Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Christmas

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."
~ Charles Dickens

Despite her mother's best efforts, Divinipotent Daily is not a religious person, but I do have great affection for Christmas. Not the mall-trawling, big-spending, show-offy Christmas, but the one that smells of pine trees, has cheery lighting and merry carolers, brings joy to children and serves up plum pudding and mincemeat pie with hard sauce for everyone.

With that in mind, and with most profound apologies to Wallace Stevens, I'm filling your stockings with thirteen links to seasonal amusements of the non-religious kind.
  1. From National Public Radio, "Jingle Jams" — a selection of holiday tunes from every corner of the musical spectrum.

  2. From the Delancey Place blog, the story behind Charles Schultz's "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

  3. From PsyBlog, "12 Psychology Studies of Christmas" — everything from how to have a happy Christmas to why we encourage children to believe in Santa Claus.

  4. From Bob Dylan, the unexpected and entertaining Christmas video, "Must Be Santa." 

  5. From the YouTube Global Chorus — voices from all over the world — a sometimes off-pitch but surprisingly moving version of my mother's favorite Christmas song, "O Holy Night."

  6. From McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the greatly entertaining "Letters to Santa Written by Shakespeare Characters."

  7. From Wired magazine, a story about the first Christmas tree lights, invented in New York in 1882.

  8. From's Explainer, answers to some common Christmas-related questions.

  9. From Clement Clarke Moore (or possibly Henry Livingston, Jr., his wife's cousin) the famous poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

  10. From Dr. Seuss, a Grinch epiphany: "And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

  11. From the New Scientist, a "scientific" explanation of how Santa accomplishes his magic (spoiler: it involves aliens).

  12. From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a familiar verse:
"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
   13. And finally, from the world of astronomy, something new in the sky  —
the remarkable Tannenbaum Galaxy!

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