2:00PM Water Cooler Christmas Eve 2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I’m going to skip the Bird Song in favor of another sort of song:

I know it’s ridiculous — the Anglican Church, traditional architecture, “processing” as a verb, “all in white shall be around us,” and anyhow this holiday is really the solstice or Saturnalia — but the beauty of “Once in Royal David’s City” always makes my eyes sting, with tears. I search for it, well, religiously on the NPR (sigh) radio schedule and have for years. Perhaps the reality of having been lovingly cared for as a child speaks to all of us; or the yearning to have been; or the yearning not to be or have been, but to do. And then there’s verse two:

He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall:
with the poor, and mean, and lowly,
lived on earth our Savior holy.

I cannot but think that the times in Roman Judea were much like our own: Imperial domination, debt, slaves, the wealthy elbowing the poor into the gutter, whippings, executions, general brutality. And of course scribes and Pharisees. And yet the adult Jesus sat down with tax collectors[1] and sinners, and defended prostitutes[2] from being stoned to death by enforcers. These are all “the poor, the mean, the lowly.” Perhaps there is a lesson here for the left, in terms of focus.

Be that as it may, I hope you all enjoy your Christmas Eve and the forthcoming holiday. Singing real Christmas carols (not the secular “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” crapola, but the hard core Christian stuff, like “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” or “O Come All Ye Faithful”) was one of my favorite things as a child, but it may be that, with aerosol transmission, we should not be doing that for now. Or if we are eating together, we’ve thought carefully about distance, seating arrangements, ventilation, and risk (who’s bearing it).

It’s been a rough year, and I wouldn’t advise anybody to try to hold themselves to any sort of baseline of Christmas perfection, not even “for the children.” Perhaps the best thing to do is to go out, alone or together, and silently look up at the stars, and be thankful simply for being here.

Water Cooler will return on Monday. I’m leaving comments open, and please be excellent to each other.

[1] Tax collection in Judea was privatized, as in pre-1789 France.

[2] John 8:1-11 is one of the passages that convinces me there was a historical Jesus, however dimly seen though “the scriptures,” because who would make that parable up? The setting is rather like a Town Hall, with the Pharisees playing the role of the Tea Party, and setting up a big gotcha moment for the media of the day. But Jesus, wits honed by years of disputation, cleverly turns the tables on them. And then “they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest” is dry, very dry. Why did the eldest leave first, one might wonder?

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (JU):

JU: “Sunrise over the Sierra Nevada.” There are plants along the skyline if you look closely, but I felt a sunrise was appropriate for the Solstice. The days are getting longer! More light!

Readers, I could use more photos from readers who have not contributed before! Thank you! NOTE Fungi and coral are honorary plants. Christmas trees are plants, too!

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. grayslady

    Perhaps it’s an Episcopal thing, but, in my church-going days, “Once in Royal David’s City” was the song we always sang at Christmas as people approached the altar for communion. It’s a particularly haunting melody.

  2. Neill Loria

    Very newsworthy day today thats two days in a row that you took off! Anyways Merry Christmas! The main story of today is does Trump go to war with Iran before January 21st? I say some warfare real or symbolic is bound to happen! Other story how many retail workers are about to be fired & how many brick & mortar stores are closing for good?

  3. lyman alpha blob

    A personal Xmas favorite – Harry Shearer cavorting around in a giant red leather devil tail. Thank you Harry and all of the Tappers for bringing humor and joy to all of us for years.

    And when you’re done looking and wondering at the stars, you can go back inside and read a book about it! – Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine. A good one to add to anybody’s list.

    Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays to everyone at NC (even, or especially, to those I may have ticked off), and thanks to Lambert, Yves, Jeri Lynn and everyone for all you do to provide a place of relative sanity in a crazy world.

    2020 may have left a little to be desired, but here’s hoping 2021 goes all the way to eleven.

    1. petal

      lyman alpha blob, the Spinal Tap was brilliant. Thank you. And thank you to the commenter that posted Backdoor Santa by BB King. What a swingin’ song. Great stuff.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Thanks for that, chuck. I think I’m going to bust open the package of deer jerky my buddy up the road sent me right now.

