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Archive for November 28th, 2011

With the start of the Christmas season being underway, here in North America, it is difficult to not think about all that fills the season. For the next few weeks, my blog posts will be directed towards this festive season.

My hubby has introduced me to so much Christmas sub-culture that I was unaware of before. And, since meeting him, when I think of Christmas the first thing that pops into my head is the following poem he taught me:

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

This little ditty is known as a poem, and a Christmas Carol, but more frequently as a nursery rhyme. The author’s name is unknown. In the late nineteenth century, the music for the song was composed by Edith Nesbit Bland. It’s simple rhyme scheme makes it easy to remember, and it’s message is one which is timeless, and so it has been easily handed down for well over one hundred years.

The language of the poem takes me to the time of Ebeneezer Scrooge, perhaps during the Industrial Revolution (late eighteenth to mid. nineteenth century), when child labor and beggars or every age were a norm. I have in my mind a picture of a weathered old man saying this rhyme with a Cockney English accent, while holding out his tattered hat to passers-by.

The words of this well quoted verse remind us of the approach of the season that is indicated, not just by the calendar, but also the girth of the geese. They are fattening up for the seasonal feasts. I wonder, though, if perhaps the unknown writer was thinking more about our girths? And how fat with wealth we are? Because the following line states, “please put a penny in the old man’s hat.”

This poem was written before social services, before old age pension, before any state run social assistance. The old who never had money to put aside when they were younger and working were either taken in by family, or lived on the streets. Today, there are still people on the streets, or one pension cheque away from it. And we should never be so gullible as to think that the helps we have today will always be here for us (or our children). In this time of economic woes in countries near and far, the future is not easy to forecast for any of us.

So, give to those who are in need! You and I have plenty! We have been given much!

And, as the next verse states, it doesn’t have to be a large amount. Give, not from your great wealth, but from your heart and with an attitude of gifting. Much like the the story of the gift of the widow at the temple. She gave her two last coins, which were really almost useless, but they were all she had. You do not have to give a large amount (of course … she only had two coins, and she gave both … she could have given one, and kept one … just sayin’).

And then the last verse ends the plea for help, with “If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!”

Speak to untouchable, unclean, ‘unbeautiful’ people. Greet older people with a smile, hold a door for them, say ‘God Bless you’ to them. You might make their day, their holiday season one of hope.

God bless you, as you enter into this season.

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