In the beginning, there was Jesus, Son of Joseph, whose birth two millennia past drew kings to the child and inspired long pilgrimages and quests for plush creatures that came vibrantly to life when tickled.
The peace was short-lived. From the North came a demon atop a sleigh, reindeer braying as he brought corruption to the well-behaved children of this world in the form of material obsession and sadness to the downtrodden in the form of fossil fuels.
This "Santa" stood unchallenged until Earth year 1937, when the air filled with voices from Hollywood singing praises of a new savior: Paddy O'Cinnamon, Squire of Maybeland, who now lords over the Portland waterways aboard the good ship Portland Spirit's annual Cinnamon Bear Cruise. He is the subject of storybooks and merchandise booths. He is the Lord Cinnamon.
The modern worship of the Bear has been a tradition and alternative to Santa since 2005, when the ship resurrected the character—whose introduction as a serialized radio show gave way to real-world manifestation of the beast as a 1951 television series and a mainstay at long-dead downtown department store Lipman-Wolfe—as a gigantic plush creature who sits atop a throne weekendly.
But there are those who would topple the Bear.
The radio foretold a prophecy in the Bear's origin, wherein the devious Crazyquilt Dragon snatched from two children the silver star atop their Christmas tree and made haste to the realm of Maybeland, obsessed and transformed by the seductive power of the star. With the help of the denizens of the realm, the dragon was vanquished, the star retrieved and order restored.
Through sheer magic, the Bear has now transformed the Portland Spirit into Maybeland, luring into its bowels the children whose parents grew up on the legend. But danger still lurks. Crazyquilt still seeks the star during each voyage. Obsessed adult fans board the ship with offers of fan fiction and original folk songs. Some seek to climb inside the skin of the Bear itself.
But an unlikely alliance has formed, warriors of Maybeland who stand watch, endlessly creating balloon animals, stopping to be immortalized in photographs and hand out candy. They are a legion of elves armed with servers' licenses and skills at the art of table busing, led by Queen Melissa, Captain Taffy the Pirate King, the great wizard Presto the Magician and the most unlikely of allies, Santa of Claus, whose alliance with the Bear is the linchpin for restoring the spirit of holiday to all obsessed with nostalgic product-mongering.
They are the Fellowship of the Bear and, through Christmas, they offer you their candy canes in service. One star to rule them all.
GO: The Portland Spirit's Cinnamon Bear Cruise departs daily from Salmon Street Springs on Dec. 15-27, except Dec. 25. Times vary. $30 adults, $22 children. See portlandspirit.com for more information.
WEDNESDAY DEC. 12
THURSDAY DEC. 13
FRIDAY DEC. 14
SATURDAY DEC. 15
SUNDAY DEC. 16