just too sensible. Even when it is trying to give you advice on enjoying life—it demands that you enjoy life rather than suggesting it—like it is our duty and obligation to enjoy life, and not a pleasure.

Overall, the book is not a pleasure to read. It reads like a textbook in a subject you had to take at school, rather than something you elected to take. The author did not come across as friendly, but authoritative. Even messages that were not a difficult pill to take, were left wanting as they seemed joyless.

Books that want you to change your behaviour in some way need to be friendly. The author needs to have a rapport with the reader, and tell them that they understand the problem, or that they had the problem too, but found a solution. And the most important thing is to not make your readers feel stupid. This book makes you feel stupid—like you should be ashamed of the fact that you kept artifacts from the lovely times in your life as memories. Purging your life of all things that memories are made of is not a message I take to easily.

I guess I am disappointed that I spent hard-earned cash on something that was not at all what I thought it was going to be. The philosophy on the front cover is one I want to embrace (loosely it touts “less is more”) but not the way the author wants me to embrace it.

Soft sell works best on me, and this book was no soft sell. It was a “my way or the highway” kind of book. So to the highway this book will go.

(And no, there is no prize for the person who finds the most clichés in this blog. Actually there is–you can have my book.)

I'm Bossy

I’m Bossy (Photo credit: F.Lady)

Published in: on September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm  Comments (35)  
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