    2. montanamaven

      Thank you lyman alpha bob; a little disclosure for my NC buddies. I was one of Michael McKean’s agents. It was a privilege. Also a hoot when he would stop by at the office for a visit. (Left Hollywood in the early 1990’s.) I am here in upstate NY alone separated from Montana by 2,000+ miles). I am grateful to Yves, Lambert, Jeri Lynn and the amazing commentariat. I’m still working, so I don’t usually get to visit this site until later and sometimes when I can’t sleep. Rather than depressing me, the reasoned comments and thoughtful arguments on the news actually comfort me.

  4. Katniss Everdeen

    Thank you for the “song,” Lambert.

    To the extent that gift-giving has become perfunctory, reduced in many cases to scrolling mindlessly through websites and limiting selection to those “gifts” that will “arrive by Christmas” or giving “cash,” (ICK!!!), this holiday has become more about the music and the magic of a pretty tree for me.

    (I must confess that I miss the days when people made their Christmas lists in September, giving gifts was as exciting for the giver as it was for the receiver, and I could obsess over wrapping beautiful packages to put under the tree.)

    While I haven’t been religious for a long time, there’s something about Christmas music, sung in a church, that makes the season “bright” like nothing else does.

    So, thank you again, and Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

    1. montanamaven

      You are a treasure to me Katniss. I eagerly read all your comments. So while I too have not been religious for a long time, I consider you a bright shining star. And as a former actress who did several seasons in bad ” A Christmas Carol” productions, like Tiny Tim, I say, “God Bless Us, Every One!”

  5. DJG

    And yet, and in spite of the Messiah, by Handel, which is an insightful mediation on the Incarnation, this is the turning of the year, the return of the light, an eerie time.

    Through the years
    We all will be together
    If the Fates allow
    Hang a shining star
    Upon the highest bough
    And have yourself
    A merry little Christmas now

    To me, this has become the great secular carol, defying Christian orthodoxy by evoking the Fates.

    In the version by the estimable Chrissie Hynde:

    The First Yule ends tonight, and the Second Yule begins.

    1. urblintz

      I agree. Interesting story behind the lyrics. Written for Judy Garland in “Meet Me in St. Louis” she found the lyrics too depressing and so the lyricist Hugh Martin changed them: “It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past” became “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight” among many other changes, but the familiar apex of the song “hang a shining star above the highest bough” was originally “until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” yet few people remember it so. It was Frank Sinatra who insisted on the new and most familiar lyric for that line.

      I am a retired professional singer, classical mostly, and gave what was probably my last concert in Spain 3 years ago. I ended the program with it and will tell you that singing the original line before the apex is what always puts a lump in my throat… “some day soon we all will be together, if the fates allow.”


      1. Caleb

        Almost as good as Vera Lynn’s

        “We’ll meet again
        Don’t know where
        Don’t know when
        But I know we’ll meet again
        Some sunny day

        And I will just say hello
        To the folks that you know
        Tell them you won’t be long
        They’ll be happy to know
        That, as I saw you go
        You were singing this song

        We’ll meet again
        Don’t know where
        Don’t know when
        But I know we’ll meet again
        Some sunny day”

        In the Christmas Spirit, I won’t mention for what movie
        that was the final music.

  6. Anonymous

    however dimly seen though “the scriptures,” because who would make that parable up? Lambert

    What turned the tide for me (that it wasn’t fiction) was:

    Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days. John 11:39

    How real can you get?

    As for “dimly” that’s so as to filter out the proud, the wicked and generally unworthy of the truth?

  7. dcblogger

    Bach – Christmas Oratorio, BWV248 | René Jacobs Akademie für Alte Musik Berlinhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXNX6Ulzvn0

  8. dcblogger

    I am with lambert, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is my all time favorite carol, and my church never includes it in Christmas eve services. This year’s theme is Tidings of Comfort and Joy (zoom service). Which is, I think, appropriate for a covid Christmas.

    1. Alternate Delegate

      Seconded: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is my favorite.

      It’s got this weird alien invasion theme (“through the cloven skies they came”), but it’s an invasion of song, and no one has to listen: “man, at war with man, hears not”.

