Christmas Carol

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Yesterday someone asked me what my favourite Christmas Carol was. I was stumped for a moment. No one had been talking of Christmas carols or songs, so it came at me out of the blue. The first one to come to mind was “Silent Night” so that’s what I told the youngster. She said hers was “Blue Christmas” and that was that.

I didn’t want to get into a semantic discussion, but I have always divided Christmas music and songs into two categories. For me, Christmas carols are the religious songs, the hymns about the coming of the Christ. Christmas songs are different; they deal with the customs and peripheral matters of our celebration. “O Holy Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” these are carols; “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Deck the Halls,” “Oh Christmas Tree,” they are songs for the ways in which we celebrate the Christmas season. (A third category which people throw into the mix are winter songs such as “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” which have nothing to do with Christmas, only the winter season and could as joyfully be sung in February. And perhaps should be sung and played throughout the winter.)

After some time to think about it, I have decided that my favourite Christmas carol is the one known as the Huron Carol, written by Jean de Brebeuf in the 1620s here at the Jesuit Mission to the Huron/Wyandot people in their language. Translations have been made into French and English over the years (as well as into other North American native languages.) There are several things I like about it. It is a true carol, dealing with the birth of Christ. It uses the language and imagery of the people for whom it was written to convey its message, giving it a spontaneity that would otherwise be either missing or artificial. The melody Fr. Brebeuf adapted was simple and plain, needing no choirs or soaring symphonic accompaniment. It has found its way into my being and holds its place there.

Even so, that doesn’t mean that my favourite carol always remains the same. I can remember one year I had the privilege to sing “O Holy Night” as a solo with choir. That became my favourite for many years. The Caribbean “Mary’s Boy Child” also held that place for a time, as did the Dutch anthem “Eere Zij God.”

This season the Huron Carol, “Jesus Ahatonhia,” has claimed that spot.

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Winter Boots

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I got myself a decent pair of winter boots today; I have a feeling I may need them.

Last winter was a strange time. We didn’t have much snow and I did without boots (using regular walking shoes, not the dress shoes) until well into January. Then I bought an inexpensive pair to do me until spring. They barely lasted; they were a thick canvas material covered with a thin coat of some rubber or latex material. By spring they were cracked and letting in moisture. I used them a time or two during summer hikes for ankle support, but they no longer served their main purpose and were now consigned to the garbage.

Checking out new footwear can be quite a chore. They are never the size I think my feet are; therefore I have to try on each pair that strikes my eye and is in my size range. One store had a handsome pair in size 8 1/2 (my current shoe size) so I tried them on. They didn’t fit. The clerk could not find an identical pair in size 9, not even 9 1/2, so I left disappointed.

I was wandering around a retail area (a mall that isn’t a mall but a puzzle of stores and parking lots) and passed through a Zellers to check for inexpensive CDs when I saw signs proclaiming all winter footwear reduced by 40%. I checked it out – just in case, you know. I looked through the stuff they had set up in several different displays when I saw a pair of boots that struck my fancy. What was more surprising, they fit! Straight to the cashier, no browsing through music or other matter.

They feel good. Up to about mid-calf. Black, and smelling of leather (though that can be faked, I believe). Felt insoles. Faux fur lining. Size 9.  And the sale price brought it under $50.00.

But the feature that really sold it to me was its closure: a heavy-duty Velcro fastening on each side. No more struggling to get feet to slide into boots! No more struggling with little zippers by cold fingertips! Please, let them last! I have already learned to close them from the bottom (open from the top) or I leave a bubble-like opening at the ankle.

Now, let it snow if it must.

About Victims’ Rights

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Every time I hear about public demands  for special “rights” I cringe. Such rights are neither given to a person nor inherent. A mother has no more rights than a childless woman. Homosexuals have no more rights, no less rights, no different rights than any one else. Animal rights are ridiculous because animals have no sense of right; instead, we humans have responsibilities toward them that we  must carry out but often do not.

 Victims of crime cry out that they have special rights, moreover that they have the right to be compensated, that society owes them an amount of money just for being the victim of crime. As I pointed out above, a state of being should not carry automatic special “rights,” whether that state is being a mother, a homosexual, a victim, a potato-headed stringbean, or whatever label we use to set ourselves apart.

Nor does the justice system, as representing society, owe compensation to victims of crime. A long time ago societies did work out compensations for crimes but those were paid not by society as a whole but by the perpetrator found guilty, or the perpetrator and his family. The man who stole your calf had to pay you what that calf was deemed to be worth or an equivalent in “goods or services.” The system worked well. (Remnants can be found in insurance policies that put a cash value on loss of a limb, an eye, etc.)

What happened? About a thousand years or more ago, the established Christian church became the predominant social system of justice. With it came a radical change in the perception of  “justice.” No longer would justice be based on adequate compensation to the victim of wrong doing by the wrong-doer; justice became a matter of the repentance of the perpetrator before God, the church, and society. Repentance from sin was uppermost. Acts of penance, be they a sequence of prayers, an act of service to the church, a public display such as a pilgrimage, became the result of social wrongs. Victims were swept away, discounted.

Our system is still dependent on that idea of penance, that the perpetrator become publicly sorry for his action. That’s why they are called penitentiaries, those places where we hold wrong-doers until they have shown, to our satisfaction, that they repent, that they are penitent. Such is the system with which we have saddled ourselves.

Now victims’ rights organizations want to go back to our pagan laws: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; a thousand dollars if I cripple your leg, seventy-five thousand if I take your life (unless an actuary decides your life is worth more, or perhaps less, to society and/or relatives.) You have to take one system or the other. If you want cash value placed on crimes (i. e. compensation for them) then you have to divest yourself of punishment to induce penitence.

Perhaps we’re ready for a totally new system of justice, one combining penance and compensation. But. We would have to begin anew, as a lawless society making the rules for ourselves.