Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells”… and a piece of original fiction by Yours Truly!

For some reason, whenever I hear this, a tale something like this runs through my mind…


Christmas Eve, A Year In the Near Future.

Santa Claus – Sinter Klaas, St. Nicholas – approaches the [pick an adversary country, preferably a godless and oppressive one like R_d Ch_ina] border, cruising at near his maximum operational altitude. Already the sophisticated Elven instruments on the dashboard of his sleigh can pick up the first brushes of their ACCM (Anti-Christmas Counter Measures), like the prickly whiskers of a restlessly slumbering, evil dragon.

They had been getting better, with each passing year. Last year, the unthinkable had happened: they had actually managed to exclude him from their airspace! Multiple probes had ended in failure, and the danger both to his increasingly disoriented and weakening reindeer, and to the undelivered presents intended for countless boys and girls, had compelled him to stop trying to penetrate their shields.

But that was then. This was now. The Elves had worked night and day for nearly a year to craft his newest sleigh: a Mark VI, the newest, best, and most powerful sleigh he has ever possessed.

A full moon shines down upon the earth below, as Santa calls to his reindeer for a last effort, takes the sleigh higher, higher… and then into a sweeping dive-roll that would have done a jet fighter proud, straightening out into a low-angle, sloping dive right for the defended perimeter. He can feel through his reins the heart the reindeer put into it, racing faster and faster through the night sky, driving relentlessly at the hostile border.

With his off-hand, Santa’s gloved fingers play across the controls, and around them a coruscating nimbus of Christmas magic takes form. Those who might glance up from below would see only an exceptionally bright meteor, with a teardrop shape and a tail like a comet, sparkling and flashing in crimson and argent.

On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen! On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen! Now, Rudolph – FULL POWER!!!

A few moments, a deep breath… and the powerful Mark VI, surrounded by its protective nimbus, hits the ACCM perimeter like a thousand bolts of lightning. For one shuddering moment, in which time itself seems to stand still, the vile shields hold. Santa can feel, with senses beyond the merely human, as the malevolent dragon awakes… but awakes to a blinding flash of crimson-silver light, before which it recoils, helplessly…

And then they’re through, the defenses shattering, crumbling, falling away, the evil dragon dissipating with a raging, howling wail that fades to a whimper – and then, to nothingness.

And below them, millions of sleeping children stir happily in their slumbers, breathe a bit more deeply… smiles flit across their sleeping faces… a few of the more perceptive ones half-wake for a moment, then subside into peaceful rest, with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads.

This year, Christmas is coming.

 


Creative Commons License

This work of original fiction by Thomas H. Harbold is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND). Please click the link for more information.

How America helped revive the Boar’s Head feast | Catholic Herald

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“Yet as with Christmas itself, Anglo-Catholicism and a great many other good things, Romanticism opened up the early 19th century to a rebirth of the Boar’s Head…”

Source: How America helped revive the Boar’s Head feast | Catholic Herald

“The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all the land…”

But not so rare, it seems, as it once was!

“Despite the cosmopolitan origins of so much of our distinctly American manner of celebrating Our Lord’s birth, in the popular mind… England is seen as the Christmas country par excellence. And among its customs that we try to emulate – in addition to the aforementioned carols services and the yule log – is the Boar’s Head Festival…

“The late 19th and early 20th centuries in the US saw an explosion of Anglophilia among the ‘better classes’… In this atmosphere, Dr Edward Dudley Tibbits, an Episcopal priest, brought the Boar’s Head tradition in 1892 to the Hoosac School in upstate New York, which he had founded three years previously.”

It was picked up by a number of Episcopal churches and cathedrals, and from thence has spread: “it can now be found at Lutheran, Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches as well… In recent years, it has finally come to a few Catholic churches too.”

I have tended to think of the Boar’s Head Feast as a Twelfth Night (Eve of the Epiphany) custom; but in fact it was not, of old, limited to that occasion. As this article notes, “In medieval England, a highly decorated boar’s head was a centrepiece of Yuletide feasting in abbeys and great halls alike,” although it is true that “it is usually offered during the Twelve Days after Christmas, and so helps emphasise that magical liturgical period between Christmas and Epiphany.”

Like many ancient customs, it may also – as the article again notes – serve as a useful means of evangelization! Such an event may attract those who would be unlikely to darken the doors of a church, under other conditions. And in a jaded, secular, and gloomily (or sometime manically) self-referential age, ancient customs and traditions hold a good deal of appeal, for many, and this trend seems only likely to increase.

And if the seemingly secular jollity points to higher, sacred truths – as the Boar’s Head Feast points to Christmas, and thus, the Incarnation of God’s Incarnate Word in the Person of His Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ – so much the better! For, after all:

“Our steward hath provided this,
In honour of the King of Bliss…

Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino!”