      But that doesn’t mean that the song won’t ever catch on, maybe even after “two thousand years of wrong”, and then the world will “give back the song that now the angels sing”.

      What precisely is that song, and how do you catch the tune – well, I have ideas, and hopes, and at least I am not surprised that “man hears not”. But maybe they will soon?

    2. Darius

      Oh, Holy Night. The Bing Crosby version.

      Merry Christmas, Lambert, Yves, and everyone! Thanks for another great year of essential information and commentary.

    3. ChrisPacific

      I think mine is ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ – the slower melody with the sharp second, not the quicker one with the runs. I like the tune and the reflective quality, and the fact that nothing really happens and it’s essentially about the stage directions rather than the story itself.

    4. Harold

      I like “Away in a Manger” which reminds me of my childhood, when I learned it music class. It seems like such a simple, humble song.

      And “Tu scendi dalle stelle.” The lyrics are from an 18th c. devotional poem, written in simple language and set to bagpipe music:

      You descend from the stars, / O king of heaven, / and come into a cave / in the freezing cold. //  O my divine child, /  I see you trembling here, / O blessed God. // Ah, how much it cost you, / to have loved me. / You, who are the creator of the world, / are lacking clothing and fire, / O my Lord. // Dear, chosen little baby, / how I love this poverty, / since Love made you poorer still. 

    1. CarlH

      Saw this earlier in my YouTube feed. A holiday gift to all from my friends from Vermont. Thanks for posting and reminding me to watch!

  9. Richard Creswell

    Looking at the sky, I love to think of all the astral allusions in the old Christmas carols. The three wise men as the three stars of Orion imperfectly following Sirius, flashing green and red above the place where the young sun will be born after three days of the same late sunrise. Bootes shines as shepherd, carpenter and/ or place of bread sharing the sky with Virgo. The lion, the bears, the two donkeys, and the ram abide in the stable. Off to the North is Lyra and the angelic choir. Hercules will soon put his foot on the Serpent as the woman’s seed rises to bruise the serpent’s head. The three wise men don’t quite follow the star over where the young child lay so that opens up the opportunity for the introduction of Herod. Snow dampens the sound. Most everyone is asleep and the sun does not cry as it lays below the horizon in a manger in Ophiuncus. With myth it’s too easy to make everything fit, but a number of years ago I had the opportunity to share the Christmas sky through my scope with my fundamentalist grandchildren. One didn’t believe that Sirius was a star and not an artificial light. All made more poignant by their mother’s cruel death a few years later from stage four cancer.

    1. notberlin

      With myth it’s too easy to make everything fit, but a number of years ago I had the opportunity to share the Christmas sky through my scope with my fundamentalist grandchildren

      One does not often come across a line like this. I give you a gentle bow in your direction, and would gladly buy you a beer.

  10. Elizabeth

    Thank you Lambert for Once in Royal David’s City – this year I can’t hear traditional carols without crying. Growing up Catholic I always loved the organ playing the music and the beautiful voices singing. It always brought peace and comfort to me. There’s been so much loss this year, I think your idea of looking up at the stars tonight and thanking the universe that we’re here is something to be thankful for.

    Thank everyone at NC for all you do..

    1. Pelham

      I’ll second all of that. I’ll go so far as to say I regard this as the best gift I’ll receive this year, and a great one it is! It’s that touching. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  11. Carla

    As befits Christmas Eve, it’s snowing like crazy here in NE Ohio. Neighbors just dropped off a beautiful box of Christmas cookies, and a moment ago I took tomorrow’s dessert out of the oven (cranberry cake).

    1. Stephen V.

      Say hi to NE OH for me Carla! My Italian and Slovak grandparents emigrated there from the old country a century ago. The men worked in the coal mines and the wives had a dozen children each. I still make Kolache for Christmas as my mother did. But it wasn’t until a Farmer’s market customer urged me to look it up a few years ago that I was convinced that the rolled apple/walnut pastry was Polish and not Slovak. My mother and her sisters are gone so I am left to assume that recipes were exchanged at Church (RC of course).

  12. Biologist

    Thank you for those words Lambert!

