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The Mantle and the Three Acts

Though the seasons may change, one part of the house stays constant.

A cottage in the wood stands apart of this world, cozy and simple. Inside the little cottage we find nothing unusual. Pots and pans hang from the ceiling in the kitchen, the rugs on the floor well-worn and used, the windows were set long ago with their panes slightly distorting the image of outside. Then there’s the matter of the fireplace, either roaring or embracing embers in its iron grasp depending on the season and time of day. Above this alcove was where the stockings were hung with care, on the mantle. The same mantle on which hangs the hopes portrayed in the open arms of children, reaching out for the goodies, the toys, the magic, that a certain time of the year brings.

It is a different mantle men and women throughout the world take upon themselves, yet still full of magic and bearer of gifts. The hustle and bustle of Christmas can detract from the true meaning, one of love and kindness. At no other time in the year is there a time filled with more opportunities to be nice, especially on the road, to others. Though the season seems to fly by quicker than anything on slick ice, there remains the hopes and dreams of so many.

I am of the opinion that there is a reason for saying “Happy Holidays.” It isn’t a replacement for “Merry/Happy Christmas,” it is only a sentiment that encompasses Christmas and its sibling holidays. The theatrical show opens in Act One: Thanksgiving. Here the Holidays begin! When is there more traffic then on turkey weekend? More people are actually able to commute by car safely as the snow hasn’t arrived in many cities. Family gather around the table to express thanks for the year, for each other, and for the delicious feast that awaits devouring. The main attraction is the feast, there is no special visitor other than the turkey or ham that only appears this time of year. Having been fed and well rested, the curtain closes on Act One only to open on Act Two.

The show continues with the busiest time of the year, the brief space lasting close to 30 days. Now, not only must food and feasting be prepared, but activities must be planned, house decorating, tree choosing, cookie baking, and present wrapping are all a part of the daily thought. Here is the climax of the production. We’ve left the ordinary world of food and entered into a magical candy cane lined street wrought land. Figures emerge from faraway to give us a glimpse of the most exciting day of the year and what goodies they’ve prepared for us. Flying deer and a magical sleigh accompany unexplainable travels. Once the day has dawned, the journey begins to lull. Everything is stripped down as before, but there is one last farewell before joining the regular world again.

Act Three opens with leftovers, finger sandwiches, bubbly, and table cloths of white. Gold and ivory are the choice colors for the rebirth of time, the beginning of a new year. Friends and family come together to reminisce about the past months. It is a farewell of sorts, a saying goodbye to old habits, regrettable choices, and questionable lifestyles. A new chapter is about to begin. Once graduated from high school, this is the closest to that feeling felt on the last day of the school year. What adventure awaits the “summer vacation” of the new year?

The audience chants down the seconds till the show will end, and in a brief exchange of hugs and kisses, they dawn their coats and head back to their lives. They all remember the magic and love they felt during this time of only a few weeks. The bulbs and lights are struck down from their places, the mantle once again ready to collect dust instead of stockings and toys.

And though the mantle taken upon the performers of the second act seems to disappear for Act Three, it doesn’t really go away. When these performers leave the stage and return home, they cannot disregard its importance, put it away in the closet, and let it hang there for another year. It’s more than just the act of putting on a suit, no matter the initial cost. Putting on that mantle connects these performers to the others in the production. Do not disregard the suit.

It is by this mantle, that we have allowed ourselves to be adopted into a family. A family who has a very important mission. We have voluntarily given up a little bit of ourselves in the process of being adopted into the international family that wears red all during December. Our roots can be traced through whatever origin of Santa Claus we are most partial to. Sinterklaas, Christkindl, Father Christmas, The Russian Grandfather Frost, Papa Noel, Pierre Noel, etc. but we all come back to the man we try to emulate, St. Nicholas.

Though we may not know very much about him as a man, we know his memory is great. His kindness and love formed his legacy. But who motivated him to be so good? Who was his St. Nicholas? Who was his Santa Claus? As a man of the cloth, the greatest Gift-Giver of all inspired Nicholas to conduct his life as he did. Let us not forget that St. Nicholas’ Hero was a Man born in a stable. A Man who went about doing good, and forgave often, He is the reason for the season. And we continue the work He started. As such, the mantle of kindness St. Nicholas took on himself through his calling, we have taken upon ourselves through ours.

For most of the year the mantle in the cottage may have stubs of candles, seasonal-less decorations, or coins and other trinkets tossed up there and forgotten, but it is the stockings, and perhaps a Nativity Scene, when placed up there during “the most wonderful time of the year” which give the house the spirit of a home.

Let us be the messengers of love and kindness. Let us share our happiness with those whom we meet. Let us have fun, let us deliver toys, and let us spread good tidings of great joy to all those who will have us.

It’s more than just the suit, it’s what one can become by changing their heart to be one filled with love.

Yours as always,

Santa Stuart

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