06 January 2011

The Feast of Epiphany

Well, officially Christmas is over. It is the Feast of the Epiphany, when it is said that the Magi/Wise Men (not the three Wise Men, since the Bible never specifies how many there were; three has become traditional due to the three gifts named, gold, frankincense, and myrrh—some cultures say there were twelve Wise Men) reached the child Jesus to present gifts to him. (Again, the Bible does not state the Wise Men arrived at the stable in Bethlehem. In fact, it mentions that they found the child, not necessarily still a baby, in a house.)

Since we got the bad news about BJs yesterday, I was there first thing this morning—in fact, even before they opened, gathered with a bunch of people mourning the store—to make sure that I did get things for the party. I had been told, and so did some of the others waiting at the door, that the merchandise would be on discount. That didn't happen, but I did get the party stuff, and also some extra items, like tea and mushrooms, then came home.

So I've been tidying up for the event, mostly washing the floors upstairs and in the foyer, and also sweeping downstairs. Before Christmas, I used the vacuum cleaner, which is supposed to be rated for both floors and carpet, on the foyer to get it as clean as possible. The wretched wheels left streaks on the foyer floor, and I was hoping scrubbing it again would help. It didn't. I am really annoyed.

This afternoon I sat down to watch a film called The Perfect Gift. Apparently this is one of a string of Christian films about a stranger who helps lead people back to God. In this one, a spoiled girl, Max, obsessed with the fact that no one remembers her birthday because it's on Christmas, and her overstressed executive mother, are expecting a sad holiday: earlier in the year Dad walked off with some chippie from his health club and they have had to sell Max's horse and move into a small apartment away from her school. Max and her mom live next door to Tony, who is a minister at a small church where the head pastor has lost his way. Tony is trying to rebuild the church's nativity stable when an itinerant man (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Jesus) offers to help him with it.

I think you can guess what happens next, but I rather enjoyed the whole thing. These small Christian films are sometimes very didactic, or, even worse, sanctimonious. Sometimes they even resemble elementary school plays, with stilted lines and unbelieveable characters. This was all very natural. The little girl and her mom didn't go through clichè histrionic revelations, and the handyman spoke in a soft, but ordinary voice and didn't have a figurative halo over his head. (Okay, they did make him glow a little at the end, which I thought was overkill. We get it.)

After that, I watched A Wind at My Back Christmas, a sequel to the Canadian series which is running on the Inspirational Channel. I know about this series from my late friend Dana, who used to talk about it all the time. The series is the Depression-era story of Honey Bailey and her three children, who return to her late husband's home town after his death because she can't care for them on her own. Unfortunately her mother-in-law hates her, mostly because she's Catholic, and has the two older boys live with her and the little sister fostered by a childless couple to spite Honey. However, things work out: Honey marries a teacher and gets her children back, and the series follows their adventures in the small mining town of New Bedford, Ontario.

In the Christmas movie the oldest boy, Hubert "Hub," is attending college where he has become involved with Anna Schiller, a refugee girl from Austria whom he helps with anti-fascist meetings. He takes Anna home with him for Christmas when he discovers she is Jewish and has come into Canada illegally (Canada did not accept Jewish immigrants), and is being hunted by the Mounties. His mercurial younger brother Henry ("Fat"), who wants to become a Mountie despite his family not taking him seriously, assumes antagonism the moment Hub gets home, and his old pal Maisie, who has a crush on him despite the fact she knows he wants to go into the priesthood, of course is dismayed to see Anna in his company. In the meantime his mother is urging her husband to get back to his writing. When the RCMP comes to New Bedford looking for Anna, Hub knows what he has to do. This was a great period piece taking place in 1938, and I enjoyed all the character interactions despite not having seen all the backstories.

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