‘Tis the Night Before Christmas…For Better or Worse


‘Tis “the night before Christmas and all through the house”
Drifts the smell of mince pies and the waft of raw sprouts.
Mama in the kitchen sings along to the Pogues
Icing gingerbread snowmen and angels in rows.

Papa taping parcels and tying the ham
Calls out to the children “Will someone check Gran?
She last popped next door with a bottle of sherry;
Was six hours ago and they’re sounding quite merry!”

The town is attired from its head down to toe
With tinsel and twinkle and warm, fake, fleece snow.
The National Grid will be worked to the bone
Pow’ring inflatable Santas, lights for the home.

Last minute shoppers trudge tired down the street
Laden with panic-bought food no-one will eat.
It’s Christmas! Don’t worry about excess and waste
It‘s all being done in the best possible taste.

Progress and change drive Santa’s up-dating
Like Madonna; a regular re-incarnating.
No hand written letters, that’s a long by-gone age
Now the sleigh’s tracked by radar, they have a web-page!

The decades of change bring an increasing dearth
For Santa’s descent via chimneys and hearth.
Rising to the challenge with harmonic wassailing
He tackles the Shard with triumphant abseiling.

So should we look back to the old Christmas rhyme
With nostalgia and longing for a simpler time?
Snug nestled children, chimneys, full stockings
Jelly, red belly and sugar plum toppings?

The poem says nothing of pain, hunger or cold
The plight of the poor or neglect of the old.
Now we have songs that prompt an outcry of action
But the pressure of Christmas is too great a distraction.

When we sit and enjoy our cranberry relish
Ask not why the old get so cold that they perish.
More now than had died in the previous year
Alone and forgotten with no Christmas cheer.

Do we agree with Greg Lake, his chilling last words
That the Christmas we get is what we deserve?
There’s a duty of care in our great welfare state
And there are some that will die while having to wait.

Hollywood profits from sugar-coated redemption
Do I think on my own acts with honest reflection?
I feel good dropping coins in the Round Table’s bucket
Buy compassionately farmed meat and organic cutlets.

But where should we look for the true Christmas spirit?
Some glimmers of hope with no cost-capped limit.
Two pounds for a life and a mosquito guard;
I spend thrice that on stamps for my charity cards.

As the shops close their doors on the brisk Christmas Eve
The staff dim the lights and get ready to leave.
Food past its sell-by with no hope of re-sale
Is piled in a trolley and pushed through the mall.

No inn and no wise men, no star in the sky
Just a corner in the car park, draughty but dry.
From the restless group waiting one steps to the front
He says not a word, just an acknowledging grunt.

He is dressed all in rags, his face weathered and thin
Pockets bulging with newspapers, fag ends and gin.
The boot of the car offers a cold Christmas meal
The leftovers from lunchtime’s two-for-one deal.

He peels back the gift wrap and holds the pie high
With a curl on his lip and a glint in his eye,
And they hear him exclaim as they drive out of sight
“Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!”

Written by Sue Marlow from the keyword Stockings

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