    If looking up at the stars, don’t forget to turn your birding binoculars on Jupiter & Saturn, who are almost kissing.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    For Christmas Eve, I read the short-story “the Star” by Arthur C. Clarke. To offset the mood I may watch “Little Shop Around the Corner” later … but after reading and seeing a performance of Perfumerie while contemplating its context I fear “Little Shop …” might not raise my spirits past listening to “I’ll be home for Christmas” … so I’ll eat a piece of chocolate, bite a pear, and drink another glass.

  14. Big River Bandido

    I must lodge a small protest over the description of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear as “hard core Christian”. That song (along with Jingle Bells, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day and Do You Hear What I Hear? are all staples of the Unitarian and Universalist traditions. At one time these denominations considered themselves and were considered “Christian”. While those origins are still acknowledged, most modern UUs probably would not identify as Christian, and the principles of the faith are derived from the “seven great traditions”, not only Christianity.

    It is one of the great ironies that in addition to those songs, Unitarians gave Christmas some of its most familiar traditions (including A Christmas Carol, the Christmas tree, and The Grinch).

    1. Yves Smith

      Since my basically non-believing family did sometimes go to Unitarian churches (the grand one in Boston!), I like the saying, “Unitarians believe in at most one God.”

    2. Carla

      My great-grandfather was a Unitarian-Universalist. Quite an unusual guy. He was on the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he taught 7 instruments. Before that, as a young man, he had played the cornet in Lincoln’s funeral cortege when it came through Ohio. He was also an inventor with several patents to his name, including one for a postage meter that was still being used by the U.S. Post Office in the 1950s, 25 years after his death.

  15. Ben Fitzkee

    This non-theist has a particular soft spot in his heart for “Mary Did You Know” for some reason. It’s one of my few fond memories from my upbringing in a conservative Church of the Brethren. It has a number of powerful lyrics (if you accept, or are at least familiar with Christian symbolism and narrative), in addition to the soaring voices.

    “This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you”

    “When you kiss your little baby
    You kiss the face of God”

    “That sleeping child you’re
    Holding is the great, I Am”

    This song exudes power and majesty, even for a non-theist. Carrie Underwood and Pentatonix both perform this song well. I included Carrie’s version below.

    1. wilroncanada

      Every year, CBC radio, in the days before Christmas ( or on some stations the day after) repeats David Calderisi’s reading of “A child’s Christmas in Wales”. On Christmas Eve the National show As It Happens closes just before 8PM or 7PM depending on time zone, with the reading of the Frederick Forsyth’s short story,”The Shepherd”, read by the late Fireside Al Maitland. Many regular listeners look forward to both those inspiring readings. I don’t know if you can get CBC Halifax from your location in Maine, Lambert. You would be surprised–and inspired.

  16. Earl Erland

    “Hysterically funny Jesus:

    You think you know how this story is going to end, but you don’t. Trust me, I was there. I know.

    The first time I saw the man who would save the world he was sitting near the central well in Nazareth with a lizard hanging out of his mouth. Just the tail end and the hind legs were visible on the outside; the head and forelegs were halfway down the hatch. He was six, like me, and his beard had not come in fully, so he didn’t look much like the pictures you’ve seen of him. His eyes were like dark honey, and they smiled at me out of a mop of blue-black curls that framed his face. There was a light older than Moses in those eyes.

    “Unclean! Unclean!” I screamed, pointing at the boy, so my mother would see that I knew the law, but she ignored me, as did all the other mothers who were filling their jars at the well.

    The boy took the lizard from his mouth and handed it to his younger brother, who sat beside him in the sand. The younger boy played with the lizard for a while, teasing it until it reared its little head as if to bite, then he picked up a rock and mashed the creatures head. Bewildered, he pushed the dead lizard around in the sand, and once assured that it wasn’t going anywhere on its own, he picked it up and handed it back to his older brother.

    Into his mouth went the lizard, and before I could accuse, out it came again, squirming and alive and ready to bite once again. He handed it back to his younger brother, who smote it mightily with the rock, starting or ending the whole process again.

    I watched the lizard die three more times before I said, “I want to do that too.”

    The Savior removed the lizard from his mouth and said, “Which part?”

