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The Cultivation of Christmas Trees (1954)

T.S. ELIOT (18881965)

 
There are several attitudes towards Christmas, 
Some of which we may disregard: 
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial, 
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight), 
And the childish - which is not that of the child 
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel 
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree 
Is not only a decoration, but an angel. 

The child wonders at the Christmas Tree: 
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder 
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext; 
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement 
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree, 
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions 
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell), 
The expectation of the goose or turkey 
And the expected awe on its appearance, 

So that the reverence and the gaiety 
May not be forgotten in later experience, 
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium, 
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure, 
Or in the piety of the convert 
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit 
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children 
(And here I remember also with gratitude 
St.Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire): 

So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas 
(By "eightieth" meaning whichever is last) 
The accumulated memories of annual emotion 
May be concentrated into a great joy 
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion 
When fear came upon every soul: 
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end 
And the first coming of the second coming.