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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Have yourself a Merry (and just a little bit weird and creepy) Victorian Christmas. Just goes to show how the nuances of any era can be lost.

But seriously, Merry Christmas to all.

Children attacking a large pudding on a Christmas card. Date: circa 1890s

Roasted Rat for Christmas

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I wanted to play a Christmas song for this week’s Sunday music and thought I’d replay a song that first ran here back in 2009. It’s Must Be Santa from Bob Dylan. It’s a great song, a polka with a klezmer feel and in the the entertaining video you get the bonus of seeing Dylan dance. Good fun for the day before Christmas.

While looking for an photo or two to accompany this post, I browsed through masses of images of Santas from the past and was amazed how many of them crossed that line into outright creepiness. It made me believe that Santa is just about on par with clowns in creep factor. You might see a rogue clown in the woods but Santa is, simply put, a bearded home intruder ( and flamboyant dresser) who slides down your chimney in the dark of night. He knows when you are sleeping, for god’s sake!

I picked a few that are pretty strange. I left out some that actually made me cringe and feel a little queasy. I have a feeling that many of their photos are also in some sort of registry somewhere.

Anyway, enjoy the song and have a good holiday evening. And don’t worry about the weird old man hovering around your home tonight…

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The painter Pieter Brugel ( 1525-1569) is a favorite of mine,as the color, composition and rhythm of his work quickly draw me into his paintings. I had seen images of the painting above a number of times and had enjoyed it every time by just absorbing it as a whole. But knowing just a few facts about it make it even more interesting.

It’s titled Census at Bethlehem and is from 1566. It certainly refers to the Christmas story of Joseph and Mary arriving in Bethlehem. They are depicted in the lower central part of the image, Mary on a donkey led by Joseph. But it is apparent that this is not the proper time or place for the story for the biblical tale. It is a Dutch/Flemish scene  fifteen hundred years in the future. But it turns out that this was not unusual for Bruegel. He often took myths and tales from other times and cultures and placed them in contemporary settings.

It is also suggested that this painting was a veiled criticism that compared the governance of the Netherlands, marked by heavy taxation and a rough suppression of Protestantism, under the Spanish king, Philip II, to that of the Roman Empire in the Biblical era in Judea. This was painted just a few years before a revolt against Spanish rule broke out.

Seeing this as a political protest adds a layer to its depth. But however you might look at it– as a simple peasant scene, political screed or religious allegory–for me it is a feast for the eyes.

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GC Myers- BluepeacenightA few years back I played a version of the song Riu Riu Chiu, an early 16th century song from the Iberian Peninsula that is about the Nativity story.  That version was a surprisingly lovely  a capella version from the Monkees.  I say surprising because it was part of a really bad Christmas episode of their television show from the 1960’s.  Watching it made me question my taste in television when I was a kid. But at least this song was there to somewhat make up for the bad parts.

I thought I would share another version today, this one from the Boston Camerata, which is, according to their website, “America’s preeminent early music ensemble.”  I obviously can’t speak to that but I do like this version of the song very much.

Enjoy.

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A Gorey Christmas

Edward Gorey Great Veiled Bear ChristmasMay the Great Veiled Bear bless you with Christmas cookies this year.

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christmas-treeFlipping on the car radio this time of year brings torrents of holiday music.  Many of the local stations change to an all Christmas format from Thanksgiving to the end of the year and you are bombarded with holiday tunes from every era and every level of quality– good , bad and ugly.  Most are happy, solemn, goofy or stickily sentimental.  Or nostalgically melancholic.

Melancholy plays a big part in many Christmas songs, especially in those songs about being separated from loved ones at Christmas– I’ll Be Home For Christmas and White Christmas for examples.

But there are very few that fall into the category of a Fairy Tale of New York from the Irish band The Pogues.  Released in 1987, it is about two Irish immigrants in NYC who look back on their stormy relationship and their dreams that have fallen due to drugs and drink.  I would be optimistic in calling it melancholic or bittersweet.

But it is a beautiful song and something in it connects on a very human level even through the harshest imagery of the song.   And it has connected in a big way through the years.  It has been the most played Christmas song in the UK since the turn of this century and is consistently named the most popular holiday song in many polls throughout Britain and Ireland.

Below is the video from the 80’s for the song.  A small bit of trivia: there is no NYPD Choir so the band recruited the NYPD Pipe and Dreams to appear in the video.  They were asked to sing “Galway Bay” but since they didn’t know the song they sang the one song they all knew, especially in their reputedly drunken state at the filming– the theme from the Mickey Mouse Club.  The film is slowed to better sync their lips to the intended song.

So, enjoy?  Maybe this song does so well because it makes our own Christmas melancholy seem not all that bad…

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GC Myers- Party lights smallIn this part of the country, childhood memories from this time of the year usually include the cold and snow in some form.  Frozen ponds with skaters on them.  New sleds at Christmas going down white covered hills.  Bundling up in heavy clothes and hats and boots.

It’s a little different this year thus far.  Today and tomorrow it’s going to be in the 60’s here and there’s hardly a hint of snow or real cold in the future forecast.  While it is pleasant weather to enjoy, it makes feeling the holiday a bit different than in the past.  Christmas lights just seem to have more sparkle in the reflection on snow than on the the still green grass.  Maybe the piece shown here, Party Lights from 2005, was a hint at what this season will look like in the future.

I don’t want to argue the subject of global warming here today.  However, it definitely feels real this holiday season and if this is to be the new norm, it’s going to take a bit of time to recalibrate and adjust to how this time should feel for those of us who live– and enjoy– where it is normally colder this time of year.

Okay, it’s time for a little Sunday music and I thought that the piano of Vince Guaraldi would fill the bill.  If the ponds won’t freeze over for the skaters at least they have his music to enjoy.  Here’s Skating.

 

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