    By the way, his name was Joshua. Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Yeshua, which is Joshua. Christ is not a last name. It’s the Greek for messiah, a Hebrew word meaning anointed. I have no idea what the “H” in Jesus H. Christ stood for. It’s one of the things I should have asked him. Me? I am Levi who is called Biff. No middle initial. Joshua was my best friend.

    The angel says I’m supposed to just sit down and write my story, forget about what I’ve seen in this world, but how am I to do that? In the last three days I have seen more people, more images, more wonders, than in all my thirty-three years of living, and the angel asks me to ignore them. Yes, I have been given the gift of tongues, so I see nothing without knowing the word for it, but what good does that do? Did it help in Jerusalem to know that it was a Mercedes that terrified me and sent me diving into a Dumpster?

    Moreover, after Raziel pulled me out and ripped my fingernails back as I struggled to stay hidden, did it help to know that it was a Boeing 747 that made me cower in a ball trying to rock away my own tears and shut out the noise and fire? Am I a little child, afraid of its own shadow, or did I spend twenty-seven years at the side of the Son of God?

    On the hill where he pulled me from the dust, the angel said, “You will see many strange things. Do not be afraid. You have a holy mission and I will protect you.”

    Smug bastard. Had I known what he would do to me I would have hit him again. Even now he lies on the bed across the room, watching pictures move on a screen, eating the sticky sweet called Snickers, while I scratch out my tale on this soft-as-silk paper that reads Hyatt Regency, St. Louis at the top. Words, words, words, a million million words circle in my head like hawks, waiting to dive onto the page to rend and tear the only two words I want to write.

    Why me?

    There were fifteen of us — well, fourteen after I hung Judas — so why me? Joshua always told me not to be afraid, for he would always be with me. Where are you, my friend? Why have you forsaken me? You wouldn’t be afraid here. The towers and machines and the shine and stink of this world would not daunt you. Come now, I’ll order a pizza from room service. You would like pizza. The servant who brings it is named Jesus. And hes not even a Jew. You always liked irony.

    Come, Joshua, the angel says you are yet with us, you can hold him down while I pound him, then we will rejoice in pizza.

    Raziel has been looking at my writing and is insisting that I stop whining and get on with the story. Easy for him to say, he didn’t just spend the last two thousand years buried in the dirt. Nevertheless, he won’t let me order pizza until I finish a section, so here goes . . .

    I was born in Galilee, the town of Nazareth, in the time of Herod the Great. My father, Alphaeus, was a stonemason and my mother, Naomi, was plagued by demons, or at least thats what I told everyone. Joshua seemed to think she was just difficult.

    My proper name, Levi, comes from the brother of Moses, the progenitor of the tribe of priests; my nickname, Biff, comes from our slang word for a smack upside the head, something that my mother said I required at least daily from an early age.”

    From: The foregoing is excerpted from Lamb by Christopher Moore. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

    I hope it is fair use, this Christmas Eve

    1. CanCyn

      The best Christopher Lamb book! I’ve read it many times. I have a copy with a cover that looks like a bible! I already owned a copy when I bought it but I just had to have it.

  17. Dan

    Growing up my parents probably played Johnny Mathis’ Merry Christmas album more than any other. It’s a nice mix of traditional as well as Winter Wonderland-type songs. I play it every year. But my favorite individual performance is Nat King Cole’s “A Cradle in Bethlehem.”

    I will also tonight be watching the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim. Because it’s the best. Period.

    Happy Holidays to all!

  18. Jessica

    The singing is beautiful. Thank you.
    They sit sideways to the altar, not facing it?
    Trying to imagine what that beautiful inside of the church would have looked like to folks when it was first built. No TV or movies and no tall skyscrapers either. Must have really conveyed a sense both of beauty and also of concentrated power. Did such churches seem like an alternative type of castle (intimidating) or an alternative to castles (encouraging)?
    Reading “A. D. 381” by Charles Freeman. That was the year in which Christianity first became mandatory in Roman Empire. He makes a good case that Christianity was greatly altered by becoming the state religion of an empire that was (futilely*) trying to arrest its decline by becoming more and more authoritarian. Open philosophical discussion was suppressed and the concept of orthodoxy, of everyone being obliged to believe the same thing was invented (as opposed to being obliged to participate in certain rituals). Even the Christian teachings changed. Suddenly, a lot of emphasis on eternal hell and on original sin. Got me thinking about how much punitive spirit there is in both right-wing Christianity and woke-ism these days. Maybe that just goes with declining empires**.
    *Futile in the West. The Eastern half of the Empire did pretty well for an extra couple of centuries and lingered as a rump state for another eight centuries after that.
    **Don’t remember that much from the Soviet Union as it collapsed. China seems to often become strict and punitive at the start of dynasties rather than there end, but now I am so far over my skis that it is a wonder my bindings haven’t released to pitch me face first into the snow.

