Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Ada M. Skinner/Christmas in Many Lands

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Fake fireplace with Christmas decorations at a coffee shop in Jakarta. It’s currently 91’/33′ outside. I stare at the fake snowflake and ask it to marry me. And there’s this rude Afrikaner diamond dealer yelling at his staff on the phone next to me. Merry Christmas!!!

It’s that time of year, where people

worship their Death-God called Materialism

gain 10 kg in 24 hours

celebrate the birth of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ even though the Bible never says to celebrate it

pretend to be nice to their neighbors one day a year

force introverted children to pretend to be reindeer in dumb little kids’ plays at school <<<< YESSS this!

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Christmas ’86: When Everyone was Rudolph.

Coma-inducing flashbacks aside, there is a WEALTH of Christmas plays from the past to choose from. Our choice nugget of Christmas theatre past shall be Christmas in Many Lands, which, ironically enough, is the only work not credited to an author in the book Little Folks’ Christmas Stories and Plays.

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Via here.

Ada M. Skinner is the editor of this lovely tome from 1915. From the play:

Time: Christmas Eve

Place: A living room in a German cottage. A Christmas tree stands at one side. As the curtain rises, a small boy and girl in German costume are trimming the tree and singing.

Hmm…World War One seems to have had little effect on these children.

Hans and Gretchen sing:

Santa Claus to-morrow comes,
Bringing gifts in plenty;
Drums and trumpets, guns—a score,
Flags and sabers and still more,
Yes, a whole great army corps—
Would it might be plenty!
Bring us, dear old Santa Claus—
Do not pass us blindly—
Musketeer and grenadier,
Grizzly bear with panther near,
Horse and donkey, sheep and steer—
Bring us all these kindly.
Ach, so. They’re singing about war during Christmas. How appropriately German. Since Santa isn’t German, is he a POW???
Hans and Gretchen ruminate on the meaning of St. Nicholas and they want to visit kids in other countries in an airship. Hopefully not to bomb them.

Hans: I think it would be fun to have an airship and go about the world to-night and see what all the little children are doing.

Gretchen: Where would you like to go?

Hans: I’d like to fly over the sea and visit Cousin Heinrich in America.

Gretchen: I’d be afraid to fly so far. I’d go to Holland; it’s such a little way.

Hans: Oh! I’d fly up in the mountains of Switzerland.

Gretchen (thoughtfully): I think I’d rather have the children come and tell us about their Christmas. I’d be afraid in an airship.

Thank God one of them is thoughtful and realizes flying internationally in an airship in 1915 from Germany might be dangerous.

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“Donate to the Red Cross or I will eat your soul.” US Red Cross propoganda poster 1917.

Hans (eagerly): Let’s shut our eyes and wish they would come. They’ll be sure to if we wish hard on Christmas Eve. We’ll have a Christmas party!

(Both children shut their eyes and are silent. A fairy enters. She is dressed in white, spangled with gilt. She has a star on her forehead and carries a wand. She dances about the stage, singing; then stands in front of the children. Shewaves her wand over them, and they open their eyes.)

Gretchen (rising in surprise): Who are you, Fairy?

Fairy: I am the Christmas fairy, and I have come to answer your wish. I grant all the wishes that good children make on Christmas Eve.

Wait….there’s a Christmas fairy???? Does Santa know?

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Yes Virgina, there IS a Christmas fairy. She’s French and brings rifles. From here.

Hans (earnestly): Oh, dear Fairy, will children really come from America and from Switzerland and from Holland to tell us about their Christmas?

Fairy: They will come because you wished it, and from other countries as well. (She dances around the room once more, and vanishes. Hans and Gretchen run to the door and look after her. They clap their hands and dance around the room for joy.)

Hans: We’re really going to have a Christmas party! Let’s go on trimming the tree. (While they are doing this, they finish the song.)

But, indeed, you know our need,
Know our heart’s desires;
Children, father, and mamma!
You know, too, our grandpapa!
Yes, we all are waiting—ah!
Waiting, you know, tires!
Note: Holland, Switzerland and America were all still neutral in 1915. I bet if they’d ask for French or Russian kids, their Christmases would be bloodier different.

(The sound of a bell is heard and a little girl enters, ringing a Swiss bell. She is dressed in a Swiss costume.)

Swiss child: I come from the lofty mountains of Switzerland to give you greeting. (The two children run to welcome her.)

Hans: Did you come in an airship?

