Saturday, December 31, 2005

Aulde Lang Syne

I walked through Winthrop Square, with its whimsical statue of Robert Burns today, and thought of the song everyone will sing tonight. It is from a poem Burns wrote.

William Hogarth, Tail Piece or The Bathos

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o'kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld, &c.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld, &c.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld, &c.

And there's a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

For auld, &c.

A Sixteenth Anniversary

Sixteen years ago today, my father died suddenly while chipping ice from an elderly neighbor's porch. It was the sort of thing he shouldn't have been doing since he had a heart condition for the previous 17 years and had been having more severe angina for months (and the sort of thing I am determined to avoid if humanly possible) but stubborness runs in the family.

He had just been to 9:30 Mass with my mother, stopped the car on the way back because he was light-headed, and told Mom, "I don't think I'm going to be around much in the new year." A half hour later, he was dead.

Since then, I haven't had much interest in partying on New Year's Eve, opting instead for quiet, private, at-home celebrations. I still miss my dad, and don't feel much like partying on the anniversary of his death.

V. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine
R. Et lux perpetua luceat in ei.
V. Requiescat in pace.
R. Amen.

The Seventh Day of Christmas

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, c. 1505

Fourth Day of the Epiphany Novena

O holy Magi, who, when deserted by the star in the city of Jerusalem, sought humbly and without human respect, from the rulers of the Church the place where thou might discover the object of thy journey; obtain for us grace to have recourse, in faith and humility, in all our doubts and perplexities to the counsel of our superiors, who hold the place of God on earth.
Glory be...

Friday, December 30, 2005

Upcoming Shufflings In the Curia?

Rorate Caeli has the best speculation I have seen.

Requiescant In Pace

Those known to most who died in 2005.

Pope John Paul II
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos (Servant of God Lucy of Fatima)
Jamie Cardinal Sin
Terri Schiavo
Prince Rainier of Monaco
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Saul Bellow
Arthur Miller
Don Adams
Bob Denver
Ann Bancroft
James Doohan (Scotty on Star Trek)
Leon Askin (General Burghalter on Hogan's Heroes)
Johnny Carson
Eddie Albert
Ralph Edwards
Max Schmelling
Hank Stram
Sen. Gaylord Nelson
Al Lopez
Ossie Davis
Sandra Dee
Robert A. Moog
Luther Vandross
Shirley Horn
Sid Luft
Myron Floren
Simon Wiesenthal
Sir James Callaghan
Sir Edward Heath
Senator Howell Heflin
Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr.
Shelby Foote
Henry Luce, III
Frank Perdue
Peter F. Drucker
John DeLorean
Walter B. Wriston
Hunter S. Thompson
Hugh Sidey
Peter Jennings
Rosemary Kennedy
Shirley Chisholm
Rosa Parks
Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr
George F. Kennan
Eugene McCarthy
Admiral James Stockdale (Ross Perot's Vice Presidential choice in 1992)
Gen. William Westmoreland
Paul Winchell
Virginia Mayo
Ernest Lehman
Pat Morita
Barbara Bel Geddes
Robert Wise
June Haver
Sir John Mills
Frances Langford
Richard Pryor
Nipsey Russell
John Vernon
Vincent Schiavelli
Michael Vale ("Time to make the donuts!")
Barney Martin
Joseph Bonanno

V. Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine
R. Et lux perpetua luceat in eis.
V. Requiescant in pace.
R. Amen.

The Sixth Day of Christmas

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Gerrit van Honthorst, painted at Utrecht, c. 1622. From the Carthusian church of St. Barbara in Cologne.

Third Day of the Epiphany Novena

O holy Magi! who regarded neither the severity of the season, nor the inconveniences of the journey that thou might find the newborn Messiah; obtain for us the grace not to allow ourselves to be discouraged by any of the difficulties which may meet us on the way of salvation.
Glory be...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Template Tweakings

I have made some minor changes in the template, mostly stuff you probably will not notice.

One new thing is adding a Yahoo Avatar (on the right, just above the My Stuff links). There are some problems with my avatar. I'm not that handsome. And I'm considerably rounder, my face, and especially my torso. And I don't like the style of eyeglasses. I prefer rounder lenses. And there probably should be a cigar or pipe in my mouth. I'd look more true to life in a sweater and oxford button-down collar shirt, rather than a suit. But it is OK as far as it goes.

