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  • Christmas 2018

    Posted by David Foster on December 24th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.

    Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.

    Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.

    Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm

    Lappland in pictures…link came from the great and much-mourned Neptunus Lex

    Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos

    In the bleak midwinter, from King’s College Cambridge

    Rick Darby has some thoughts on the season. More here.

    The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. (although there is debate about the historical veracity of this story)

    An air traffic control version of  The Night Before Christmas.

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Mona Charen, who is Jewish, wonders  what’s going on with the Christians?

    Last year’s Christmas season, in combination with the Churchill movie Darkest Hour, reminded me something written by the French author Georges Bernanos:  A Tale for Children.

    Here’s a passage I’ve always liked from Thomas Pynchon’s great novel Gravity’s Rainbow.  The setting: it is the grim winter of 1944, just before Christmas. The military situation in Europe is not good, and WWII seems as if it will never end. London is under attack by V-2 rockets and V-1 cruise missiles (as they would be called today.) Roger and Jessica, two of the main characters, are driving in a rural area in England and come upon a church where carols are being sung. They decide to go inside.

    They walked through the tracks of all the others in the snow, she gravely on his arm, wind blowing her hair to snarls, heels slipping once on ice. “To hear the music,” he explained.

    Tonight’s scratch choir was all male, epauletted shoulders visible under the wide necks of white robes, and many faces nearly as white with the exhaustion of soaked and muddy fields, midwatches, cables strummed by the nervous balloons sunfishing in the clouds, tents whose lights inside shone nuclear at twilight, soullike, through the cross-hatched walls, turning canvas to fine gauze, while the wind drummed there…..The children are away dreaming, but the Empire has no place for dreams and it’s Adults Only in here tonight, here in this refuge with the lamps burning deep, in pre-Cambrian exhalation, savory as food cooking, heavy as soot. And 60 miles up the rockets hanging the measureless instant over the black North Sea before the fall, ever faster, to orange heat, Christmas star, in helpless plunge to Earth. Lower in the sky the flying bombs are out too, roaring like the Adversary, seeking whom they may devour. It’s a long walk home tonight. Listen to this mock-angel singing, let your communion be at least in listening, even if they are not spokesmen for your exact hopes, your exact, darkest terror, listen. There must have been evensong here long before the news of Christ. Surely for as long as there have been nights bad as this one–something to raise the possibility of another night that could actually, with love and cockcrows, light the path home, banish the Adversary, destroy the boundaries between our lands, our bodies, our stories, all false, about who we are: for the one night, leaving only the clear way home and the memory of the infant you saw, almost too frail, there’s too much shit in these streets, camels and other beasts stir heavily outside, each hoof a chance to wipe him out…….But on the way home tonight, you wish you’d picked him up, held him a bit. Just held him, very close to your heart, his cheek by the hollow of your shoulder, full of sleep. As if it were you who could, somehow, save him. For the moment not caring who you’re supposed to be registered as. For the moment, anyway, no longer who the Caesars say you are.

    O Jesu parvule
    Nach dir is mir so weh…

    So this pickup group, these exiles and horny kids, sullen civilians called up in their middle age…….give you this evensong, climaxing now with its rising fragment of some ancient scale, voices overlapping threee and fourfold, filling the entire hollow of the church–no counterfeit baby, no announcement of the Kingdom, not even a try at warming or lighting this terrible night, only, damn us, our scruffy obligatory little cry, our maximum reach outward–praise be to God!–for you to take back to your war-address, your war-identity, across the snow’s footprints and tire tracks finally to the path you must create by yourself, alone in the dark. Whether you want it or not, whatever seas you have crossed, the way home…

     

    6 Responses to “Christmas 2018”

    1. Mrs. Davis Says:

      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

    2. Mike K Says:

      Yes, Merry Christmas to all. We were at my son’s annual Christmas Eve party with about 40 friends and relatives.

      Went over this morning to open presents with his kids. Lots of rain this morning, which thankfully held off until his party ended as some seating was outside.

      Dinner with his family this evening.

      Back to Tucson tomorrow.

    3. Brian Says:

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all who make this such a great site, a true oasis of the contemporary internet.

      (P.S., the proper way to write it is Caltech, no space or extra capitalization.)
      (P.P.S., that Pynchon quote is absolutely unreadably awful.)

    4. PenGun Says:

      A belated Merry Christmas, Thank you for the forum.

    5. Grurray Says:

      Merry Christmas Chicago Boyz & Girlz. Brian, fortunately David gave us the abridged version of that Christmas scene, as it rambles on for eight pages or so. That’s the best way to read Pynchon really. Extract whatever meaningful lines you can like a grizzly clamping down on salmon leaping out of the rapids of the barely penetrable prose, but then happily discard the rest when you get your fill.

    6. Chicago Tom Says:

      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Glad I found this site and a big thanks to all the contributors. A true breath of fresh air!