How Khrushchev Stole Khristmas:
A Cold War Tale for a Cold Winter's Night
One night in the Kremlin, while Red Square was black,
Nikita ("Nick") Khrushchev lay flat on his back.
He tossed and he turned in his Marxian bed
As troikas of nightmares galumphed through his head.
He woke with a start and he knocked on red wood,
For in that mad dream, he'd been acting too good!
"It's been seven days since I did something foul!
I think I'll steal Khristmas -- then watch the world howl!"
He called in his squad of invisible spies,
And sketched out a plan that brought ice to their eyes.
"Stop playing with Cuba; quit praising John Birch:
Here's absolute evil! I've ended our search!
"Quite late on the eve of December two-five,
You'll sneak up on Santa and take him alive!
You'll melt all the snow, paint the evergreens red,
Cut holes in the stockings, leave Rudolph for dead!
"Cyrillicize all the West's alphabet blocks,
And give every doll the Red Communist-Pox!
You'll cart off the carols, turn silver bells brass,
And smear on cathedrals, 'Put Christ back in Mass!'
"You'll prove Tiny Tim a malingering dwarf,
And hand out doped candy to make the kids barf!
Tell white Alabama that Jesus was brown,
And orbit a Sputnik o'er Bethlehem-town!
"Then think up your own sins -- there's room to create!
Bring joy to my world through dissension and hate!
I mean what I said,
and you'll do what I meant:
Good Commies obey me,
three hundred percent!"
They spread through the world, K's invisible goons,
Some stuffing the mincemeat with peppers and prunes,
Some slashing the tires on new tricycle wheels,
Some licking the stickum off fresh Christmas seals!
Then when they were through, they unscabbered their knives,
And from calendars hacked all the Dec. twenty-fives!
They wrapped their cloaks round them and vanished complete,
Along with their glee at their foul, fulsome feat.
The world woke next day in one heck of a fix:
Every place where a date was said twelve/twenty-six!
Newspapers and TV all screamed the event:
"The Commies have fixed things,
nine hundred percent!"
"We can't let it happen!" howled Richard M. Nixon,
"Let hate guide our way from December two-six on!"
B. Goldwater choked out, "My silver tongue fails --
This sacrilege dooms my department store sales!"
Jack Kennedy cried, "Meet this challenge with vigah!
We must live our soft lives with more rigorous rigah!
If Nick takes New Year's too, we'll leave Rusher aflame,
'Cause my Clan's playing Cal in the next Rose Bowl game!"
The Pope spoke up then: "This is dark infamy!
'Round the world it will strike at each Church family,
All practicing Love in the good rhythm way --
The calendar's wrecked? Blessed saints, let us pray!"
The academicians cried, "How can it be?
We'd sooner swear elephants nest in a tree!
Did Khrushchev steal Khristmas? We'll give you a hint:
Them Reds is mendacious, two thousand percent!"
A United Nations emergency session
Was convened to help Christmas, but in a digression,
They ousted Great Britain and recognized Hell,
While Nick, with a smirk, vetoed Easter as well.
By this time the children, from Chile to Chad,
Had reached the conclusion that something was bad,
And after some thought, thought it likely as not
That the whole fiendish thing was a capitalist plot!
Muchachas y muchachos, no piñatas to knock,
Smashed USIA windows with the first handy rock,
While angry young Turks, with sweet Turkish delight,
Shouted pro-Santa slogans at each missile site.
Dissatisfied Dutchlings tossed empty wood shoes
At ugly American submarine crews,
While candyless Kenyans, with desolate wails,
Rode peaceful Peace Corpsmen from their kraals on sharp rails.
By the time clocks were bonging the Day Twenty-Seven,
The world was all wrong, and Khrushchev in his heaven.
"They did what I said,
and my words were well spent:
My Reds are perfidious,
nine thousand percent!"
But that day, as it grew, took a curious twist,
As young 'uns and old 'uns recalled what they'd missed:
Toys falling to pieces right under the tree,
And gas-stove explosions in East Tennessee;
The bitter reunions, where kith hated kin;
The misleading readings of "Good will to men";
Too many fake Santas who laughed pseudo-drolly;
The needling reminders that the Day should be holy;
False love and true malice, stray hurt and self-blame,
Indulgence and envy, disappointment and shame!
They found that the season possessed a new feel,
With the barnacles scraped off the old Christmas keel:
There were still certain things no one could take away!
for that NEXT Christmas day,
Each chose for himself what to keep or let go,
And the Day was as pure as the white of fresh snow!
With villainy vanquished, and Khrushchev quite crushed,
Kids slid on their sleds, girls 'neath mistletoe blushed.
In the bright freezing air, lovers puffed out soft words,
While others warmed old love or pitched crumbs to the birds.
Some felt new religion; some simply felt good;
Some even made plans to try brotherhood!
Some sat in quiet thought, some in loud babblement,
One hundred percent.
Alan C. Elms
I wrote this poem 39 years ago, in December 1961, as
part of a comic novel that I was working on at the time. A friend who
read the manuscript told me to scrap the novel and market the poem
independently. I didn't take his advice, but the novel never got
published. The poem was first "officially" published in 1994, as a
pamphlet for distribution with my Christmas cards.
When I wrote "How Khrushchev Stole Khristmas," I had not
yet read Dr. Seuss's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which had been
published four years earlier. (The television animated cartoon came
some years later.) But obviously I had read the title of Dr. Seuss's
poem, and knew more or less what it was about. The form and rhyme
scheme of my version, as well as the recurrent "I meant what I said . .
. [blank] hundred percent," derived instead from a favorite Dr. Seuss
poem that I had read often to my younger siblings when I was a
teen-ager: "Horton Hatches the Egg." My poem also borrowed heavily from
current events in 1961: Nikita Khrushchev was still very much the
Premier of the USSR, and Cold War rhetoric filled our newspapers as
well as theirs. John Kennedy had been President for less than a year,
and his Peace Corps was still a fresh idea. Thirty-nine years later,
Khrushchev and Kennedy and the Cold War are gone, but the dream of a
fresh start for Christmas still lives in many hearts.
-- Alan C. Elms, December 2000