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Nativity with Saint Lawrence and Saint Andrew, by Antoniazzo Romano, c. 1483.

We Came, We Saw, We Kicked Butt

BC won its ludicrous bowl last night, thrashing some team native to Idaho, where the game was played.

Indulgences For the New Year

From The Cassock and the Cotta

Te Deum recited publically on December 31st, and the Veni Creator Spiritus on January 1st. Usual conditions apply.

Saint Thomas a Becket

From The Golden Legend

From Catholic On Line

Pilgrims en route to Canterbury

Second Day of the Epiphany Novena

Second Day December 30th
O holy Magi,
who at the first appearance of the wondrous star
left thy native country to go and seek
the newborn king of the Jews,
obtain for us the grace of corresponding
with alacrity to every divine inspiration.

Glory Be...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

PapaRatzi Putting the Smackdown On Liturgical Abuses

First up is the NeoCatechumenal Way. Probably this is the most prominent officially recognized group that actually in its own standards for Mass varies tremendously from normal Catholic practice.

Next, LifeTeen? We can only hope.

Things I Have Discovered So Far This Christmas

Boston's Chinatown is open for business on Christmas Day. And is very busy.

PuPu Platters, Kung Pow Chicken, Orange Beef, and Gai Poo Lo Mein go very well with Drambuie.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe rules!

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was an improvement over The Prisoner of Azkaban. And the kids are not getting too old for the roles.

The late Sir Edward Heath, former British Prime Minister and leader of the Tory Party before Margaret Thatcher came along, edited a book of Christmas carols in the 1970s (he led a local carol-singing group). His selections are very good, almost all religious and of European origin, not PC at all. And the illustrations he selected to accompany the carols were very good as well.

L.J. Perretti makes some fine pipes and very nice cherry pipe tobacco. And that cherry pipe tobacco smells great!

Miniature cigars are a good way to overcome the winter problem that cigar smokers have. You have to smoke outside, but it is too cold to stay outside for an hour to an hour and a half. So the 15-minute Macanudo does the trick.

It is perfectly acceptable to melt peppermint candy canes in Ghiradelli cocoa. And delicious!

I prefer earbuds to headphones.

Based on a friend's experience being the middle man between his Mom and Dad this Christmas, it is a lot more fun to spend Christmas with good friends than with family. I should have remembered this from the constant tension between my own Mom and Dad, and uncles and Grammy at Christmas and Thanksgiving, but spending Christmas with family was all I knew.

Nevertheless, I miss my departed family members (which is basically all of my blood relatives who would count) very much at Christmas.

The best use for Guinness is, indeed, Wassail, or Lamb's Wool, as it is also known. There is no point drinking it plain. You could be drinking Drambuie, or Cointreau, or Chambord, or whisky. And most bars charge you almost as much for a pint of Guinness as for a couple of fingers of neat whisky.

People in early 21st century Boston have no notion of traditional English Christmas carols. Walk across the Common whistling The Holly and the Ivy, The Gloucestershire Wassail, Past Three O'Clock, and Once In Royal David's City, and you might as well be whistling the soundtrack to some obscure off-off-off Broadway musical.

Even a very uninspiring and virtually silent traditional Low Mass is better than what is on offer after very early morning in most parishes.

When Lindt's Intense Orange bars are on sale, buy them!

Chocolate-covered cherries are sweeter than I remembered. And the milk chocolate ones are nasty.

It is great fun to wander around the North End (Boston's Little Italy) at this time of year.

I like Torrone.

Though I prefer people to think of me as a Stoic, enduring privation and suffering willingly to achieve an important objective, if left to my own druthers, I'm pretty much an Epicurean.

I did not read A Christmas Carol this year, and the world did not come to an end. Nevertheless, I watched three versions on DVD.

I'm a natural in tweed, and could be taken for a professor at any university.

I really don't care tuppence for New Year's Day.