Swiss child: No; the Christmas fairy brought me. What a beautiful tree!

Hans: Yes; it’s our Christmas tree. Don’t you have one? Doesn’t St. Nicholas bring you presents?

Swiss child: No; the Christmas Lady comes to us. She wears a white gown and a red cap, and she carries a basket of toys on her back. But only good children get toys. She brings a switch for the bad ones, and they must keep it all the year and get whipped whenever they are naughty!

 

Hans still has his airship hang-up. But let’s look again at what the poor Swiss kid said again about the Christmas Lady:

She brings a switch for the bad ones, and they must keep it all the year and get whipped whenever they are naughty!

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The Swiss flag, stained red by the blood of naughty children.

I’m familiar with Christkind but this Dame de Noël is a new and unpleasant one.

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La Dame de Noël on left. It’s like The Tin Man and my mean 2nd grade teacher mated.

(They dance slowly around the tree, singing. While they are singing, a hard clacking of wooden shoes is heard at the door. The children stop to listen, and a little Dutch girl enters. She carries a wand with a star on the end and has a basket of sweetmeats on her arm.)

Gretchen (coming to greet her): Here is our little neighbor. I’m so glad you have come. Do the children in Holland have a Christmas Eve like ours?

Dutch child: We don’t have a pretty tree like that, and we don’t hang our stockings before the fire. Good St. Nicholas comes to visit us in the evening. He brings toys for the good children and a big birch rod for the naughty ones.

Those italics were in the original.

[insert joke about St. Nicholas’ “big birch rod” here].

So Swiss and Dutch Christmases involve the prospect of child abuse. That explains alot.

The kids all talk about what sort of animal their respective abusers versions of Santa ride. Sleipner is the Dutch one…but…but…

The eight reindeer in the American version of Christmas lies comes from Sleipner, who was a horse/reindeer thing with EIGHT DAMN LEGS.

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Sleipner, apparently.

The poet Clement C. Moore (probably) replaced Sleipner with eight reindeer. Probably because an eight-legged horse is more terrifying than all the big birch rods in the world.

A child runs in, dressed in Russian coat and furs. She is glistening with snow.)

Russian child: Oh! Your fire looks warm and bright! Christmas is cold, indeed, on the snowy plains of Russia. I am sorry for poor Babouscka to-night.

Gretchen: Come up to the fire and get warm, and tell us who Babouscka is. (All seat themselves around the fire.)

Russian child: Babouscka! Don’t you know about her? On Christmas Eve every little Russian child expects a visit from a little old woman called Babouscka. Long, long ago, on Christmas Eve, Babouscka was sweeping her house when Three Wise Men came to the door and asked her to go with them to bear gifts to a little child. She said she would go when she had finished sweeping, but they said, “We may not wait. We follow a star.” So they went their way. Afterwards Babouscka was sorry she hadn’t gone with them. So she started out alone to find the child, and ever since, on Christmas Eve, she wanders about to every house where there are children, seeking the wonderful child the Wise Men talked about. But always, when she asks for the child, the answer is the same, “Farther on! Farther on!”

Gretchen: Poor Babouscka! I hope she will find the child sometime. Let’s go on with the song. Perhaps some one else will come. (They continue singing.

Now I think we’ve veered into elder abuse….and that Russian is rather chill despite the World War.

A French child enters.)

Hans: Oh! Here comes a little maid of France! I know her by her pretty cap. Come, tell us what you do on Christmas Eve, and who brings your gifts.

French child: Christmas is a holy time with us. The Christ Child himself brings the gifts. We call him Le Petit Noël.

Hans: Do you hang up your stocking for him to fill?

French child: No; we put our shoes by the hearth at night and Le Petit Noël comes down the chimney and fills them.

Finally, a more normative Christmas. Again, French kid is chill despite a World War. Then the English kid pops up.

An English child enters.)

English child: A Merrie Christmas from Merrie England!

Hans: Oh! another guest! How lovely of you to come to our party. Do you have Christmas Eve parties at home?

English child: Oh, yes; Christmas Eve is the merriest night of the year with us.

Hans: Tell us all about it. (The children seat themselves about the hearth, the English child in the center.)

English child: Early in the morning we go to the woods and gather evergreens. Then we trim all the rooms with holly, mistletoe, box, and bay; in the evening we light the great yule log.

Gretchen: What’s the yule log?

Wait, wasn’t the band who did “Firestarter” English???

