Sam Venable  

Special Contributor

It was a cold, snowy night, two weeks before Christmas. I was sitting around the house with nothing in particular to do.

“How odd,” I thought to myself, stirring some chestnuts that had been roasting on an open fire. “How can it be this close to Christmas and I’m not in a blind panic? The cards have been addressed, stamped and mailed. My shopping is done. The gifts are wrapped. I’ve got four parties and three open houses to attend next week, but nothing tonight. How on earth can I spend this spare time?”

My first thought was to go walking in the snow. Yes, that’s the ticket, I said to myself; get out there and enjoy it!

You see, for the past few days, with virtually every Christmas card I had written, I’d been dreaming of a white Christmas. You know the kind I’m talking about—where the treetops glisten. So, I put on my coat and headed out the door.

Jack Frost was nipping at my nose as I emerged from the house. But I didn’t pay a bit of attention because my ears were instantly filled with Yuletide carols being sung by a choir. Their music was beautiful, but, frankly, these people looked hilarious. They were all dressed up like Eskimos!

Then for some reason, I remembered I’d meant to buy a turkey and some mistletoe that day, but it had slipped my mind. Wish I had gotten them, for they sure do make the season bright. Ah, but it didn’t really matter, because my heart was aglow. I thought back to when I was a tiny tot and how I couldn’t have gone to sleep on a $10 bet.

Right off the bat, I noticed how many people there were on the city sidewalks. Boy, were they busy sidewalks! And I cannot begin to tell you how pretty they were, all dressed up in holiday style. People were passing. Children were laughing. It’s hard to describe, but there was a real feeling of Christmas in the air.

I left the city, and soon I heard sleigh bells ringing. Sort of jing-jing-jingling, you might say. I glanced over into a lane and wouldn’t you know it—the snow was glistening! It was a beautiful sight, and I was happy that night to be walking in a winter wonderland.

I hadn’t gone 200 yards when I was gripped by the desire to leave the lane and take a stroll into the meadow. I talked myself out of the notion, though, ’cause sure as shooting, I’d want to build a snowman and give him some silly name. Like Parson Brown. So, I stayed in the lane.

It’s a good thing I did, for about that time I heard even more jingling bells. I turned and spied something my tired old eyes hadn’t seen in a month of Sundays. Yes, sir; it was a one-horse open sleigh. Hey! It really was.

What’s more, I thought I heard someone call the horse by name. “Bobtail,” if I’m not mistaken. I thought to myself, Oh, what fun it would be to ride in that sleigh tonight!

But they went on without noticing me. Shucks. So, I kept wandering. And, as is often the case for writers and other deep-thinkers, I wondered as I wandered out under the sky.

It was a silent night. Almost a holy night. All was calm, and because of the colorful decorations in people’s front yards, everything was bright. I felt very peaceful by now, almost like I could drift into heavenly sleep.

I yawned and kept walking and soon came to a small stand of trees. Hollies. They had ivy growing in them.

It’s against the law to molest holly trees, but I couldn’t resist the urge to cut off just a few limbs. I wanted to hang them in the front hall, maybe put a few out on the deck. I didn’t worry too much about the forest ranger. ’Tis the season to be jolly; besides, he’s such a merry gentleman, he rarely gets dismayed.

It was nearly midnight by now. Clear as a bell. So clear you could have—why, you could have even seen an angel if it had bent near the earth!

But it was time to get home. Back to the busy city sidewalks and all that. I had a big schedule ahead of me the next morning. And, of course, soon it would be Christmas Day.

Later on, as I conspired by the fire and munched a few chestnuts, I was all but bursting with good tidings. So I decided to pour a big glass of cheer.

About that time, the doorbell rang. It was some neighborhood kids. They wanted me to go caroling up and down the street. I thanked ’em for the invite, but said no.

“Why?” they asked.

“Because,” I replied, “I never can remember the words to all those songs.”

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at