Some years ago, when I lived in West Yorkshire, I put together a Christmas play with the kids at our local church. It was all about taking the o’s out of Christmas. The idea was for economy, to begin with. In some places, the average household spend on Christmas was £620.00. Take out those big round things and it’s £62. Even in posh places where they spend £830.00 it’s still only £83.00 In Yorkshire, where it was £500.00, we had it down to a fiver. So the way to a good Christmas, or rather a gd Christmas, was to leave out the letter ‘o’.
When I explained this to the kids they loved it, principally because within ten seconds they’d worked out that without ‘o’ there wouldn’t be any school. You couldn’t have food, but you could have breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea, dinner, supper and snacks. Sprouts were out. After that it became more complicated, because you could have presents, but not in a stocking.
The Herald Angels could still sing Hark, but the bells would have to go Ding Dung Merrily on High and St Wenceslas couldn’t be good. Bethlehem couldn’t be a Little Town, it would have to be a sizeable village, and the night could be silent, but not holy. The Little Dinky would carry Mary.
You could still have a Happy Christmas, even a peaceful one, but how does that work without love? And how can you have Christmas without joy? Without a sense of wonder? And how can you leave the ‘O’ out of Christmas when Christmas is saying is ‘Oh!’ Carols and ancient chants begin with ‘O’. You know the sparkle and beauty of Christmas is awakening when eyes and mouths take on that shape. It’s something that writers have aimed and worked and struggled to do, to capture that sense of wonder, and a most wonderfully satisfying thing to feel that you’ve caught that spirit of breath-holding excitement and shared it.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe does it for me. And The Children of Green Knowe, by Lucy Boston. The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge, who created atmosphere as nobody else could. Beatrix Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester. If you have ‘O’ books about Christmas, please tell us. And I wish you a happy, good, joyful and loving Christmas with lots of Oh!