A “Fortress Homestead” Christmas

By , December 24, 2018

Ever since I can remember, I’ve held in my heart and mind a particular ideal of Christmas, or, perhaps more precisely, Christmas Eve.

My ideal involved my family and I ensconced in a snug home, decorated for Christmas, with no requirement to leave the house at any time between at least Christmas Eve and December 27th, if not longer.

This image, which I often experienced in my family’s various homes growing up, came largely from the more romanticized illustrations of Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit From Saint Nicholas, more popularly known as The Night Before Christmas.

My favorites depict a large mansion, isolated from the surrounding homes, to which Santa Claus comes from a considerable distance. My all-time favorite The Night Before Christmas is Scott Gustafson’s illustrated edition (check your local bookstore).

Imagine my surprise, and satisfaction, to learn that my ideal was shared by others, particularly, the very men responsible for the United States’ image of Santa Claus!

snowy beach, Christmas tree

The homestead’s front beach, ready for Christmas (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

In his excellent book, The Battle for Christmas: A Social and Cultural History of Our Most Cherished Holiday, (again, check your local bookstore) Stephen Nissenbaum explains that Moore and others, such as author, Washington Irving and cartoonist, Thomas Nast, basically invented the modern Santa Claus out of whole cloth, and used him to promote a different kind of Christmas, one that focused on family rather than rioting and carousing.

That’s an inadequate condensation of an excellent book—I really urge you to seek it out and read it!

At any rate, here I found a professional description of the concept of “the fortress home,” a safe place to celebrate Christmas away from the rest of society.

As an adult, and especially as the child of a pastor, I could see that longing for such a situation is quite selfish; in many ways, it’s antithetical to the modern concept of Christmas as a season of fellowship, no matter how much it may have made sense in the 19th century. And yet, I can’t help wanting to close the heavy front door against the cold world outside, and turn inward to the hearth.

Now, of course, we live in the perfect situation to make the most of this. It’s not just “fortress home,” it’s “fortress homestead.” Our isolation, even from our nearest neighbors, makes visitors unlikely—other than the local wildlife (see Christmas Visitors). We easily pass a few days at home around Christmas time without thinking much of the outside world, although I do make an effort now and then (see A Thought for Christmas Eve).

However you choose to spend tonight and tomorrow, with or without Santa Claus, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, we wish you peace, love, and happiness.

snowy beach, Christmas tree

(Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

6 Responses to “A “Fortress Homestead” Christmas”

  1. Christopher White says:

    I have enjoyed your posts very much. I hope that you have a very merry Christmas and a safe, healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. Thanks for your inspiration. C. White

  2. Robert L says:

    Merry Christmas

  3. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thank you, Robert, merry Christmas to you and yours, too!

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, Christopher! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, too!

  5. John & Mary says:

    Merry Christmas…..and….to all a good night !!!!!!

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, John and Mary! Both of your wishes came true in our house. We wish you the same!

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