Merry Christmas!

Here are some of Larry's Vaincourt's holiday poems and stories for you to enjoy.

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and Other Poems
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Listen to the original Christmas song
by Randy Vancourt,
The Message Of The Star
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

They're coming home for Christmas, some from many miles away.
They've already phoned to tell us they'll be home for Christmas Day.
Bearing gifts, some bringing girlfriends, (Lord!) where will we put them all?
Guess we'll have to set up camp cots, in the basement or the hall.
Yes, their friends will all be calling; there'll be such a carry on,
Catching up on news and gossip - all that's happened since they've gone.

We'll dust off the old piano, fill the fridge with things to eat,
Then await the gang's homecoming - Ah! That will be such a treat.
This old house has been so silent since the boys all went away,
And we're really looking forward to their coming, Christmas Day.
Songs and fun, the sound of laughter, lots of good old-fashioned noise...
To the world they're men all grown up, but to us they're still the boys.

Yes, they're coming home for Christmas, get the baking under way;
Buy the turkey, wrap the presents, get prepared for Christmas Day.
Let us find once more the pleasure that we knew when they were young, And the joy we felt at Christmas, when the house, with laughter, rung.
For will there be many more times, now they've gone so far away,
When they'll set aside their business and come home on Christmas Day?
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

Whoever was responsible for stoking up the fire in the little church that afternoon had miscalculated.  They hadn't taken into account the fact that the church would be packed that night from front to back.  As I sat there in my winter clothes, the heat was stifling.

My nostrils were assailed by a variety of scents: candle wax, the odor of kerosene lamps, the spicy smell of the freshly-cut Christmas tree in the corner; the kid on my right had a foot-odor problem which his heavy, woolen socks and winter boots were unable to mask and the elderly lady behind me had overdone it with the cheap perfume.  The little boy in the next row had done something unmentionable and now sat, shoulders shaking with silent laughter while the kids on either side leaned as far away as possible.

We kids occupied the front rows, while behind us the church was packed to capacity with parents, grandparents, elder siblings and neighbors.  This was "The Christmas Tree," the event for which we had been rehearsing these many weeks.  The event that was, to us at least, the most important of the year.

Two little one-room schoolhouses, only a couple of miles apart but separated by the county line, had combined forces and their entire enrollment of 40 or thereabouts had come together at the little church that stood midway between, to provide a Christmas entertainment.

Behind me, the sound of many low voices blended into a wordless hum, reminding me of a hive full of bees; while we kids poked, giggled and did all the other devilment that kids do within the anonymity of a group.  Wherever the teachers directed a stern look, the commotion would die down, only to break out at a fresh point.

Finally, a hush fell over the little church.  The minister had stepped onto the improvised stage, a paper in his hand.  Tonight he would be our Master of Ceremonies.  We kids leaned forward expectantly; the show was about to begin.  The teachers had done their work well, every child, from the eldest to the youngest, had one or more parts to perform: a song, a recitation, a part in a skit - perhaps all three.  There was a certain rivalry here. We were each of us watching for the kids from the other school to make a mistake.

Starting the show off with the smallest child was probably an error.  The first little girl up, a first grader, stood before her audience, head hanging, toes turned in, twisting the front of her skirt, and refused to say a word.  From behind the stage curtain, the teacher prompted her first line.  The head hung lower, the skirt twisted higher, then suddenly she burst into tears and ran off the stage.  The kid with the smelly feet snickered, "I'll bet she wet her pants."  The second little girl did better, reciting her lines flawlessly, although with a few lisps and whistles, caused, no doubt, by her lack of two front teeth.

The show went on, some kids performing well, others poorly.  The church organist accompanied the singing on the church's little foot-powered organ.  She sat at the organ, back ramrod straight, hair drawn back in a severe bun, hat held atop it by a large hatpin; she could have been a model for a Norman Rockwell painting.

The asthmatic wheezing of the organ's bellows provided a counterpoint to the music and also much merriment to us kids.  It was discovered at the last moment that both schools planned to sing "Away in a Manger," so it was decided that we would do it together - the end result was slightly less than melodic.

Finally we kids were finished.  Now, we sat back to enjoy the performance of the older teenagers and the adults.  A tall young man, who was later to become a lifelong friend of mine, played his guitar and sang.  My stepfather brought a roar of laughter when, at a point in the script where he was supposed to wipe his fountain pen on his handkerchief, he hauled an indescribably filthy bandana from his pocket and adlibbed to the audience, "Maw didn't know I had this."

