The Kindness of Christmas


“Toy Makers,” photo taken between 1909 and 1919. Courtesy of: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-npcc-19400.

“The return of Christmas is a kind of beacon in the year. Whether it is the Christmas of childhood, full of excitement and a flow of good things, or the Christmas of older folk, woven with memories, or the Christmas of the captives of men far from home, for whom it is full of wistful longings, it is a season different from other seasons and a day different from other days which somehow, even under the most desperate conditions through the grim years of war and its aftermath, men have contrived in some way to celebrate. It stands for the good, peaceful things, for the kindly things, for sanity, in a world in which these are too often eclipsed and, in spite of the trappings of festivity which seem to smother it yet do not, it sends out its light under the dark skies of midwinter to give us new heart.

“… Christmas is the best of all times to relax in, with its break from the ordinary routine, free from the secret pressure of jobs waiting to be done which so often haunts other brief holidays. Time is so precious and those of us with eager and willing hands find more than enough to keep them busy and this question of relaxing can sometimes be quite difficult. How often we arrive home feeling tired at the end of a day’s work and disinclined to make a fresh start on a job of woodwork for ourselves yet with a kind of inner conflict because we do want to get it done. So after a wash and a meal we rather grudgingly make a start and in next to no time our tiredness vanishes and we become completely and happily absorbed in the work. By bedtime we are filled with a pleasant sense of achievement which will encourage us to repeat the process on other evenings. Nine times out of ten it works, but the tenth time may come when fatigue has gone deeper and on such an evening nothing goes right. Any little difficulty makes us impatient and irritable, something is lacking in quick co-ordination between mind and tool and the only remedy is to stop work before, in a rush of impatience, we do some real damage to the work. The fact is we remain so much of a mystery to ourselves that to decide even such a point as this is not always so simple as it seems. If we ceased to work when we did not feel like it we should accomplish less and less and probably end by losing even the desire to work: on the other hand there comes a time when to persist in spite of danger signals is asking for trouble.

“The only remedy is to learn to know the danger signals for what they are. The impatience that is founded on fatigue is something more than a mood. The latter will pass if we are firm with it and exercise the control that is a fundamental part of good craftsmanship: indeed the first-class craftsman will keep control from sheer ingrained habit however tired he is. But he also knows when to stop. One of the fascinations of craft work is that it compels us to this awareness of ourselves. We learn something of our limitations, of our tendencies, we learn to respect our own powers and feel a pride in developing them. It is by doing that the personality grows as well as the skill. It is a heartening thought for Christmas, when we can set our tools aside with easy minds to rejoice in the birthday of the child who, by choosing himself to become a craftsman in wood, blessed both the craft and the wood for all time.”

— Charles Hayward, The Woodworker magazine, 1955

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6 Responses to The Kindness of Christmas

  1. Marcus says:

    Merry Christmas!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Bill Edwards says:

    Lovely…… it helps to calm the impatient heart


  3. hgordon4 says:

    So very true. Thank you Kara!
    Merry Christmas to all!


  4. Eric R says:

    Well said Mr. Hayward.
    Merry Christmas to all my Lost Art Press friends and readers.


  5. rons54 says:

    Man was a poet of woodworking.


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