  19. swangeese

    I’m Catholic, but this bittersweet Christmas song is one of my favorites and is especially suitable for this craptacular year and likely years to come sadly:

    Steve Carlson- A Hell of a Time

    I promise it’s not depressing or maudlin, but it also encapsulates the situation/the mood a lot of us are in right now. Even though I’m a believer, it addresses issues that even I struggle with. I guess it’s the Christianity that I most identify with.

    Anyway I wish everyone a good holiday and/or a merry christmas!

  20. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    Hanging on to get to 12 pm GMT & will get over the line with Chuck Roast’s gift of the Dylan Thomas child’s Christmas – Thank you Sir.

    Never been religious & was never keen on hymns, although I did like the musty Norman village church where we were constantly drilled in order to sing them.

    I wish everybody associated with this oasis of truth a large smile of a Christmas & leave you with a quote from Tiny Tim – ” God bless us everyone “.

  21. IMOR

    Your advice is well taken, and will be taken tonight on CA’s North Coast. To you, Lambert, and all in the NC/WC commemtariat who put up with mine in 2020- the best today, and a better 2021.

  22. Cuibono

    “Perhaps the best thing to do is to go out, alone or together, and silently look up at the stars, and be thankful simply for being here.”

    THANK you for this!

    1. Brunches with Cats

      How I would love to be able to see the stars. On evening walks throughout the summer and fall, I watched Jupiter and Saturn creeping closer and closer, and anticipated witnessing the Great Conjunction on Solstice. Alas, there hasn’t been one clear evening in at least a month. For that matter, we’ve had the equivalent of maybe 1.5 days of sunshine in all that time.

      Here in the lonely forgotten Southern Tier (sort of Upstate New York, but not really), we had 44 inches of snow a week ago. A guy actually got buried in his car, and after calling 9-11 several times over 10 hours and no one being able to locate him, was found just in the nick of time by a determined highway patrol retiree. Now, a week later, it’s been raining all day, with more of the same in tomorrow’s forecast and red-alert flood warnings. When temperatures plummet into the teens tomorrow night, all that snowmelt will turn into a massive ice-skating rink.

      This is one time when I’m thankful to be inside, with functioning heat and hot water, and no reason to have to go anywhere for the next couple of days.

  23. HotFlash

    Wel, gotta admit there are a lot of things lacking this Christmas, esp in the comfort & joy division, but the really, *really* good news is that I didn’t hear Little Drummer Boy even once. So, grateful for small mercies. Merry Christmas (fill in name of seasonal holiday acceptable to you) and to all a good night.

  24. Brunches with Cats

    Lambert, I left a comment a few years ago with the 2013 edition of Once in Royal David’s City:

    There’s just something about that kid that gets to me. Maybe it’s the glasses, or his expression, like he’s worried he’ll screw up, but there’s also something in his voice (or perhaps, as you write, it brings back childhood memories — in my case, being the kid with glasses that everyone picked on and then losing my mother two weeks before my 11th birthday). Although I don’t remember what year I left that comment, I recall your response to the effect that that was a lot of pressure on one kid. In fact, a documentary was made about the choir, how singers are chosen, and how they pick the soloist.

  25. shtove

    Why did the eldest leave first, one might wonder?

    Prostate problems.

    The most powerful Jesus song is the traditional setting of William Blake’s Jerusalem – what the Anglicans call an anthem, I think, rather than a carol (Christmas) or hymn (Psalm). It entertains the legend that the Saviour spent his wild years in England, in the service of his uncle, and puts a weird finger on the pulse of visionary nationalism. I wonder, does it stir feelings in the US?

