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Happy Christmas — Why Now?
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Happy Christmas

Holly, Robin & Mistletoe

As usual I’m searching for an audio feed of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge. My local public radio outlet has fallen down on the job lately, in this area as well as others.

The British have some wonderful Christmas customs that have survived the incursion of Christianity, especially the Puritan party poopers. Stealing customs from the Celts, Germans, and Scandinavians, they have created a wonderful holiday that I fondly remember from time spent there.

The bird is a European robin that is featured on British Christmas cards, as it is a Winter bird in England, unlike the fair-weather laggard of the same name in America. It is bracketed by holly and mistletoe. All go back to the druids and solstice celebrations.

If you read the Harry Potter books you will get a taste, but not the full effect of a British Christmas. A full-on Christmas dinner is wretched excess to the nth degree – Thanksgiving on steroids. Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were major influences on the American celebration of Christmas when it made its come back in the US in the latter half of the 19th century.

The BBC has the background on Father Christmas, while most people recognize that Clement Moore and Coca Cola are most responsible for the American concept of Santa Claus. [It isn’t an accident that he dresses in Coke’s corporate color scheme. Moore only mentioned “furs”.]


1 Kryten42 { 12.25.10 at 2:31 am }

Ahhh! I like that also (KC A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols). The current US program guide is here: Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols You can get it from Amazon. 😉 Might be a bit late but! 😀

Ummm… I do have this: “The Choir of King’s College – Essential Carols: The Very Best of King’s College, Cambridge” (Decca, 2005) It’s a 2 CD set. I have converted the CD’s to MP3’s & can easily let you borrow it if you like. It’s about 285 MB (MP3 CBR 320 Kbps) 🙂 😉

2 fallenmonk { 12.25.10 at 7:41 am }

Happy Christmas Bryan. Some of my best Christmas’ have been spent with English friends. We talked with them all yesterday and the ones up north in Derbyshire are snowed in while the ones just north of London are enjoying the typical damp. All are cooking gammon and goose and are ready for the gathering of family from all over.

3 Steve Bates { 12.25.10 at 9:51 am }

Merry Christmas, Bryan.

A couple of decades ago I ran across, in an American drugstore, a Father Christmas statue about 1-1/2′ high, carrying a sack and wearing… a purple robe. It took some will power not to buy it on the spot, if for no other reason than just to spite Coca Cola.

That King’s College Choir recording was also available some decades ago. Regrettably, my copy is an ancient cassette tape, probably a Two Dollar Special, and I have no means of transcribing tape to digital media (the result would in any case not be satisfactory if I did). I’ve occasionally wondered if one of my young British musician friends was a choirboy in that recording; he’s not sure, but I always imagine that I can hear him in the mix. Today he’s the conductor of the Academy of Ancient Music, and is married to a violinist I used to work with in my performing days… my, how quickly the kids grow!

4 Mustang Bobby { 12.25.10 at 2:19 pm }

Classical South Florida (89.7) carried the live broadcast Friday morning. I don’t know if they plan a re-airing. CSF is basically a repeater station for Minnesota Public Radio with local drop-ins of station I.D.’s and weather to make you think they’re located down here, but every so often they have a computer glitch and you get the weather for Minneapolis. And once I heard the forecast for Sun Valley, so CSF is not the only place where MPR sends their programming.

I remember first hearing the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on WIAA-FM out of Interlochen, Michigan, when I lived up in Petoskey and we had the whole bit with snow and stuff. I loved it then, and still like hearing it when I’m sitting on the patio and tending to the orchids.

5 Bryan { 12.25.10 at 2:52 pm }

Kryten, I was looking for it for my Mother to use for background. It used to on the public radio station beginning at 10AM on Christmas Day. This year they have advertised their schedule and the secondary station aired it yesterday. We have several albums, as a nephew attended the school affiliated with Kings College, and Mother bought the albums when he was in the choir many years ago.

And a very Merry Christmas to all the Monks, Fallenmonk, although it looks like you are going to get a sloppy white one, based on the weather charts – rain to sleet to snow as the day progresses. A very good day to stay inside next to the fire to roast chestnuts, make popcorn, and assemble smores.

Yes, Steve, hooded robes in purple, blue, white, or green were the norm in Europe for a very long time before the communications satellites made the American version ubiquitous. Finland was the exception, so it is not surprising that the primary artist on the Coca Cola campaign was a Finn.

