For Christmas: Fairuz sings “Jingle Bells” in Arabic

I wasn’t going to put out a Christmas special this year until I happened upon this: Fairuz, one of the most popular Arabic singers, doing “Jingle Bells.” This version has very sweet subtitles which are mainly pretty good, but are charmingly goofy when they go off the rails.

Who is it, do you suppose, who’s delivering all those dates? And what’s with the bracelet?

Happy Christmas to all.

For Christmas: Grace Jones sings “The Little Drummer Boy”

Okay, it’s Christmas, and it’s Obama’s second term. I get it. I need to be inclusive. I need to put something out here for everyone.

How about Grace Jones, circa 1990, on Pee-Wee Herman’s Christmas special, wearing a bizarre metallic headdress and breastplate and singing a technopop version of “The Little Drummer Boy”?


Now that’s inclusive.


Joyeux Noel.

Doing something for the kitties and puppies

kitties and puppies

The local grocery market is not my favorite place. They are not very good at customer service, and they’re not cheap.

They do one nice thing, however: they give one percent of the money I spend there to the local charity of my choice.

Here’s how it works: I collect my receipts from XX Supermarket, and give them to my local charity. The charity, in turn, submits them to XX Supermarket, and receives one percent of the money I spent there.

It ain’t a million bucks, but it’s something. It’s painless, and it’s simple: all I have to do is collect the receipts and deliver them to the charity.

There is an animal shelter right next to my office. They are very good to the animals (not just dogs and cats, but rabbits and turtles and everything you can think of); they have toys and food and everything. Most of the animals are abandoned or orphaned. I go over and look at them sometimes, but not very often; some are cute and hopeful and playful, but many are worried and confused and sad, and it’s not comforting to see them upset and unhappy.

All of them are waiting for adoption.

So I give my one percent to the kitties and puppies. It will buy them some kibble, and toys, and a soft bed.

And that, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is supposed to be all about.

Please go see if some merchant in your area does the same thing. It is a painless way to do a tiny bit of good in the world.



I am not feeling much like Christmas this year. My feelings for the holiday have been diminishing for a couple of years now; I used to enjoy decorating, and looking at lights, and giving gifts, and getting gifts in return. Now it’s just a list of things to do: buy a few things, mail some cards, write emails to those people that I’ve been neglecting shamelessly for months now. Partner and I will go away for a few days between Xmas and New Year’s, just for the hell of it, and to break up our routine.

This is exactly the way my parents felt about Christmas when I was a kid. I hated their bad attitude, and swore I’d never be that cynical.

And here we are today.

I have decided, though, that I’m not going to rain on anyone’s parade this year. My mother used to whine and complain about Christmas to anyone who’d listen. I do not intend to follow her example. Why ruin other people’s fun?

Better to light a candle, etc., etc.

But not everyone agrees:


you stupid darkness

Christmas: the light and the dark


Simon Schama, the British historian, wrote a nice piece in last weekend’s Financial Times about Christmas and Hanukkah.  Some years back, he took heat for daring to comment that the emphasis on lights in Christmas (all those twinkly bulbs on the tree!) and Hanukkah (all those candles!) was just a holdover from the very traditional celebration of light at the Solstice. 



Hm.  Is there really any doubt about this?



Anyway: he repeated a very nice Mishnah story I’d never heard.   In it, Adam was very grieved by the onset of the first winter, realizing that he’d caused it himself, and fasted for eight days, right before the Solstice.  When he realized that the days were getting longer again, he rejoiced for eight days.



Partner asked me about the timings of sunset and sunrise around the Solstice the other day, so I resorted to Wikipedia.  Do you know how many cultures observe the Solstice?  Pretty much all of them.  And it’s always about light, one way or another



Okay. Now let’s talk about Christmas tragedies.



This year alone:



        A house burned down in Stamford, Connecticut, killing five people.

        A man – dressed as Santa, yet – came into an Grapevine, Texas house and shot six family members, and then shot himself.



Remember the Banda Aceh tidal wave in 2004?



Remember the 2003 earthquake in Iran?



Well – what of it?  Bad things happen all the time.  There’s no reason that they shouldn’t happen now.



Except that they seem especially painful now, this time of year.



It’s the darkest time of year.  The darkness is winning, and we desperately want to see the light triumphant. When we see bad things happen, it’s as if we can actually feel the struggle between light and darkness.  And we do not want the darkness to win.



The only exceptional event that I’ve listed above is the man in the Santa suit who killed his family members on Xmas.  It makes you think about the expectations of families on Christmas – the desperate effort to believe that everything will be all right – and that these unrealistic expectations might be enough for make someone snap and kill his family.



That’s a special kind of madness, especially horrible.  I tried to think about what it would be like to see a family member in a Santa suit come into the room toting a shotgun, and –






Let the darkness go.  The days are getting longer again.



As I’ve said once before in this space: hail the Unconquered Sun!



A fine secular Christmas


Neither Partner nor I practices any particular religion.  I spent a couple of years in the mid-2000s trying to recapture my Catholicism, but found it ultimately futile.  Partner and I talk about Buddhism a lot, but I am uneasily aware that Buddhism is easier to talk about than practice.  (For those of you who use “Zen” as an adjective, I recommend a wonderful and very acerbic book called “What Makes You Not A Buddhist,” by a wonderful Bhutanese lama / film director / author (!) named Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse.)



So how did Partner and I, both filthy heathens, spend this Christmas season?



Let’s see:



        We saw “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” on Christmas Eve.

        We exchanged gifts.  Partner gave me a lovely sweater and two lovely shirts.  I like pretty colors, but am often confused by the bright lights in the department stores; Partner corrects my fashion sense, and I invariably get compliments when I wear the things he’s bought for me (so long as I wear them in the combinations he very carefully specifies).  I gave him, among other things, a mounted 1957 one-dollar Silver Certificate.  (I was born in 1957, before the Space Age, so it was a little symbolic.)

        Next morning, we sleepily wished each other a Merry Christmas.

        After some discussion, we went to the closest casino, Twin River, in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

        We left at 1:00 pm with considerably more money than we arrived with.  Merry Christmas!

        We went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered everything on the menu. 

        We ate until we were sick.

        We took our leftovers and went home and napped a bit.

        In the evening, I baked cookies.



This is the perfect secular Xmas, as far as I’m concerned.  And here’s why:




        We both spent it with someone we loved.




And that’s all it takes.



Happy holidays, kids.



For Christmas: Sus, pastoureu di mountagno


Even as a nonbeliever, I like Christmas carols.  (As Lisa Simpson, the vegetarian, said once about meat: “Hey, I still like the smell.”)  I like unusual carols, and especially folk carols that have a whiff of pagandom about them.

This tune is from the early 17th century, from Avignon in southern France.  It’s in Provencal, so don’t worry if you can’t make out the lyrics.  It’s the story of the shepherds hurrying off to the stable to see Mary and the baby Jesus.  (The title means “Get up, shepherd of the mountains!”)

I especially like this one because it has a tongue-twister refrain.  It took me years to get it right.

All together now:

Aro lo bon Jesu, lo bon Jesu, lo bon Jesu,
Aro lo bon Jesu d’una vierge nous es na.

(Now the good Jesus, etc.,
 now the good Jesus to a virgin is born unto us.)

Merry Christmas, and may we all meet in heaven, if there’s such a place.  

I don’t really believe it, but it would be lovely.

Sus_pastores.mp3 Listen on Posterous


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