The following was written by Jetta Carleton in the December 1947 issue of Swing magazine. My commentary appears below her essay.
YOU say to yourself it’s not
worth it. It’s too much wear
and tear, too commercial, too frantic,
too sentimental. You can’t be
bothered with it this year. Besides,
eggs just went up again, and Junior’s
braces haven’t been paid for
yet, and there isn’t any peace on
earth, anyway. Why don’t they
stop ringing those damn’ bells!
And then the chimes ring a little
louder and you begin to recognize
the tune. You smell Christmas
trees. Your own child looks up at
you as if at Santa Claus and God,
and you fall completely apart and
buy a whole block of Christmas
seals. The woodfire makes a soft
uproar on the hearth, and you remember
sleds and grandparents.
Every church becomes a Christmas
card. Your face begins to thaw.
You find yourself patting backs
and dropping quarters in cups. To
hell with the budget! You shove
your way into the glittering shops
and snatch at stockings and ties
with the rest of the mob, and puzzle
over perfumes and maribou, and
buy candy with sinful abandon!
What of those ancestral voices
prophesying war? That’s only Gromyko
exercising the veto again –
or maybe a senator making a
speech. What of Spain and Argentina
and the town where Christmas
began? Well, you can’t dismiss
them. They’re part of your world
. . . But no denial of Christmas
is going to make the world any better.
For Christmas is fundamentally
a tribute to an ideology – to
the supreme example of human
kindness and love. There. You have
it all figured out! So deck the hall
and sing of the angels! Practice
peace for the moment at least.
Christmas has come and you’re glad.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen!
Swing Magazine, December 1947
Ms. Carleton was contributing editor of Swing Magazine at the time she wrote this essay, though she would go on to become well established by the early 1960s in New York’s advertising world by writing TV ads for Ivory soap. She would also pen a novel called “The Moonflower Vine” that was published in December 1962 to rave reviews. Here is a link to a very good article about her.
I love old books and magazines, especially from the 1930s and 1940s, and while poking around through some old magazines, I came across the gem above from Jetta Carleton. It was published in Swing magazine (a regional magazine based in Kansas City) in December 1947, which was barely two years after the conclusion of WWII.
Even though it was a tumultuous time and the world was dealing with the likes of WWII and the emergence of the atom bomb, it also seemed to be a somewhat simpler time. Note that I did not say better. I just said simpler. And I’m sure the people who lived in 1947 would probably disagree even with the word “simpler”. Everything always seems simple in retrospect when we can see how everything turned out.
What struck me most about Ms. Carleton’s essay above is that it touched on some of the very same things we struggle with today and that we think are unique to our time. She wrote of the over-commercialization of Christmas, the frantic pace of the holidays, the everyday financial worries that make us fret about the cost of Christmas, and the instability and dangerousness and unpredictability of the world we live in. Is that any different from our world today? It really makes me wonder if we are making any progress at all in terms of peoples’ sense of well-being and happiness.