(“The boar’s head I bear, giving praises to the Lord!”)

Deo gratias!

The Glories of the West: “A Nationalist Christmas: The Glories of Poland!”

Source: A Nationalist Christmas: The Glories of Poland!!! | Dr. Steve Turley

It is one of the great ironies of our present age – though given the way God has been seen to work in history, it should come as no surprise – that it is Eastern and Central Europe that seems to hold the greatest promise for saving the West. Here, thanks to Dr. Steve Turley’s YouTube channel, is a lovely video montage of Christmas in Poland. Enjoy, as our Polish brothers and sister show us how it’s done!

Niech Bóg błogosławi Polsce!

(God bless Poland!)

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas
The man who calls himself “Arthur Pendragon,” one of the more visible proponents of neopaganism in Britain, leads a Winter Solstice ceremony near Stonehenge.

Professor William Tighe argues that, actually, the pagans co-opted it from the Christians.

Source: The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout

As we approach the Feast of the Nativity – “Christes Messe,” or Christmas – we begin to hear once again the complaints that Christians “stole” Christmas from Pagans, replacing an ancient pre-Christian celebration of the Solstice with the celebration of the Messiah’s birth.

It is unquestionable that many of the symbols and trappings we have adopted for our secular celebrations, from cut greenery to Christmas trees, have pre-Christian roots. And why should they not? In purely secular terms, every culture that moves into a new area adopts elements of what already existed.

And from a theological perspective, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, the religious impulse comes from God and leads toward God; by that understanding, pre-Christian religions and spiritual traditions were reaching imperfectly toward the truth that Christianity expresses perfectly.

Why, then, should not aspects of those traditions which aren’t intrinsically opposed to the Christian message – and which, as in the case of light born amidst darkness, may even help to explicate it – be “baptized” into it? The answer is obvious: of course they should. Continue reading “The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout”

Glories of the West: Medieval Carols – A Holy Night (Album)

Source: Medieval Carols – A Holy Night (Album) | YouTube

I have been remiss in posting entries in this category, of late! Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa… Here, in any case, is a wonderful selection of glorious seasonal music, from the medieval West!

  1. Hodie Christus Natus Est
  2. O Nobilis Nativitas/O Mira Dei/O Decus Virgineum/Apparuit
  3. Lux De Luce
  4. Alleluya: A Nywe Werke
  5. Verbum Supernum Prodiens
  6. Balaam De Quo Vaticinans
  7. Ave Maria
  8. Gabriel, Fram Heven-King
  9. Lullay: I Saw A Swete Semly Syght
  10. Prolis Eterne Genitor/Psallat Mater Gracie/[Pes]
  11. Vox Clara, Ecce, Intonat
  12. De Supernis Sedibus
  13. Omnes De Saba
  14. Puellare Gremium/Purissima Mater/[Pes]
  15. Lullay, Lullay: Als I Lay On Yoolis Night
  16. Tria Sunt Munera
  17. Orto Sole Serene/Origo Viri/Virga Lesse/[Tenor]
  18. Peperit Virgo
  19. Ecce Quod Natura
  20. A Solis Ortus Cardine
  21. Ther Is No Rose Of Swych Vertu
  22. Videntes Stellam
  23. Nowel: Owt Of Your Slepe Aryse

The Real 12 Days of Christmas | Christian History

Two Turtledoves

Celebrating Christ’s birth with saints of the faith during the actual Christmas season.

Source: The Real 12 Days of Christmas | Christian History

A wonderful essay on exactly what it says: the importance of celebrating the real Twelve Days of Christmas!

Sometime in November, as things now stand, the “Christmas season” begins. The streets are hung with lights, the stores are decorated with red and green, and you can’t turn on the radio without hearing songs about the spirit of the season and the glories of Santa Claus. The excitement builds to a climax on the morning of December 25, and then it stops, abruptly. Christmas is over, the New Year begins, and people go back to their normal lives.

The traditional Christian celebration of Christmas is exactly the opposite. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and for nearly a month Christians await the coming of Christ in a spirit of expectation, singing hymns of longing. Then, on December 25, Christmas Day itself ushers in 12 days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany.

The “real” 12 days of Christmas are important not just as a way of thumbing our noses at secular ideas of the “Christmas season.” They are important because they give us a way of reflecting on what the Incarnation means in our lives. Christmas commemorates the most momentous event in human history—the entry of God into the world he made, in the form of a baby.

The Logos through whom the worlds were made took up his dwelling among us in a tabernacle of flesh. One of the prayers for Christmas Day in the Catholic liturgy encapsulates what Christmas means for all believers: “O God, who marvelously created and yet more marvelously restored the dignity of human nature, grant that we may share the divinity of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.” In Christ, our human nature was united to God, and when Christ enters our hearts, he brings us into that union.

