The Nocturnal Yuletide Revisited by Deborah Landers and Tarale Wolffe

Tradition is sitting in a chair on stage, reading or otherwise occupied, when Erudite comes in. Erudite crosses to center stage and begins, addressing audience.

Erudite: “’Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual yuletide celebration and throughout our place of residence kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential. Including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus Musculus.”

Tradition: (having an epiphany) “’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

Erudite: (still to audience) “Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood burning caloric apparatus. Pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among who folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.”

Tradition: “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

Erudite: Will you stop that? You’re ruining it!

Tradition: I’m ruining it? Then you’re guilty of murder!

Erudite: Murder? If I’m murdering an overdone piece of tripe, then so be it.

Tradition: You want to tell me why you are intent on killing people’s Christmas traditions?

Erudite: I’m killing nothing. I’m improving.

Tradition: I fail to see how this is an improvement. You have to be an English major to understand any of it, and Lord only knows those are suddenly in short supply!

Erudite: You don’t have to be an English major to appreciate the sound of language.

Tradition: But clearly you can be an idiot and fake a love of language, because love of language this isn’t!

Erudite: (attempting to push Tradition offstage) “The prepubescent siblings comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebrums.”

Tradition: (Shoving hand away) “The children were nestled all snug in their beds; While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;”

Erudite: No! It’s: “During which times my lawfully wedded spouse adorned with a warm head covering and this person wearing a masculine version of the said type of headgear. Then after some preliminary activity resigned ourselves to a lengthy period of nocturnal repose.”

Tradition: I think you mean: “And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,”

Erudite: Please. The original that you’re so fond of is full of overdone rhythms and hackneyed rhymes. I don’t know how anyone can enjoy such overused devices.

Tradition: It’s traditional! And it’s not just me that’s fond of it - it’s part of some people’s Christmas celebrations.

Erudite: Well, maybe they should try some new traditions.

Tradition: With this? Maybe as a Christmas drinking game, though I pity the liver of anyone who tried it!

Erudite: You know what? This conversation is going nowhere. You’re ridiculous. (Turns back to audience. Recites) “When external to our residence, and on the surrounding cultivated area such concatenation of unusual voluminous commotion occurred. That I was constrained to quickly disassociate myself from my pleasingly comfortable couch in order to ascertain the cause of the disturbance.”

Tradition: (sarcastically, to audience) Yes, she sounds like she swallowed a thesaurus and I’m the ridiculous one. “When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.”

Erudite: You’re such a child. It sounds better like: “Hastening to the casement I forthwith opened the barriers sealing this fenestration. Noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline precipitation that might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself.”

Tradition: “Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, gave a luster of midday to objects below.” Do you intend to inflict this on children too? Hope you bring enough dictionaries for the adults...

Erudite: It’s simple enough for anyone to understand. (looks over at Tradition) Well, anyone with half a brain.

Tradition: Having a bit of trouble with it, are you?

Erudite: Of. Course. Not. I wouldn’t be saying it if I didn’t understand it. This is a college after all. No one recites things they don’t understand.

Tradition: (slow clap) I applaud your faith in humanity. How do you explain politicians?

Erudite: Politicians are a completely different kettle of fish, and I’m not touching it. Back to the important matters … Where was I … Oh, yes! “Thus permitting my incredulous optical sensory organs, to behold a small airborne runnered conveyance drawn by eight diminutive specimens of the genus rangifer. Piloted by a minuscule aged chauffeur so ebullient and agile that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated caller.”

Tradition: (To audience) Methinks she doth protest too much! (Turns back to Erudite) “When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, with a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.”

Erudite: (Goes to side of stage to person preplaced there with gag and rope) Can I borrow those? Thanks. (Returns with them. Adlib getting Tradition to chair. ‘Ties’ and ‘gags’ them. During next segment Tradition unties and ungags self) “With his ungulate motive power travelling at what may have been more vertiginous velocity than patrioticular. He vociferated loudly expelled breath musically through contracted labia and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen.”

Tradition: (Gives rope back to person after freeing self) Here, you can have this back. Now: “More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, and he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:”

Erudite: Ugh! You’re so … infuriating. Will you just stop talking? For five minutes?

Tradition: And let this mutilation of Christmas happen? Fat chance. Still think it would be a good drinking game. (to audience) A shot for every word over eight letters? Nah, you’d be drunk by the end of the first line. (to Erudite) At least you can eff up the bit with the reindeer.

Erudite: “Now Dasher, Now Dancer, Etc. Et ux. Et al.”

Tradition: Apparently, you can. “Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

Erudite: Now who’s showing off? Who actually remembers all the reindeer?

Tradition: Anyone who sings “Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer”?

Erudite: No one actually listens to that first part.

Tradition: (turns back to the person with the rope and gag) Can I borrow those this time? (They shake their head) Fine.

Erudite: They like me better. Now, to continue: “Guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode through which structure I could readily distinguish the staccato plat of each of the thirty-two pedal extremities.”

Tradition: You’re just conveniently leaving things out. “As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; So up to the housetop the coursers they flew with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too— And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.”

Erudite: And you say I’m being overly complicated? “As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location and was performing a 180-degree pivot our distinguished visitant achieved with utmost celerity a downward leaping entry by way of the vent for unconsumed gasses and particulate matter of the aforementioned caloric apparatus.”

Tradition: Yes. There’s a difference between poetic license and over-complication. You passed that back at the first line. “As I drew in my head, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.”

Erudite: No. I’m just making that insipid poem sound smarter. “Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smoking piece whose gray fumes forming a tenuous eclipse about his occiput were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of holly.”

Tradition: Oh, am I throwing you off? “He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;”

Erudite: I’m taking out extraneous descriptors. “His visage was wider than it was high and when he waxed audibly mirthful his corpulent abdominal region undulated in the manner of an impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container.”

Tradition: Oh god. You do that in real life too? “He had a broad face and a little round belly That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;”

Erudite: Again, I’m making this arduous piece of unmentionable anguish better for the mental palate. “Without audible utterance and with a great deal of dispatch he commenced filling the aforementioned hosiery with various articles of merchandise extracted from his dorsally transported cloth receptacle.”

Tradition: Thank god, the end of this travesty is in sight! “He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,”

Erudite: You don’t have to be here, you know. I was quite happy without your ‘help’. “Placing his index digit next to his proboscis and agitating his topmost extremity in a vertical reciprocating motion he ascended through the aforementioned air vent to the same building level as that on which his vehicle and steed were resting.”

Tradition: “And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;” Oh, I’m not here for you. (Points to audience) I’m here for them.

Erudite: I think they could do without your help either. All you’re doing is reciting an antiquated piece of literature. There’s nothing original about it. “He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance and directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden.”

Tradition: You lecture about originality, yet here you are, the declaimer of derivative work. “He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,” (demonstrate a whistle)

Erudite: So you can speak in more than two syllables! “And preceded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable among the self-bearing portion of a common spiny pasture weed. But I overheard his parting valedictory exclamation Audible immediately prior to the acceleration of his conveyance its occupant and motive power before the limits of optical visibility”

Tradition: (to audience) We’ve yet to see if she can use modern colloquial English. “And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—”

Erudite: You’re a pain in my creative process! “Ecstatic yuletide to the planetary constituency, and—”

Tradition: Seriously? Seriously?

Erudite: (Over Tradition, Continues, louder) “-to that selfsame assemblage most sincere wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn.”

Tradition: That’s it, you’re done. (Shoves Erudite off stage, shouting) “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”