    Mentioning it in light of the suggested lesson of Once In Royal for left politics.

  26. Brunches with Cats

    For the first time in 90 years, BBC’s Christmas Eve broadcast from King College wasn’t live. The choir recorded a dress rehearsal on December 1, with the hopes of performing live on Christmas Eve. However, a few weeks later, two singers tested positive for Covid, and others had to be quarantined, so at the usual program time, BBC broadcast the recorded session. Due to international copyrights, we can’t get the video free in the U.S., but we can listen to the whole thing on Minnesota Public Radio (there’s a brief intro) here:

  27. Hopelb

    Thank you! I cherish you, Yves, and nakedcapitalism’s commentariat. It’s Christmas everyday here!
    With Love, and Wishes for a Sugar Plum or Two to be dancing in your soul, and for a Merry Christmas,
    Hope LB

  28. Brunches with Cats

    From one of the oldest, traditional Christmas carols, the King’s College Choir moves to a modern composition, “O Magnum Mysterium” (Morten Lauridsen, 1994). In its exquisite, ethereal dissonance, I find comfort, and I hope others who might be struggling with all that 2020 has thrown at us will find some solace, too.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KvrbYZB2vY (2009 performance)

    Wishing the happiest possible Solstice season to everyone at NC, to the moderators and commentariat who, as others note, seem like family. I can go weeks, sometimes months, without commenting, but I’m here every day. As I go about my daily chores in solitude, some of your comments are the food of my thoughts. The knowledge you share goes into my mental files and magically gets called up at the right time. Likewise with humor. Your comments have a lasting impact, more than you could know.

  29. ex-PFC Chuck

    “Perhaps the best thing to do is to go out, alone or together, and silently look up at the stars, and be thankful simply for being here.”

    And also kick in what you can to your nearby food shelf.
    Merry Christmas, all.

  30. Pat

    Merry Christmas, Lambert. I hope that this mid winter celebration of the lights refreshes and renews you. Thank you so much for your humor and your insight and your willingness to pull on the yellow waders.

  31. BillS

    Merry Christmas to all NCers. This is really a special place.

    And happy birthday to Jesus and Isaac Newton!! :-)

  32. Montanamaven

    As I was raised a Dutch Calvinist, the Psalter Hymnal had many Christmas Songs. My father’s favorite which he sang with gusto was “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” “Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant”; Silent Night was also sung in Dutch, but I only remember something like “Stille Nacht; Heilige Nacht. “While Shepherds watched their flocks by night all seated on the ground”; Oh and “We Three Kings of Orient Are”. When we sang that one, my sisters and I would whisper after the first phrase “Tried to smoke a rubber cigar.” Then home from church to listen to the Messiah by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the rather large console with a turntable and a radio. My father’s pride and joy. I watched him take out the record and blow gently on it before placing it on the turntable. Then press the magic button that automatically lifted the needle arm and placed it on the record. Very modern!
    It’s pouring rain here in New York which has melted all the snow. Very dreary, so I will have to work at being cheery.

  33. leigh hogan

    “I cannot but think that the times in Roman Judea were much like our own: Imperial domination, debt, slaves, the wealthy elbowing the poor into the gutter, whippings, executions, general brutality. And of course scribes and Pharisees. And yet the adult Jesus sat down with tax collectors[1] and sinners, and defended prostitutes[2] from being stoned to death by enforcers. These are all “the poor, the mean, the lowly.” Perhaps there is a lesson here for the left, in terms of focus.”

    Beautifully said, and thank you.

  34. John Anthony La Pietra

    For serious music, I lean toward either “Amahl and the Night Visitors” — which I grew up with; choose your own performance — or the Victor Hely Hutchinson “Carol Symphony”, which I first met as incidental music to a BBC production of “The Box of Delights”. I’d mention “Messiah”, but IMO these two need the attention more.

    Similarly with lighter fare, I personally would mention the excellent scores of “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and “Scrooge” ahead of the justly well-known Vince Guaraldi Trio’s music for “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

    And for a bit of barbed wit, I can’t leave out the classic “Green Chri$tma$” by Stan Freberg. . . .

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