The Kings College Choir has been very popular for a very long time. That cassette is old enough that one of members might have been my nephew who was quite good until his voice changed.

6 Bryan { 12.25.10 at 3:00 pm }

I would suggest moving the orchids inside for a few days, MB, as it is going to get chilly again, even down in your area.

Yes, we actually got the feed in Rochester as a replacement for a midnight service on the local public television station with a simulcast on their radio station.

PRI is colocated with Minnesota Public Radio and distributes Prairie Home Companion, as well as the Festival. It is similar to WGBH in Boston.

7 Steve Bates { 12.26.10 at 12:29 am }

OK, it seems we have another situation like “Ceasars Palace” (sic) in Las Vegas: is it “Kings College” or “King’s College”? Wikipedia shows the latter; other listings, including British news references, are all over the map on whether to use the apostrophe. At first I wondered if the name referred to the Three Kings of wise-men fame, but there’s also a Queen’s College, so I rather doubt that. (Although… I personally know more than three queens from London.) Does anybody know the definitive information on the apostrophe?

8 Bryan { 12.26.10 at 12:56 am }

I’m sure they would include the apostrophe as the origin is clear as the college of a King, with all of the requisite paperwork available. I’m sure there was royal approval sought for the founding of the institution, and the name reflects that. The college is rather consistent in using the apostrophe, so I’ll take their word for it, and edit accordingly.

9 Steve Bates { 12.26.10 at 1:15 am }

That seems right.

I was made aware of the “Caesars Palace” situation (which I misspelled above, even ignoring the question of the apostrophe) by the estimable Carole Nelson Douglas. In her Midnight Louie mysteries, the primary human character is a freelance publicity agent who finds herself constantly correcting copy that erroneously inserts the apostrophe. Perhaps correct grammar and lost wages are not compatible. 🙂

10 Leslie { 12.26.10 at 1:18 am }

Hope you had a very nice Christmas. I am a few hours late!

Ahhh… the real English robin. We have a few American robins still hanging around in Chicago although I suspect they are from Canada wintering in what they think are warmer regions.

I do have a lovely picture of a cardinal, a fine winter bird.
A dove was outside my window yesterday so she was my holiday photo.

11 Bryan { 12.26.10 at 11:41 am }

The names of corporate entities goes beyond the rules of spelling into the courts of laws. If there is no apostrophe on the corporate papers it had better not show up anywhere else. As near as I can tell from a number of stories there is a move in Britain to ignore “extraneous punctuation” by official organizations to “save money”. There have been some nasty fights over the issue in road signs and official maps. The press is extremely loose on spelling and grammar, especially among the tabloids, with a rather free-form approach to the language. Manuals of Style are considered suggestions, not actual rules.

That is a greeting card quality cardinal, Lady Min. We view doves down here in much the same way that urban dwellers view pigeons – noisy, messy vermin. Familiarity breeds contempt, especially when you have them outside your window before dawn calling. We generally have the ring-necked doves, another domestic invader, and in great quantity. They gather to eat the kibble at the feeding station.

12 LadyMin { 12.27.10 at 1:34 am }

I have one or two mourning doves that stop by on a regular basis so they aren’t too bad. And they aren’t noisy. My biggest complaint is that they will eat in the open tray feeder and then proceed to sit down in it and take a nap leaving little room for other birds to eat. It’s so strange. They sleep on the bird bath too.

13 Bryan { 12.27.10 at 10:14 pm }

Well, I have dozens of the ring-necked variety and, in addition to perching around the large kibble bowls to empty them, they hang out on the the eaves of my house for morning sing-alongs. In addition to the cooing, there is the racket of various and sundry cats attacking the the shadows they cast on the mini-blinds. Not my favorites.

I do not mourn when the occasional merlin takes one in a burst of feathers, or they fall prey to a momma cat attempting to teach her kits how to hunt.

14 LadyMin { 12.28.10 at 3:29 pm }

I had a lot more doves hanging around until this young hawk started visiting the yard:


15 Bryan { 12.28.10 at 7:15 pm }

He’s a bit bigger and more obvious than the merlins, who are barely the size of the doves they take. You hear them zipped through and then strike in the cloud of feathers, and then may see them carrying off “lunch” to their larder, but you rarely see them at rest.