I’ve heard the biblical Christmas story approximately one bazillion times in my life, between 13 years of Catholic school and weekly Episcopal church services with my family. I’ve been in a dozen Christmas pageants. Angel, miraculous conception, journey to Bethlehem to pay taxes, birth in a barn, wise men, angel, flee from the bad guys.

It was only recently that a question occurred to me: Who cut Jesus’ umbilical cord? I can’t stop wondering. Did Joseph do it? Did Mary do it herself while Joseph was outside barfing and freaking out about impending stepfatherhood? Did the innkeeper’s wife, who empathized with the at-term woman on the donkey and let them stay in the stable, provide assistance? Whether or not Mary felt labor pains is a matter of legitimate theological debate, but if Jesus was born out of a woman’s body, an umbilical cord would have to have been involved.

This is how you can tell the Gospels were written by men: If a woman had written the story of Christ’s birth, particularly the part about its happening in a barn, there would be a lot more relevant detail. Every mother I’ve ever talked to can tell you exactly how long they were in labor. But in the Bible, it’s just poof! Mary is delivered of a son and the world is saved.

So, from the very first Christmas, a great deal of invisible labor was involved. Any parent who has “done the Santa Claus thing” knows this. Sometimes it’s very literal – the late-night tiptoeing down the stairs to fill the stockings, the assembling of the bicycle in the garage, the ceremonial hiding of the presents post-Black Friday. And sometimes it’s the hard work of creating holiday experiences and memories that kids just don’t appreciate until they grow up and attempt to purchase, take home, set up and rig lights on a 6-foot Douglas fir themselves.

There’s a lot of invisible labor at the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, too. If you aren’t familiar with the fund, it’s pretty simple: Parents or guardians who are in a tight spot financially put in an application, and the fund (supported largely by newspaper readers) purchases toys and gifts so the kiddos can have stuff to unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning. Processing the applications, purchasing the gifts, wrapping them (gorgeously, I might add) and organizing the warehouse full of presents is a lot of work, and invisible to the recipients, because as far as they know, those gifts came from Mom, Dad or Santa. (Probably Santa.) And that’s how it should be. Kids should be kids, whether they’re born in a mansion or a stable, and the Toy Fund helps with that.

Every year since I started this crazy little column, around the start of the holiday season, I write a column about the work of the Toy Fund, donate my paycheck and encourage my readers to do the same. And every year I am absolutely blown away by your generosity. I read every daily roundup of fund donations that the Press Herald publishes, and if you ever need a shot of the warm fuzzies, I recommend you do as well.

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I like to see all the names and comments and “in memoriams.” So many people donate in honor of happy Christmases they had as a child, and want to pass on that feeling. From the $10 donations to the $10,000 (thanks, Paul and Kathy Anderson – I’m glad everyone gets to know your names now, not just me!), it astounds me how many folks are willing to part with their hard-earned dollars in order to buy Christmas presents for kids they may never meet. It’s invisible Christmas labor at its finest. I would say it’s a Christlike act, but Christ didn’t give gifts at the very first Christmas. That honor belonged to the three kings. The wise men. The Magi.

Last year, in the midst of pandemic-induced economic collapse, the Press Herald Toy Fund raised $250,000 – the most they had raised in years. This year, the economy is better, but we’re still in the midst of the pandemic. Too many Maine families will be facing their first Christmas with an empty chair at the table. Too many families are still struggling to make ends meet. We are a state in need of some joy. But as my dad liked to say, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Let’s get going, my fellow Magi.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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