“Major Carter,” said Teal’c.
“Mmm?” Sam glanced up from her laptop to find that Teal’c was sitting in the chair across from her.
He inclined his head. “There is a matter which I wish to discuss with you.”
She closed her laptop with a click. “Sure. What’s up?”
“I do not understand the purpose of this greenery.”
It took Sam a moment to catch on. “Oh – the Christmas tree?” She glanced over at the corner of the commissary, where Walter had set up a somewhat bedraggled artificial tree. The ornaments were eclectic, and she was fairly sure that Daniel was going to pitch a fit when he realised Jack had stolen the statuettes from PX3-862 to perch in its branches, but Sam found the overall effect kind of charming.
Teal’c nodded. “And the garlands,” he confirmed. “Additionally, the office of General Hammond has acquired a decorative circle.”
“A wreath,” Sam said automatically. “Teal’c, hasn’t anyone explained Christmas to you?”
Teal’c hesitated. “Daniel Jackson informed me that it is a holiday celebrating the birth of your God’s son,” he said, and Sam was surprised to realise that he was using the same careful tone that he used when discussing religious with the natives they met on gate missions. It was disconcerting thing to be on the receiving end of. “He then inquired if I wished to read the holy book of your people. When I informed him that Airman Davidson had already provided me with one such book, he expressed much derision for the translation done by King James, and provided me with a version he said was new and revised, and contained many interesting footnotes. I have read both books, Major Carter, and although I found them most intriguing, I do not recall any mention of these... Christmas trees.”
“Oh,” said Sam weakly. “Uh, I haven’t read the bible for a long time, Teal’c, but I think trees are just one of those things... it’s like Santa Claus. Some of the things we do at Christmas aren’t really Christian, they’re just sort of... Christmas. Daniel might know more than I do.”
“I have the greatest respect for Daniel Jackson,” said Teal’c in that same careful voice. “But he is an’shra.” Seeing Sam’s confused face, he struggled to translate. “It means that he is one who studies, who is skilled in the way of books and scrolls. One whose learning places him above others.”
Same smiled. “The intelligentsia – the intellectual elite. That’s our Daniel.”
Teal’c nodded an assent. “As First Prime on Chulak, I heard many an’shra speak of the common Jaffa. They seldom spoke of the customs and traditions of my childhood as I remembered them. To explain our practises, they told stories I had never heard, and spoke of motivations I did not share. To understand why the Jaffa of the Cord’ai plains hang crystals from their door posts on the day of Kel’mah Khev, you must ask the Jaffa of the Cord’ai plains, not the an’shra of your unit.”
Sam was trying not to be hurt by the implications, when Teal’c added, “You, too, are an’shra, Major Carter, but of science, not of people.”
“Oh,” said Sam again. Okay. She could see the logic in that. She closed her eyes, trying to dredge up memories of Christmases long past. “I had a storybook when I was little,” she said eventually. “It said that... pine trees point up to the sky, to remind us to look up and think of God. And the star on the top of the tree, that’s the star of Bethlehem, that led the wise men to Jesus. We’re supposed to remember, and look for Jesus.” She opened her eyes. “Do any of the trees on base have candy canes?”
Teal’c nods. “A treat both decorative and delicious.”
Sam grins. “I remember my mother saying they were supposed to be shepherd’s crooks. So maybe... the shepherds saw angels on Christmas, and were told to be not afraid. So we’re not supposed to be afraid, because Jesus is here now. And – the ornaments.” She’s warming to her subject now, bits and drabs of memory coming back to her. “When we were kids, all the ornaments were gifts, or ones we’d made ourselves in school. They reminded us of friends, and family, and how important it is to love people.” She glanced at the tree in the commissary, its branches sagging under their brightly coloured load. This tree wasn’t that different from her childhood trees, in that respect.
“Wreaths are eternal life,” said a new voice. Sam and Teal’c turned, and Airman Howell blushed fiercely. “Begging your pardon, Major, Teal’c. Didn't mean to eavesdrop. It’s just. That’s what they said at church, when I was a kiddie. Because a circle has no end – so it stands for eternal life in heaven.”
From another table, someone ventured hesitantly, “Mum always told me that all the red stood for death, and all the green stood for life. Because Jesus was going to die so we could live. And evergreens, they’re eternal life too, because they don’t die in the winter, right?”
“We always put an angel on top of our tree, not a star,” someone else said. “For the angel bringing the good news.”
As the volume in the room began to grow, everyone shouting out their memories of childhood Christmases, Sam leaned forward to catch Teal’c’s eye. “I think,” she said slowly, “it’s not about what’s in the Bible, exactly. I mean, it is, but it’s also about remembering the story, and remembering what the story means. All this... it’s all to remind us about who Jesus was, and about the things he stood for. Love and life and, and, peace on earth, goodwill to men, all that stuff. All the things that keep us going.”
“Thank-you, Major Carter,” said Teal’c, very nearly smiling. “I believe I understand.”