This Deserves Some Play

Via The New Crusade

New Gothic Church In Illinois

From Ralph Adams Cram's firm. Looks nice. Even imagining what it will be withut representations of statues, stained glass windows, and stations of the Cross.

Via The New Liturgical Movement

First Day of the Epiphany Novena

First Day December 29th:
O holy Magi,
thou wert living in continual expectation
of the rising of the Star of Jacob,
which would announce the birth
of the true Sun of justice,
obtain for us an increase
of faith and charity,
and the grace to live
in continual hope of beholding one day
the light of heavenly glory and eternal joy.

Glory Be...

The Fourth Day of Christmas

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Hugo Van der Goes, c. 1477, central panel for altar polyptych for the Portinari Church, Florence.

Holy Innocents

The Golden Legend on the Holy Innocents

The Coventry Carol

1. Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

2. O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

3. Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

4. Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

It has always struck me as odd that the Holy Innocents are remembered so early in the season of Christmas. The slaughter did not take place until some days after the Adoration of the Magi, so a date between the 10th and 15th of January would seem more appropriate. And such a move would have the added effect of moving this emotionally charged feast, marking the massacre of little children by government authority, closer to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22nd or so), the decision that found a "constitutional right" to murder unborn babies. That connection might help bring the point of the unacceptably horrendous nature of abortion home to all Catholics.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Follow The Twelve Days of Christmas

From CatholicCulture.org. A very nicely done site!
Courtesy of St. Peter's Helpers

The Nativity

The Mystical Nativity, by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1500

Hunting the Wren

I did not blog yesterday, so I did not get a chance to mention the old Irish custom of hunting the wren.

Some Christmas customs give offense to modern sensibilities.

PETA would be particularly appalled at the Wren Boys custom of Ireland. Early on Saint Stephen's Day, groups of young boys go out into woodlands and hunt down wrens. They tie the bird to a pole, and decorate the body with ribbons.

Then, after blacking their faces, go from house to house making noise and singing for gifts of food, drink, or money.

The typical song starts like this:

The wren, the wren,
The king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day
Got caught in the furze.
So it's up with the kettle
And down with the pan.
Won't you give us a penny
To bury the wren?


The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he is little, his family is great,
I pray you, good landlady, give us a treat.
My box would speak, if it had but a tongue,
And two or three shillings, would do it not wrong,

Sing holly, sing ivy--sing ivy, sing holly,
A drop just to drink, it would drown melancholy.
And if you draw it of the best,
I hope in heaven your soul will rest;
But if you draw it of the small,
It won't agree with these wren boys at all.

This was wassailing, visiting from house to house and offering the token of song in exchange for food or drink. At a symbolic level, it is offering good will and wishes for a happy new year (it is a New Year's ritual) in exchange for hospitality. It is also semi-threatening, like the trick or treat Halloween ritual. "it won't agree with these wren boys at all" is like the "trick" option on Halloween.

Stephen Nissenbaum, in The Battle For Christmas, describes an incident in Salem Village in 1679 when three young men entered an older man's house on Christmas Night, and sang, demanding perry (hard pear cider) in return for their song. When refused, they pelted his house with stones for a half hour.

In fact, the last stanza of the second wren boys' song above is almost identical to the penultimate stanza of the Gloucestershire Wassail:

Come butler, come give us
A bowl of the best,
And we hope that your soul
In Heaven may rest.
But if you should give us
A bowl of the small,
Then down will go Butler, bowl and all.

Wassailling, carolling, wren boys, trick or treat, "a penny for the Guy," the Plough Monday play, and souling are all variations on the same ritual. Recall that Halloween was New Year's for Celtic peoples, and you see that the custom of "luck visiting" is a New Year's custom. Because Christmas falls so close to New Year's, and is now the more important holiday, there is a blending of customs, so that New Year's luck visits take place mostly around Christmas.

Today, in the US, what one mostly sees is carolling. It has lost wassailling's hard edge. Children or adults go from house to house or shop to shop and sing carols. It is no longer common to give food or drink in exchange for the song, because many people on either side of the ritual don't understand its origins. It is not as common as it once was, though commercial carolling is still done in downtown business districts like Salem's and Marblehead's, though it is done Thanksgiving weekend to spur holiday shopping, rather than closer to Christmas.

