Yet Christmas would not be the same without such quieter moments of reflection and regret as these, for it is right to reflect upon the losses of the year and lay them to rest, just as it is good to celebrate the triumphs and the coming of a new season, and new hope.
–The Willows & Beyond, by William Horwood
[As this is a season of traditions, we decided to republish this favorite piece from last Christmas involving our indomitable and beloved Riverbank creatures originally introduced in Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 publication, Wind in the Willows.]
In the The Willows & Beyond, the fourth and final installment of William Horwood’s wonderful continuation of Grahame’s original work, we are introduced to the tradition of setting a place at the Christmas table for the “Uninvited Guest,” a tradition begun by Mr. Toad Senior.
Mr. Badger proposes this toast:
…to those who have no place to go this day, no company to keep, no table at which to sit. People whose lives and circumstances have not brought them family or friends as we have, or have taken them far from those they love this day when they have most need of them.
What a beautiful idea and one so fitting for this Christmas when there may be more empty places at the table than ever.
What good spirit rose among them then and travelled out of the casement and across the snow-covered lawns, as they sipped their drink and pondered upon that person Badger had evoked. And what species of magic as it comes at Christmas, to make a mystery of simple candlelight and bring forth hope.
Setting this place at the table seems to express symbolically what most of us anticipate in our hearts. That if we only knew how, we would love to share our table with the uninvited. With someone perhaps very different from us in some ways but in other ways, the same. How we carry that flame of compassion always and remain vigilant in hopes of bestowing its warmth on the long lost as well as those so close around us.
In this classic story, on that particular Christmas, someone uninvited does arrive and brings about an uplifting reunion and the fulfillment of the camaraderie and devotion that the original book and all those that have followed have celebrated so delightfully. We wish that same anticipation of joy for your holidays, however many guests, uninvited or otherwise, gather around your table. Or, if you’re alone this year, we hope you feel this companionable Wind In The Willows spirit that we all share.