I’m among those who, like most of the people of the world, do not participate in Christmas. I’ll gloss quickly and lightly over some of my reasons in an effort not to disturb those who exercise their valid right to participate in this holiday celebration. I find the relationship between Christ and Christmas to be tenuous at best and repeated readings and intense study of various translations of the Bible fail to establish any credible connection. The 25th of December cannot be established as the date of Jesus’ birth through the Bible or any other historical record. So, I just avoid the holiday hassle; moreover, I’m cheap.
The idea that we can spot potential terrorists by looking for folks who don’t celebrate Christmas is a myth. My great-grandfather Theodor, after whom I’m named, actually was a terrorist though not a very good one (He was executed by a Russian firing squad for trying to whack the Czar). Indications are that he celebrated Christmas because Catholicism trumps Communist politics. So, what’s to do on this day? Anyway, I won’t be lighting my underwear.
I have, in the past, cut firewood on this day, but, because of the noisy chainsaw, I have come to see this activity as inconsiderate to those who are enjoying this special day. I’ve also come to enjoy the silence that prevails on Christmas day before the local kids find some gasoline and fire up those motorized ridey toys that Santa so cleverly fit down the chimney.
I must confess to one small indulgence of Christmas fantasy. Though it wouldn’t seem likely for a member of the black fingernail fraternity, I like choral music. That’s right, I like to hear a choir singing. It’s a nostalgic connection. The campus at Princeton University provides a haven for joggers and contemplative strollers. Though I’m not a former student, as a young lad I found that wandering about the 200-year-old stone buildings and ornate hidden arches and courtyards provided the perfect atmosphere for thinking through whatever teenage crisis I may have been suffering from at the moment.
The campus was always at its most beautiful during a snowfall. Often, a choir could be heard somewhere off in the distance. I was told that this music spilled over from Westminster Choir College or that some of its students were trying out the acoustics at various points amid the ancient stone structures. This sensation is well captured in a brief scene in the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” which includes some Princeton footage.
On Christmas morning, I leave the radio tuned to “Nine Lessons and Carols” by The Choir of King’s College, live from Cambridge, England (It’s dusk over there). With the volume set very low, the lyrics are unintelligible but sounds like a choir somewhere in the distance, perhaps beneath the tall rock cliff just up stream on the North River.
Erin McCarty, my editor at Vintage Truck magazine, credits me with a measure of brilliance for coming up with the perfect nonparticipant Christmas day activity. We have two old Ford trucks that, though used occasionally, spend most of their time reposed on their Detroit Iron butts. Since they travel under 3,000 miles a year, they are thus allotted only annual oil changes.
The spirit of Christmas, the bell-ringing Santas, Christmas trees atop cars, colorful lighting displays (if copper thieves don’t make off with the wiring) and tales of predatory shopping all serve to remind me that it’s time to change the oil in the old Fords. “That certainly makes it easy to remember to change your oil,” she observes. And it does.
I accidentally discovered that oil filters made to fit a Kubota L-2850 tractor also fit many older Fords. Since so many people like to peek under the hoods of these old trucks and marvel at the spaciousness around the engines, I use Kubota labeled oil filters as conversation pieces. “Hey…” comes the first reaction as they notice the filter brand; then, “What?” as they read the change date marked boldly on the white filter, Dec. 25. It’s a lot of fun. Anyone who might be invited to spend Christmas with us is reminded to bring his or her own oil and filter.