The show was winding down now and we were waiting for the big event of the evening - the arrival of Santa Claus.  Just prior to this event each year, a half dozen men at the back of the church would slip quietly out the door, while everyone's attention was fixed upon the stage.  When Santa arrived a few moments later, we were never quite certain whose father or brother was beneath that red suit and all the padding.  Nor were we ever certain whether it was true that Santa Claus was usually fortified with a couple of pulls from a bottle before making his entrance.

That night as applause for the last performance died down, we heard the jingle of sleigh bells outside and we swiveled round in our seats.  The doors burst open with a crash and Santa, bag over his shoulder, came bounding down the aisle with a resounding HO, HO, HO.  Had the pull from the bottle affected his judgement?  Did the bag over his shoulder upset his balance?  We will never know the reason, but as Santa attempted to gain the stage with one great leap, his foot hit the edge and he rebounded from it and landed on his back, with a crash that shook the little church.

The smaller children looked on in horror and we older ones howled with uncontrollable laughter.  The minister and one teacher rushed forward and helped Santa to his feet.  Apparently unhurt, he went about his duties of unloading the Christmas tree and presenting the gifts to the children.  Then wishing us all a Merry Christmas, he left in a more sedate manner.

That night, as we gathered after the show in groups, the white expanse of the little churchyard, surrounded by snowladen evergreens and lit by a brilliant full moon, looked like a picture on a Christmas card.  Young people slipped off quietly to dark spots, in pairs.  Our elders went about shaking hands and wishing each other a Merry Christmas.  We kids gathered together, arguing loudly as to whose father it had been inside the Santa Claus costume.  I took no part in the discussion, although I knew whose father I had seen rubbing his backside tenderly, when he thought no one was looking.

REVEILLON: A French-Canadian tradition, this all-night house party is usually held on Christmas Eve after midnight Mass, when family and relatives congregate at one home (usually the grandparents') for a night of fun and revelry.

by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

'Twas the night before Christmas back home on the farm
And the wood stove was roaring to keep the house warm.
Papa in his nightshirt and Maman in her hat
Had just wound up the clock and had put out the cat.
I had turned down the covers and was just sliding under
When someone knocked on the door and it sounded like thunder.
Papa looked out the window and I heard him swear,
Well "Sacre maudit, it's your big brother, Pierre."
"Should we let him in?" he asked of Maman.
"He's carrying gifts and some good whiskey blanc."
She opened the door up, but then Maman said,
"It's very late, Pierre, we're just going to bed."
Well uncle Pierre laughed and he said, "Yes, I know
But it's your turn this year to hold Reveillon.

"We would have held it but our house is small
While your house is big and there's room for us all.
Aunt Denise has the turkey, Maman the tortiere
And you'd better get dressed 'cause they're all coming here."
Well the first to arrive was our fat cousin, Rose
And she kissed all the family before wiping her nose.
She had the twins with her, which was not at all strange,
I could tell by the smell they both needed a change.
Then cousin Jean-Paul, who is just five foot two,
He brought the beer and it was all he could do
To carry two cases from the truck to the door,
He said, "If that's not enough I can go back for more."
Aunt Denise then came in with a turkey so big
That Papa remarked t'was the size of a pig.
She laughed, "We'll have time for some drinking and fun
Then we'll all eat well when the turkey is done."

Theophile had his fiddle, Aunt Claire had some spoons
And we knew we were in or some old-fashioned tunes.
Then came uncle Paul and his daughter, Celine
And I stopped feeling grouchy and started to grin.
She kissed all the family and that was real nice
And I felt pretty good, because me she kissed twice.
Theophile took his fiddle and started a tune
While Aunt Claire joined in with a couple of spoons.
Then uncle Pierre said, "That makes me want to dance,"
So he jumped to his feet and he started to prance.
Uncle Pierre's a big man and he has a large belly
That shook when he danced like a bowl full of jelly.
Then Maman cried out, "You know Pierre, you're not small
And you're shaking the pictures all down off the wall,"
Old Joe, he got drunk (he's the family disgrace)
Sneaked into the kitchen with a grin on his face
And Grandmere remarked, "A good thing I went in
He was basting the turkey with a bottle of gin."

Grandpere was playing with the kids, in the hall,
They were shouting and laughing and having a ball.
They were getting real noisy when I heard Maman yell
"What are you kids up to, what's that awful smell?"
I was going to tell her but before I could start
One kid laughed, "It's Grandpere, he just made a big fart."
It was a fine party, of that there's no doubt,
Because nobody left, although several passed out.
And we sang the old songs that we all knew so well,
We drank and we danced and raised all sorts of Hell.
We ate up the turkey and drank all the beer,
Wished each other "Bonne Fete," and said, "We'll see you next year."
And Celine remarked as she gave me a kiss,
"What a shame Les Anglais don't have parties like this."

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