Off in the far edge of the forest in Baum's Land of OZ, comes a story of Santa Claus. (Who knew Santa appeared in OZ?!) In this fantastical story of Santa's life, Baum narrates a story of a baby abandoned at the edge of the woods and taken into the care of a wood nymph (origins from 'Fairy Hills' in heathen Scotland and Ireland—Baum is German and Scots-Irish). As the boy ages, he soon finds he can no longer stay with the nymph, and ventures out on his own to help the suffering children of the world.
In this short story, Baum highlights the traditions of Santa: crafting toys, descending chimneys, flying reindeer, and his eventual immortality. Baum's explanation of Santa's immortality is the most compelling, as Death comes for Santa and various wood spirits, nymphs, fairies, and elves decide to grant him the Mantle of Immortality.
Baum's story of Santa is little known, as it was published toward the end of his writing career (1902) and the OZ story seemed to be sucked dry. The story was unpopular until Rankin-Bass produced an hour special. Today, it still remains "lost" amid the popular children's holiday classics: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Charlie Brown Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Frosty the Snowman.
One of my brother's favorite Christmas carols was "The Little Drummer Boy." I recall as children in our Sunday school Christmas recital, him and his buddy fought over who was going to play the Drummer Boy. Both wanted to "pa, rum, pa-pa-pum" on the little drum and to appease both exuberant drummers, they ended with two Drummer Boys who learned to take turns.
Originally titled "Carol of the Drum," written and composed by Katherine Kennicott Davis, a music teacher at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1941. Davis composed the song based on an old Czech carol; however, the original carol has not been uncovered. The song was first recorded by the Trapp Family Singers (yes, the very family depicted in the Sound of Music) and made popular by Harry Simeone.
Since Simeone the song has graced the talented vocals of such singers as Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey (to name a few). It appears everyone has learned to take turns with this one.
Most recently the Pentatonix released a video of their version of the song.
As arctic air moves into the Pacific Northwest, my husband and I find ourselves snuggling up by the fire and relaying stories of Christmases of ol'. Despite our busy and competing schedules, it is important for us to pause and recall why this time of year is our favorite time of year. It is full of wonder, merriment, family, reminiscence, faith, love, and hope.
This year has been especially a struggle for us: complete with life changes, health problems, financial difficulties, and the most heart wrenching, the unexpected loss of my dear uncle. The King of the Cousins.
As a fellow lover of the English word, history, the festivities of the season, and the Lord, I dedicate this year's 25 Days of Nightlight Readings in honor of Uncle Mike. May these readings warm the hearts of all men and women this holiday, and inspire someone to take pause during the hustle and bustle and remember the true reason for the season.
“To study history is to study the motives, the opinions, and the passions of men in order to know all the successes, the initiatives and the detours, and finally all the illusions that they make known to the mind and the surprises that they make the heart feel. In a word, it is to learn to known oneself in others.”—Jean Mabillon, 15th c. Benedictine scholar.