Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The White Witch's Holiday Gift Guide

Today it snowed in Minneapolis. This, to anyone who knows approximately one fact about Minnesota, is not surprising and doesn’t deserve an announcement. But it was the first significant snow, a Christmas season snow, the kind that does more than soak your socks and coat the roads with slush.

It takes you to Narnia.

Or, at least, it did for me. But then, I’m in Narnia probably half of the time anyway. Even just on this blog, I’ve written about Edmund and Star Wars Mafia, Cair Paravel and heaven, Susan and death, and always winter, never Christmas.

Nearly every time I play hide-and-seek or push aside coats in a closet, I feel around for pine needles. I’m almost ashamed about how excited I got the day in C.S. Lewis class (yes, it’s a class) when we ate Turkish Delight. And one year, when I had to pick up two boxes from the post office and it was snowing, I brought an umbrella along and paused under a lamppost for a while, hoping that someone would come by, recognize the allusion, and be suitably impressed. No one did. It was quite disappointing.

But tonight I was curled up in my armchair, looking out at the snow, and I remembered Father Christmas.

It’s kind of a random little incident in the middle of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Beavers and the Pevensies (sans Edmund) are on the run from the White Witch, when all of a sudden they hear jingle bells. But the sleigh doesn’t belong to the dreaded Ice Queen, but to Father Christmas himself!

Besides being delightfully British and bringing a fully-equipped tea party, Father Christmas gives the children presents: a sword and shield for Peter, a bow and arrow and magical horn for Susan, and a dagger and healing potion for Lucy. 

Maybe it's just me, but I imagine those were not on their Christmas lists back in England. Those probably ran something like: a chess board for Peter, something dreadfully practical like a sewing kit for Susan, and a doll for Lucy.

At the same time, though, the gifts were what they needed, if not what they wanted. They were also more than the children were expecting. To see that, all you need to do is flip back a few pages.

“Wherever is this?” said Peter’s voice, sounding tired and pale in the darkness. (I hope you know what I mean by a voice sounding pale.)

“It’s an old hiding-place for beavers in bad times,” said Mr. Beaver, “and a great secret. It’s not much of a place but we must get a few hours’ sleep.”

That’s all they wanted. Temporary safety and a few hours’ sleep. What they got instead was more than just a magical arsenal and tea. It was hope. Hope that the spell was weakening, that Aslan really was on the move, that spring would come again, and soon.

Meanwhile, one chapter over, Edmund, eager to get the princely rewards promised to him by the White Witch, asked where his promised Turkish Delight was. Her response? “Bring the human creature food and drink.”

Translation: bread and water for the prisoner.

“Take it away,” said Edmund sulkily. “I don’t want dry bread.” But the Witch suddenly turned on him with such a terrible expression that he apologized and began to nibble at the bread, although it was so stale he could hardly get it down.

Father Christmas might bring a sword when you’d rather have a rocking horse. But the White Witch promises Turkish Delight and only gives you stale bread.

In the same way, God doesn’t always give me what I want. There isn’t always a magical whisking away of winter in an instant (and mud-less) spring. Sometimes, when I’d prefer to just enjoy myself, I’m told to fight instead. But I’m also equipped for that task.

There are other times, though, when, like Edmund, I run whining to Satan, demanding the rewards that sin was supposed to bring me. All I want is for my pride to make me feel good, for my selfishness to bring the focus back to me. That's reasonable, right?

But I end up cold, hungry, with the sting of a whip in my ear and the constant cry of “Faster, faster!” pushing me ever forward. And, soaked to the skin and shivering, I try to muster up some self-pity but know deep inside that it really is my fault.

The tea party with the Beavers, even with weapons nearby, suddenly doesn't seem so bad.

Especially at Christmas, we can tend to buy the lie that whatever is flashiestwhatever commercial plays the most often, whatever dessert has the most calories, whatever toy or trend makes the holiday must-have list—is the best thing for us. The season of giving is really, pretty blatantly, a season of consumption, and we're good at that. I'm good at that, because being selfish is easier and seems more fun than being generous or brave.

But remember, Father Christmas and the White Witch both give gifts. The difference is what kind.


  1. Awww, I would have been suitably impressed by your allusion :) had I happened by and noticed you... which I might not have, as I tend not to look at strangers. LOL

    Excellent post! Loved your analogy. (And all things Narnia)

    1. Thanks, Jenelle! I probably should have been playing panpipes too.