A Pleasant Ghost From A Christmas PastThursday, December 12, 2013
Christmas to anybody who has experienced one in their youth is something as indelible as a first day at school or a first love.
My first Christmases in Buenos Aires in the 40s and 50s, with the usual summer stifling heat that approached the high 30s Celsius, involved snow that came in a can with the brand name Noma.
My first cousin Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena told me only three months ago in a trip I made to Buenos Aires in September (I had not seen Wency since we were 21) about how we would go to Midnight Mass after having ascertained that the Christmas tree in my house had nothing beneath it. Then Wency said, “Miraculously when we returned the tree had gifts all around it.” That unexplained miracle is what Christmas used to be fpr me.
There was an attempt then to counter the North American forces at the pass and Santa Claus was Papá Noel. Papá Noel competed with the Tres Reyes (the three wise kings) who brought toys on January 6, the Epiphany.
It was Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. my teacher at St. Ed’s High School in Austin, Texas who one day bluntly told us, “The significance of January 6 is that it represents the transferal of unique rights to heaven (the Israelite’s Testament or accord with God) to one where the formerly unclean (uncircumcised) gentiles were now included as the New Testament. Heaven became universal.
Now in 2013 we have to be very correct in our relationship with the events of December so today I can ascertain that I purchased a Happy Holiday Tree.
While my entry into Canada was in 1975 and that marks my stay in these parts as 38 years, I still feel like a stranger in a strange land.
It was in the late 70s when I was working for a gay publication called Bi-Line that I first experience Handel’s Messiah. It was a disco version in which gay men dancing together at the Luv-A-Affair at Seymour and Drake, would raise their fisted arms to the hallelujahs. I think that since I have gone to one Messiah during a dress rehearsal.
I have two granddaughters, 11 and 16, and two daughters in the late 70s. I have seen enough Nutcrackers and another one would prove the Roman Catholic existence of Purgatory. I do remember this one with pleasure because it came complete with crepes.
I have never understood the constant dusting and re-mounting of Christmas chestnuts, particularly the ones from below that formerly “ungarded” 49th parallel.
Which brings me why I am going to rant and rave about the Art Club’s production of Nicola Cavendish’s (directed most ably by my heartthrob favourite actress/director Lois Anderson) It’s Snowing on Saltspring. To begin there is an important proviso. Even though this play has been shown for many years I had never seen it!
I will rant and rave about this play because of two very important factors. One it is home-grown and there are now yet-to-be winged angels in the production. The location of the play is firmly in Canada, in our west coast on an island we are all familiar.
That second factor is that this play, and particularly this year’s production has the most perfect Santa Claus I have seen in years. Santa is Joel Wirkkunen. I was in delight watching him with all his antics and dealing with Mrs. Claus, Deborah Williams and the unseen but farting elves.
But there is in fact a third reason why I loved the play. This Christmas play celebrated the birth of a baby (which I hope was a baby boy and I will have to ask Ms Cavendish if that is the case).
Nicola Cavendish, the Arts Club Theatre, Lois Anderson and that dramaturg Rachel Ditor have all conspired to bring back a little of my childhood Christmas back.
The cast was excellent but I must give special recognition to assistant Stage Manager Ronaye Haynes who played Karma the Dog. After I saw the play I was trying to persuade my wife to go to the SPCA to see if we could fine a dog just like Karma.
John Lekich on Nicola Cavendish
John Lekich on Nicola Cavendish