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Husbands and Fathers: Now is the Time!
We all desperately in need of some merry-making. Husbands and Fathers should step up and take the lead.
We are entering a critical moment: that special time of year between Halloween and Christmas when you are needed most! You need to be making merry, you need to be getting festive, you need to be present!
Do not shy away from the festive duties that can only be accomplished by a man, a son, a husband, a father. Do not diminish into the living room to watch the game as your wife adorns the hearth with tiny decorative gourds alone! Do not skip the corn maze, the apple orchard, or the pumpkin patch! These are your hunting grounds, and your quarry is mirth!
You are needed most now! While your wife is reflecting on where best to lean the cornstalks on the front porch, you need to be playing tastefully rakish tricks. You need to be slipping your children a little candy from the Halloween hoard. You need to be planning autumnal outings and remarking, with authority, on the changing leaves and the cider pressings. You need to be dropping in on the women in your life with an armful of mums and a gallant stride. You need to be spiking the punch with a handsome, well-concealed flask and sneaking the dog a morsel of Sunday dinner under the table with a fraternal wink and a nod to the nearest child. The kind of wink only a father can give, the kind that conveys “I will always be on your side.”
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Your wife should be looking at you warily this time of year and saying, “Hey now, wait a minute! I know that look!” as you leer at her past the bouquet of dried sunflowers and crimson dahlias you snatched up on your way home from work. She needs to always be on guard lest she ends up thrown playfully into a pile of hay, giggling like when you first began to court her.
And does this energy and momentum you’ve been cultivating through Thanksgiving stop when the December snow flies? No! Your autumnal antics are merely a precursor to the yuletide joviality to come! As the jack-o-lanterns (who, by the way, should mirror your own mischievous grin) are thrown unceremoniously into the compost heap and the holly begins to grace every hall and threshold of your fine home, your roguish japes of autumn give way now to joyful abandon and rampant hospitality. The generous mantles of Fezziwig, Scrooge redeemed, and the jolly old elf himself are yours to claim! As a husband and father, they are your birthright! Like the Ghost of Christmas Present, you need to be throwing your doors open to friends and strangers alike while shouting joyfully, “Come in, come in! And know me better, man!”
So many of our old Christmas ceremonies and traditions have entirely disappeared. We have lost something profound, something ancient, something both wild and hallowed. Where are the home-spun fireside delights of yesteryear, the halls decked with those good green charms of mistletoe and holly, the feasting, the caroling, the wassailing? These evergreen customs of sheer, unbridled hospitality flourished when men lived a little more lustily, a little more vigorously, a little more heartily. Now, at this time of year, you need to be reflecting on those good old Christmas traditions that came before you, for you now bear the torch, you now light the candles, you now tend the hearth.
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Indeed, this is not just figurative. As we approach the short, dark days of the winter solstice, you need to be lighting fires, both indoors and out! You need to be combating the darkness on every front! You need to be chasing the gloom from the children’s sledding hill and evicting the shadows from every corner of your home! Washington Irving poetically wondered, “Where does the honest face of hospitality expand into a broader and more cordial smile—where is the shy glance of love more sweetly eloquent—than by the winter fireside?”
Where indeed?! Whether it be your own hearth or a roaring outdoor bonfire, the warmth of your own good masculine heart is reflected in the flames you tend. It alights the faces of your wife and children, impossibly enhancing their beauty and imbuing them with the eternal reassurance that they are loved and safe. Safe with you.
Then, as the year dies and the days begin to lengthen, as the family dog looks up at you with admiration and gratitude, as the boughs of evergreen reflect your own green vitality in the dead of winter, you can sit in your home, by that warm hearth by which you expertly hosted neighbors, friends, and strangers alike, and watch your wife and children orbit around you like the returning sun, beaming warmth and gladness into every heart that looks upon you.
These next three months are when memories are made. They need to be made by you.
Old Hollow Tree is the Substack nom de plume of Ryan B. Anderson, a former high school English and History teacher who now lives at the end of a dirt road in New England with his wife and daughter. He writes about stewarding his family's forest, seasons, fatherhood, and tradition. @OldHollowTree
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