Grandma got run over… again!


Every time I hear that song… again… and again… I feel like I’m the one who got run over by the reindeer. OK, it was a very funny song. Once. Until about the 100th time.

But it sure does say Christmas, doesn’t it? What can express the real spirit of the season better than a crazed, 500-pound beast (that’s what Santa’s veterinarian says reindeer weigh) with a 12-point rack stomping on a hapless old lady stewed on egg-nog while grandpa watches TV?

Yep! That’s Christmastime for me. Well, that… and a half-pound turkey drumstick, some barbecue chips, and me with the only TV remote in the house. Ho, ho ho! Merry Xmas!! Pass the dip.

I’m being sarcastic, obviously, but it’s just for fun.

Since the true meaning of Christmas is actually spiritual, the arrival of true love into this world, and its fulfillment… the real symbol of Christmas must be… Mistletoe. Nothing makes a person feel so loved as a big, wet kiss planted on your cheek under a mistletoe sprig, or even better, by a pair of sweet lips. Mistletoe, really?

The mistletoe connection to Christmas is actually easy to see: it’s a decoration, right? Besides, lovers are expected to kiss under it because of… well, could it be its role in the ancient Druids’ mythology? Or maybe in Norse Sagas where Baldr (Thor’s brother) was slain with a mistletoe-wood arrow? Well, maybe not that either? I admit those don’t sound very Christmassy after all.

Or maybe it’s because at Christmas time in 18th century Victorian England servants just liked kissing under mistletoe just because they had some, and that made it a tradition. Then again, it might be merely because mistletoe is the state flower of Oklahoma. Why not?

OK, enough sarcasm. The real symbol of Christmas is obviously The Tree, beautifully decorated and lighted and rooted to the floor by tons of presents.

But there is, actually, a real connection between Christmas and those needl-y green things, though historians say it is only one of many plausible links.

The first Christians, two-thousand years ago, lived in a world hostile to their faith. They were fed to lions for entertainment, skewered to crosses like their namesake and, at best, imprisoned or exiled. There was, however, one time every year when Christians could worship and sing and dance any way they wanted to, openly on the streets of Rome or anywhere else they were pleased to do so.

Romans celebrated a festival called Saturnalia late in every December with a week of debauchery, feasting and an “anything goes” attitude that would make today’s wildest Mardi Gras revelers blush. Even the Christians could do as they pleased.

The connection? Romans used fir trees to decorate their temples at Saturnalia. Christians simply adopted the evergreen as a sign of freedom and everlasting life with God.

Apparently nobody thought of bringing the thing into the house, though, until – as legend tells it – Martin Luther popularized the practice for his children’s delight in the 16th century, ever after to be known as The Christmas Tree.

Symbols, like trees and mistletoe and music (even if you say Grandma’s sad dirge is music), are simply things we hang our meanings on. A Christmas tree is hung with ornaments, ribbons and lights, but really much more.

This week the Jamestown Gazette invites you to go see the Fenton Christmas trees for what else hangs on those fragrant, green bows.

The real ornaments hung on our trees are the love, the family reminiscences and a million gifts of kindness, generosity and traditions piled all around it in our hearts and minds. Maybe this year you will see the lights as symbols of a greater enlightenment, the ornaments as remembrances of loved ones past and the evergreen as a symbol of a promise of good years yet to come.

Whether a Christmas Tree is a part of your own faith tradition or not, let it serve you this year as a place to hang the symbols that mean the most to you. You may find they have much in common with all the others hung there so hopefully by so many for so many years.

Enjoy the joy of the season, and of course, enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.