Sun 27 Dec 2009
Christmas week was a roller coaster ride for me. Amid all the merriment, I hit a young buck a week ago while driving on Lucas Valley Road. The deer was fatally injured when it jumped in front of my car just as I passed. It’s an old story.
The only other deer I’ve ever hit was a fawn 30 years ago, and both times I’ve been saddened by the animals’ misfortune. This time, however, I also felt a bit sorry for myself. The collision did more than $400 damage to a headlight.
I hadn’t planned on having a Christmas tree this year, but one literally dropped from the sky and landed close to my front door. On Christmas Eve, I found a nicely shaped tip of a pine branch on the ground. It had probably been gnawed off by a squirrel high in a tree that’s near my front steps.
‘What the heck?’ I thought and stuck it in a stand almost as big as the “tree” itself. My little Tannenbaum had room for only a few ornaments, but that was fine. And when I took a picture of it, the camera’s flash serendipitously created a Star of Bethlehem on a window behind the tree.
Overheard at a party: A couple of modest means invited me to a boisterous celebration where one of the guests brought an uninvited man. After listening to the man hold forth about a recent trip to Europe and an upcoming return trip to Hawaii, the hostess sarcastically commented she wasn’t as “rich” as he.
“I’m not rich. I’m broke,” the man replied indignantly. “That’s just my lifestyle.” I wondered if his lifestyle might account for his being broke.
Early last week, I received a Christmas card from an older woman who once owned a business in Point Reyes Station. As of last fall, she was in an assisted-living facility over the hill.
The card, however, had been sent from the Cooperstown Medical Center. “I’m in Cooperstown, North Dakota,” she wrote, “but now I forget why.” It was a poignant admission, and I wish her well.
The day after Christmas is a public holiday in much of Northern Europe (where it coincides with St. Stephen’s Day) and in most of the English-speaking world other than the United States. Boxing Day, as it is called in English, originated in a tradition from the Middle Ages — perhaps from the days of ancient Rome — of giving gifts to household servants and the needy on a certain date.
Some people have theorized that the English name for the celebration originated in the practice of churches opening their alms boxes the day after Christmas and distributing the contents to the needy.
“What did you do for Boxing Day?” I wrote one cousin. “I spent mine celebrating Kwanzaa.” Also occurring the day after Christmas is the start of Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration of African culture. The celebration was launched 43 years ago by Black Power activist Ron Karenga.
The name comes from matunda ya kwanza, which is Swahili for first fruits of the harvest. The celebration, which has been commemorated with two postage stamps, has been becoming somewhat more mainstream, with a few million US citizens of diverse races and religions now observing it.
So I hope you enjoyed a happy Chanukah, or a jolly Winter Solstice, or a merry Christmas, or a beatific Boxing Day, or a convivial start to Kwanzaa — or all of the above. If you didn’t, there’s still New Year’s Eve to come, so get out there and party.