Amoeblog

My Reawakened Love of Christmas Carols and this Year's Top Ten

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 24, 2011 03:37pm | Post a Comment

"That's someone shooting Tiny Tim for his PS3"

Of Christmas, the wise Ebenezer Scrooge cynically but rather sensibly wondered, "What was Christmas but a time for running into debt and getting one year older without getting even one hour richer?" That was 1843 and not even the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come could foresee the horrorshow to come in which people would trample minimum wage employees to death and unleash thick clouds of acrid pepper spray into the weeping faces of innocent babes in the effort to procure a Tickle Me Elmo, Furbie or whatever mass-produced crap has in any given year temporarily excited the mindless, collective consumerist impulse. Happy birthday, Christkind!


The crappy Christmas Carol-free zone!

Christmas Carols too have been given a bad wrap, sullied by their association with joyless, joint-zapping visits to the mall. For those working in retail, imagine how much worse it is. The fact that the same roughly eight or so songs mercilessly begin mannheim steamrolling anyone that ventures outdoors around mid-September is enough to justify anyone feeling like the Grinch. However, having avoided malls and shopping centers altogether this Yuletide, and running my own store (Brightwell - shameless plug) have allowed me to hear Christmas music in a new and holy light. I decided in this newly-awakened joy/mania to attempt to come up with my Top 10 Christmas Carols.



Right away I realized that there are so many great songs that it would be impossible to choose just ten. Who can deny the undying beauty of 12th century's mournful "Veni, veni Emmanuel"? Similarly, the sounds of the 16th century's "Ding dong merrily on high" have somehow never ceased to excite the humors in my otherwise bile-filled vessel. The 19th century gave us the equally beautiful "Stille nacht, heilige nacht," "The first Nowell," and "What child Is this?" not to mention Tchaikovsky's entire score for The Nutcracker or Schubert's "Die winterreise" song cycle.

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St. Lucy's Day (Sankta Lucia)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 12, 2008 10:28am | Post a Comment

Tomorrow is St. Lucy's Day, a holiday primarily observed in Northern and Central Europe, and the Upper Midwest. If it seems odd for Lutherans to observe a St. Day, it's because it sort of is. Then again, as with most Christian observances, the holiday's roots have nothing to do with saints or Christianity.

St. Lucy's Day begins with a young girl clad in white with a lit crown of candles positioned in her hair in a fir wreath (or lingonberry or whortleberry twigs). She leads a procession of candle-bearing girls with coffee, ginger snaps, glog and St. Lucia buns (lussekatter). Sometimes there are boys in conical hats known as "star boys." The children sing Lucia songs which provide a welcome break from Christmas Carols.


Falling near the longest night of the year, the symbolism of young maidens bearing light-bringing fire and bounty isn't too hard to figure out, but if you must know the official Christian version of events, then here you go. Officially, Lucia helped the early Christians in Italy who hid in the catacombs. In order to see, but needing to bring food in her hands, she contructed a wreath of candles. Yeah... right.


The truth is that before the light-bringing Lucy was invented, Germanic people and their neighbors observed "Lussi Night." The figure, Lussi die dunkle, was a dark, evil female spirit that came on the 13th of December to punish those with uncompleted tasks. Similar (and perhaps to related) to Lillith, the Mesopotamian storm demons, Lussi also preyed upon children. In fact, a whole mob of Lussiferda (Lisle-Ståli, Store-Ståli, Ståli Knapen, Tromli Harebakka, Sisill, Surill, Hektetryni and Botill) would go around an enter houses through chimneys to kidnap children. Sound vaguely familiar?

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