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I imagine the English kid looks like an amalgamation of these guys. Cute Yank shirt there.

English child: Well, it’s a big log that we always burn in the fireplace on Christmas Eve. All the family meet together on Christmas Eve, and we have a beautiful tree like yours. Every one gives a present to every one else, and we sing and tell stories and have a happy time. Then early on Christmas morning the waits come round and waken us, singing Christmas carols. At dinner we have a great big plum pudding, and mother puts brandy on it and sets fire to the brandy, and it makes a pretty blue flame.

Ah, well, if mummy is lighting the pudding on fire, it’s all good I suppose.

The English child explains what “waits” and caroling are. Then the Swedish youngster appears.

As they finish the carol, a Swedish child enters.)

Swedish child: What a beautiful Christmas party! I’m so glad the Christmas fairy brought me.

Hans: Oh, are you another little maid from France?

Swedish child: Oh, no; I come from the frozen north—from Sweden.

Then the Swedish child explains who brings them presents:

Swedish child: Oh, yes; the Christmas gnomes do that! They are a little old man and a little old woman who come to every home in Sweden, bringing gifts for all in the house. The old man carries a bell and the old woman a large basket filled with gifts. In Sweden every one is remembered on Christmas Day, and a sheaf of grain is fastened to a pole at each house so that not even the birds are forgotten.

Aww. That’s so thoughtful – even birds aren’t forgotten.

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These actually seem like something children would love more than fear.

Gretchen: Hark—some one is singing! (They all listen. Irish child sings behind the screen.)

At Christmas time in Ireland
There is feasting, there is song,
And merrily the fife and fiddle play;
And lightly dance the colleens,
And the boys, the evening long,
At Christmas time in Ireland far away!
(Irish child enters, singing.)
Oh, there’s nothing half so sweet
In any land on earth
As Christmas time in Ireland far away!

Hans: Christmas time in Ireland!

Irish child: Yes, Christmas Day is a dayof feasting and merriment. Where did you get that pretty tree?

Hans: It’s our Christmas tree. Don’t you have one?

Irish child: No; I never saw one before.

Hans: Doesn’t St. Nicholas come to you? Don’t you get presents?

Irish child (shaking her head thoughtfully): No.

Haha! Sucks to be Irish..

Irish child: No; we don’t get gifts at home. We give them to the poor.

Oh, never mind, then.

The children then explain what a Christmas tree is to the Irish girl, who has a hard time comprehending anything besides a Yule log. Then they ask her to finish her song. Then…

(Just as she finishes the song, the American child runs in. They all rise to greet her.)

American child: I’m late because I had so far to come. The fairy carried me high over the seas from America.

Hans: America! I’m so glad you have come! I wondered what the American children were doing to-night.

American child (looking around): Why, I think you must do just what we do on Christmas Eve. You have a tree—you put evergreens around—and you hang your stockings up for Santa Claus to fill.

Hans: Santa Claus? St. Nicholas comes to us.

Gretchen: He’s the same, Hans, only they call him a little different.

Dutch child: Does he come on his horse?

American child: No, he is drawn in a sleigh with eight reindeer. He comes down the chimney and fills our stockings with toys and candy, when we are asleep.

Dutch child: Doesn’t he bring a switch for the bad ones?

American child: Oh, no; Santa Claus never leaves anything but toys.

Dutch child: I wish he wouldn’t bring it when he comes to us!

Poor Dutch kid gets beaten. Only a wholesome All-American Christmas can defeat the nefarious foreign traditions.

Gretchen runs to the window and looks out.) Oh, here are the village children! They have come to our Christmas party. (The village children run in. All greet each other and join in singing.)

This tree was grown on Christmas Day.
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Old and young together say,
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Bright the colored tapers shine;
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Bright to-day the love divine.
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Bright and light our Christmas tree,
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Bright and light our hearts must be.
Hail, old Father Christmas!
Dance, then, children, dance and sing,
Hail, old Father Christmas!
All the merry chorus ring.
Hail, old Father Christmas!

 

And there you have it, a 1915 exploration of Christmas traditions in Europe and America.

proof that American Christmas is superior to any dirty foreign Christmas full of pyromania and child abuse.

And in that vein, here’s one rockin’ Christmas album:

For more of Skinner’s work, there are links:

Archive.org

Even more.

If you got 500 bucks laying around.

Join us on Monday for another monologue and next Thursday for a living (and talented playwright).

Here’s a list of all our playwrights.