Ghosts of Christmas Past: Jetta Carleton

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!

.

Jetta Carleton

Swing Magazine, December 1947

Jetta Carleton

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.


Biff’s Commentary

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.


 

 

 

9 comments

  1. Hi Biff, I got to the point many years ago to stop overdoing it at Christmas to make it simple with more focus on the true essence or meaning of Christmas. This is what should be practiced everyday not just over a few days. I usually found within my relatives the values of Christmas were overlooked and not practiced, this was my reason for simplifying it and removing their unpleasant presence. Thank you for the post it really reflects what most people feel they are expected to do. Have a great 2018 Blessings

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  2. Oh and best of the season to you and yours! And thanks for the likes throughout the year. Although I would probably continue to post (my brain is a harsh mistress) without them, it urges me to strive for more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Best of the season to you, too. And you’re welcome for the “likes”, though I only hand them out to writing I really enjoy, so really I should be thanking you for posting something that I enjoy enough to like. 🙂

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  3. Good and timely piece, Biff. It is so easy to dismiss the whole Xmas monstrosity, with its attendant push to buy more more more, as if it were as simple as that to satisfy ourselves and our loved ones.

    It is a call to exercise kindness and goodwill all year round, not just at Xmas. It is in THAT, that I find happiness and a sense of fellowship, not elbowing through the throngs at Best Buy. Thanks for calling attention to it, with that aged, but still relevant piece.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Wilt! And you’re absolutely right. We tend to focus on exactly the wrong things during this season. I agree that this is a season for fellowship and good will and hope. Or, at least, it should be.

      Merry Christmas!

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  4. Are we making progress in terms of a sense of well-being, or are we happier? Well, I cannot make a case for it, sadly. What I can do is say that introspection inspired by not one, but TWO stellar writers gives one enough pause for consideration of the true enjoyment of the season. Further inspired by the simple joy and unexpected delight of watching virtual snow falling here, and perhaps that means there is a sense of enhanced well-being to be had, after all, for anyone wishing to.

    So, for my money, I can say that yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus.

    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for such a beautiful comment, Sandra! And you are absolutely right. What struck me most as I read her essay the first time is that, while uneasiness and worry and fear may be a constant in peoples’ lives, regardless of the era they lived in, so too is hope and our ability to find joy and reasons for optimism under nearly any circumstances. That in itself is cause for hope. 🙂

      Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

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