20 DECEMBER 1957, Page 31

`Christmas Without Any Presents'

SPECTATOR COMPETITION No. 407 Report by Barbara Smoker tree, card, shop, toy, present, gift, holly,lrustle- .


'Fix guineas was offered for up to fourteen lines of verse on Christmas (not its religious aspect), avoid-

' Mg the words Christmas, Xmas. Santa Claus, stocking, toe, cracker, bonbon, turkey, goose, pudding, cake.

Little Women—a book perennially distributed at this season—begins 'Christmas won't be Christ- mas without any presents.' Competitors had to preserve Christmas not only without any presents but without quite a formidable list of other Christmassy words, including some of the most evocative. However, there remained Noel, Yule logs, snow, robins, carols, greetings, playthings, tinsel, fairy-lights, sleigh-bells, revelry, wine, mincepies, fruit and nuts; and there was a bumper crop of entries.

Some evoked merely winter, not Christmas. Others stifled forbidden words too conspicuously. Roget's aid was often apparent. Good dodges were 'the winter solstice; 'feast of birth, twenty- fifth of December,' 'gaily, parcels; 'red and white berry,"laden fir,' and 'spangled conifer.' 'I he most successful stocking substitute was A. M. Crowden's 'boldly hang a pillow-case !"Socks' and 'hose' were admissible, but hardly 'nylons.' I preferred 'poultry,' gobbler or hisser,' and 'bird unspecified, to 'chicken,' which is but second-rate Yuletide fare. Impudent ingenuity in getting round the prohibitions scored points. Such was the idea of using the Latin names for holly, mistle- toe, turkey and goose—but it occurred to too many competitors to merit reward. Using blanks to indicate forbidden words was a shade too impu- dent, and disqualified five entries. Three more were disqualified on religious grounds.

Scrooge was featured several times, and there was a surprisingly large number of Scrooge-like entries. No doubt the sourness was mostly assumed in order to get away from the herd, but too many ran the same way. However, I liked Xico's refusal to 'post greetings at one-and-six per copy to people I have just said goodnight to.' Yuletide in the jet and satellite age was quite a favourite theme, and television's vicarious merry- making was not ignored. Some entries from Caledonia treated the subject as a mere prelude to Hogmanay. Of the modern verses, I particularly liked Kenneth S. Kitchin's lines, 'ding dong the parcels rip snip and destring' and 'barbarous in binge converge our kith kin kids.'

The last entries to be eliminated came from P. M., Rhoda Tuck Pook, L. E. Honnor, M. E. Millen, Clutha and T. C. F., who are highly com- mended, together with the authors of the three printed extracts, who would have ousted the prize- winners had they • maintained the standard throughout. The awards are as follows : two guineas to P. R. Hines for the only acrostic sub- mitted; the same to Areas for his professor's periphrastic dissertation (the fourteen Nash-long lines would take up too much space, so I have selected four only for printing); one guinea apiece to Nancy Gunter and Joyce Johnson for the best sonnets; and a merry, unrestricted Christmas to all!

PRIZES (P. R. HINES) Concealed in silence is the feast I sing, Hidden his name who. reindeer-drawn, will bring Rich treasure for the child's imagining. In nameless mystery remains the fare. Secret the yield the evergreen will bear, The Druid sprig to challenge those who dare. Muzzled and hampered, still the poet may, Abiding by the lever's law, convey Signs, in initials, of the festal day. . . These include a general indulgence, the • interchange of donations .Among friends, business associates, and, more particularly, relations, And the display of conifers and bacciferous plants (to promote fertility) Coupled with osculatory practices of remarkable imbecility.


What have we poets left, outside this ban To hail the festive season? Hearts aglow. Young lovers kissing 'ncath—Good gracious, no! (I nearly wrote it !) Anyhow, we can, ' Include some silver sleigh-bells in our plan, Arrange gay-breasted robins all arow Complete with seasonably sparkling snow. And handclasps that the sundering miles can

span. (Whatever that may mean.) So far so good; Bright tinsel, rose-cheeked children freed from school, Mince-pies and wassail ('merrie' understood); I've mentioned these yet not infringed the rule; 1'11 now fare forth and search the winter wood For unbanned logs for unforbidden Yule.


There's only five more days to go before The 25th—and still no bird to roast, No mince pies made. Oh, who would be a host . Haunted with thoughts of gaps within her store? More things to send, more letters through the door (I'll find some friend forgot among the post). There's much too much to do. One is almost Inclined to be a Scrooge for evermore.

But when the day comes (rooftops iced' with. snow, Indoors bright candles, berried evergreens, Enhancing scenes of paper-hatted friends) I' shall reflect, in a contented glow, Looking on happy faces, that the means Arc justified, at long last, by the ends.



I write of the light, of the loving and laughter,

I sing you the robin, the sight of the snow, The red of the berry, the green at the rafter,

The nudge of a friend and the nod of a foe.


There are boxes of paper-frilled bangers; Gay. parcels are taken and sent.

It's Yuletide, dear Puritan setter, Did you think that next Wednesday was Lent?


Red-cloaked and white-whiskered, old actors— all resting—

By second-hand air in store basements are fanned, While children are marshalled and marched, unprotesting, Through acres of cardboard-backed' FunFairy Land.