… and much more wonderfulness. Read, mark, learn , and inwardly digest!

When Christmas Looks Better in Aleppo… | Defend Europa

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Throughout the last few hundred years, Europe has been a place where one could observe the most magical of Christmas scenes… to illustrate just how far we’ve fallen, it’s worth pointing out that one would find a more archetypal Christmas celebration in the Syrian city of Aleppo, rather than Frankfurt or Stockholm.

Source: When Christmas Looks Better in Aleppo… – Defend Europa

I have said for some time that while Bashar al-Assad is not exactly a saint or a schoolboy, he enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of his countrymen, probably in part – maybe in large measure – because he is a secular, rather than militant Islamic extremist, ruler, who may not tolerate much in the way of dissent, but in exchange protects all of his people, including women, and minority religions like Christianity. And at the moment, it looks like he’s doing a better job of it than most European countries…

Throughout the last few hundred years, Europe has been a place where one could observe the most magical of Christmas scenes. From Germany’s bustling markets, to the snow of Scandinavia and the rich religious celebrations of the Catholic and Orthodox countries, it was never difficult to find a scene worthy of valuable postcard. Today, of course, things are much different. And to illustrate just how far we’ve fallen, it’s worth pointing out that one would find a more archetypal Christmas celebration in the Syrian city of Aleppo, rather than Frankfurt or Stockholm.

That’s right; Syria’s once war-ravaged city is today the scene of an archetypal Christmas. They erect a huge, wonderfully lit tree in the city’s central square, as various groups in Santa costumes and elf imitations are busily engaged in entertaining the children. Even the churches are full, with vicars and priests holding open, welcoming public services including midnight mass and family services on Christmas Eve. There are no barriers to prevent truck attacks, very few visible security officers and certainly none armed to the hilt, as we could easily expect to see in Birmingham or Berlin.

Of course, there was once a time when many wondered if Aleppo would ever celebrate Christmas again. From 2012 to late 2016, the city was occupied by “rebel” forces – such as the US-backed Free Syrian Army, and the internationally acclaimed White Helmets – who, despite their western supporters’ claims to the contrary, were effectively Sunni extremists in the mould of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Christmas was strictly forbidden, and Burkas rigorously enforced. Under the guise of “pro-democracy” demonstrations, the so-called rebel groups had established an Islamist regime in which Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities were treated no better than slaves.

Yet on 22nd December 2016, the Syrian Arab Army finally recaptured the city in its entirety. After permitting the rebels a route out of the city – when most commanders would have been more inclined toward total annihilation – Assad’s forces finally flushed the remaining Islamist pigs from the city, with the assistance of the Russian Air Force. And what was the first act of the authorities once liberation had been secured? Renovating the Mosques? No; celebrating Christmas. Reopening the churches, decorating the square, erecting the tree – all courtesy of Assad’s regime…

And the trend continues, this year, as the above Tweet indicates. As a different Twitter commenter posted,

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 7.53.17 PM

Sadly, no, I do not.

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2017 – YouTube

Source: The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2017 – YouTube

Her Majesty’s Christmas Broadcast for this year! I love her characterization of herself, as she recalls her first Christmas broadcast: “the presenter has evolved somewhat…” HM The Queen is a wonderful person, which fact is indissolubly linked to the fact that she is a remarkable Monarch. May God continue to bless her, and grant her long to live!

Home and family: curcial keys to the well-being of us all, “commoners” as well as Royals, and not just on Christmas, either. Blessings to her for her expression of her Christian faith! And prayers for the upcoming Commonwealth Summit.

Sir Walter Scott’s “Marmion” – Christmas in Merrie Olde England!

The Boar's Head on the groaning board

Marmion

~ by Sir Walter Scott (1808)

Heap on more wood! – the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:
Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane
At Iol more deep the mead did drain;
High on the beach his galleys drew,
And feasted all his pirate crew;
Then in his low and pine-built hall
Where shields and axes deck’d the wall
They gorged upon the half-dress’d steer;
Caroused in seas of sable beer;
While round, in brutal jest, were thrown
The half-gnaw’d rib, and marrow-bone:
Or listen’d all, in grim delight,
While Scalds yell’d out the joys of fight.
Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie,
While wildly loose their red locks fly,
And dancing round the blazing pile,
They make such barbarous mirth the while,
As best might to the mind recall
The boisterous joys of Odin’s hall.

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll’d,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night;
On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung:
That only night in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn’d her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then open’d wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside
And Ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose;
The Lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ‘post and pair’.
All hail’d, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frown’d on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garb’d ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death to tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassel round, in good brown bowls,
Garnish’d with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reek’d; hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor fail’d old Scotland to produce,
At such high tide, her savoury goose.
Then came the merry makers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made;
But, O! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.