This Sunday just passed marked Epiphany in the Christian calendar, the date when we remember the visit paid to Jesus by wise men from the East (the Magi, also known as the Three Kings) as recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew (Matthew 2:1-12). Continue reading “Random Poem: The Journey of the Magi, by T. S. Eliot”
With Christmas fast approaching I decided it was high time I watched the quintessential Christmas ballet: Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’, which was first performed in St. Petersburg in December 1892.
I elected to watch the 1993 Warner Brothers film version, and I rather suspect that this was a mistake. Continue reading “Ballet on the Sofa: The Nutcracker”
I first came across this poem as a Christmas carol adaptation by one of my favourite contemporary Christian bands, Casting Crowns (you can listen to their version here). Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote the original in 1863, in response to the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was an intensely personal poem: Longfellow’s eldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had joined the War in the Union cause without his father’s blessing, and had later been seriously wounded in Virginia.
Although it has subsequently been adapted several times, with the more specific references to the War altered or omitted, the original runs as follows:
In my student days I spent several Christmases working in retail. Musically, it took me years to recover from spending ten hours a day listening to piped Christmas ‘muzak’, which tends to feature a lot of snow and very little religious sentiment, often while muttering darkly about how I live in a country where Christmas occurs in the middle of summer and ‘if it does f***ing snow I am NOT going to be impressed.’
Christmas carols, however, are another thing altogether for me, and it seems I’m not alone. Even in secularised New Zealand community-organised open-air carol singing events can still draw a crowd. Santa usually puts in an appearance, and there’s an atmosphere of good-natured celebration, if not exactly religious devotion, which is arguably fitting to the singing of carols. Continue reading “Christmas Classics: Carols”
When I was very little, my grandparents sent me a copy of Clement C. Moore’s classic tale, and my mother read it to us every Christmas Eve until I was well into my teens (mothers are like that).
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
(Prologue to Handel’s ‘Messiah’, 1 Timothy 3:16, KJV)
I have heard Handel’s ‘Messiah’ on CD, in part and in full, a number of times, but this year marks the first time I have had the privilege of attending a live performance. I’ll move on to the history of ‘Messiah’ and the details of this particular performance presently, but first…
As someone who is deeply engaged with the religious tradition in which Handel’s masterpiece originates, I cannot overstate how deeply moving, on a spiritual level, I found the performance to be, in a way I simply hadn’t anticipated.
‘Marley was dead, to begin with.’As opening lines go, this has to be one of my favourites. Last Christmas a thirteen-year-old I work with remarked that she didn’t understand why movie adaptations of ‘A Christmas Carol’ were considered appropriate fare for children, when the story is actually pretty creepy. I told her she was absolutely right: ‘A Christmas Carol’ is not a story for children. Continue reading “Christmas Classics: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol”