Wicked as we are


“Most sensible people say that adults cannot be expected to appreciate Christmas as much as children appreciate it. … But I am not sure that even sensible people are always right; and this has been my principal reason for deciding to be silly—a decision that is now irrevocable. It may be only because I am silly, but I rather think that, relatively to the rest of the year, I enjoy Christmas more than I did when I was a child. Of course, children do enjoy Christmas—they enjoy almost everything except actually being smacked: from which truth the custom no doubt arose. But the real point is not whether a schoolboy would enjoy Christmas. The point is that he would also enjoy No Christmas. Now I say most emphatically that I should denounce, detest, abominate, and abjure the insolent institution of No Christmas. The child is glad to find a new ball, let us say, which Uncle William (dressed as St Nicholas in everything except the halo) has put in his stocking. But if he had no new ball, he would make a hundred new balls out of the snow. And for them he would be indebted not to Christmas, but to winter. … [I]n one sense, we may truly say the children enjoy no seasons, because they enjoy all.

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“[B]roadly speaking, a house is a thing that stands still. And a thing that stands still is a thing that strikes root. One of the things that strike root is Christmas: and another is middle-age. The other great pillar of private life besides property is marriage; but I will not deal with it here. Suppose a man has neither wife nor child: suppose he has only a good servant, or only a small garden, or only a small house, or only a small dog. He will still find he has struck unintentional root. He realizes there is something in his own garden that was not even in the Garden of Eden…. He realizes, what Peter Pan could not be made to realize, that a plain human house of one’s own, standing in one’s own backyard, is really quite as romantic as a rather cloudy house at the top of a tree or a highly conspiratorial house underneath the roots of it. But this is because he has explored his own house, which Peter Pan and such discontented children seldom do. All the same, the children ought to think of the Never-Never Land—the world that is outside. But we ought to think of the Ever-Ever Land—the world which is inside, and the world which will last. And that is why, wicked as we are, we know most about Christmas.

G.K. Chesteron, “More Thoughts on Christmas”, from The Uses of Diversity (1921).

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