Four years ago, we were treated to a very good group from one of the local colleges in decent Victorian costume singing traditional carols (but it was a weird 70 degrees that day in early December). But no one wassails here.

And if boys went about killing wrens and parading the bodies from house to house, the local animal control officer would be sicked on them by some busy-body. One wonders if wrenning could be domesticated and made acceptable to modern sensibilities, while still keeping the essense of the custom.

Numbering the Days of Christmas

The numbering of the days of Christmas always seemed problematical to me. Do you count Christmas Day? Do you count Epiphany? If you count both, you get 13 days. If you count neither, you get eleven.

Reverend Ken Collins, a protestant minister, has as good an explanation as you are likely to find:

In the Church, as in the synagogue, the day technically begins at sunset. Therefore, Christmas begins at sundown on 24 December, which we very appropriately call ‘Christmas Eve.’ The Christmas Season, which begins with Christmas Eve, ends on the eve of Epiphany, which is sundown on 5 January. Therefore, Christmas lasts twelve days, and the period from sundown on 24 December to sundown on 5 January is called the Twelve Days of Christmas.

By this reckoning, Epiphany begins on the twelfth night after Christmas, so Epiphany was called Twelfthnight in England.

That makes today the third day of Christmas.

Dec. 24/25 The First Day of Christmas, Christmas Day
Dec. 25/26 The Second Day of Christmas, St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day)
Dec. 26/27 The Third Day of Christmas, Saint John's Day
Dec. 27/28 The Fourth Day of Christmas, Holy Innocents
Dec. 28/29 The Fifth Day of Christmas
Dec. 29/30 The Sixth Day of Christmas
Dec. 30/31 The Seventh Day of Christmas
Dec. 31/Jan. 1 The Eighth Day of Christmas, New Year, Octave, Circumcision
Jan. 1/2 The Ninth Day of Christmas
Jan. 2/3 The Tenth Day of Christmas
Jan. 3/4 The Eleventh Day of Christmas
Jan. 4/5 The Twelfth Day of Christmas, Twelfth Night
Jan. 5/6 Epiphany

Continue to enjoy Christmas. Even if one or both adults in the family have to work outside the home, make all of the days of Christmas different in some way from the rest of the year. Do something to help the less fortunate. Mull the leftover bottle of red wine tonight. Burn some of those candles you recieved. If you are lucky enough to have a working fireplace, burn some wood in it.

Keep the creche, the tree, and the other decorations up (until Plough Monday, which is the Monday after Epiphany, or even until Candlemas--February 2). Make dinner special tonight, even if it is just leftovers. Make family time. Keep the kids (yes, even the teenagers) home (let them invite friends over to share the days of Christmas with your family, rather than hanging out somewhere else, being influenced by Lord knows what). Play some Christmas CDs with songs minus references to Santa Claus, Rudolph, and winter wonderlands.

Maybe even exchange little trinkets (a paperback, a cigar, some coffee, a pass for a matinee, a handful of toy soldiers, dice or cards, tin whistles, a box of tea, a discounted movie in VHS format, some candy, etc.) as gifts on each of the 12 days of Christmas.

I can't help but think that "holiday depression" is, in part, caused by the rush society has to push Christmas out the door. One looks forward to Christmas the whole year. There are women who spend the whole year doing craft work for Christmas. Then, it is gone in 24 hours.

This morning, there was a Christmas tree already strewn on a sidewalk I passed. That sight always galls me before New Year's Day.

If society learned again to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, modestly but joyfully, I think some of those who suffer depression with the end of Christmas, might not. And if making Christmas last longer helps some of those who suffer, is it not worth it?

You have to be somewhat counter-cultural to try something like this, but as Christians we should be used to that. Who cares if know-nothings say, "Don't you know Christmas is over?" Since we seem to be being driven back to the catacombs by society anyway, why not go with our creches, holly and ivy, trees, candles in the window, precious family times, special foods, and devotional practice for 12 days rather than 1?

Happy Third Day of Christmas!

Thoughts On Making Christmas Last

From the archives

Saint John the Evangelist

From Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

More on the our Lord's special friend from The Golden Legend

And from Catholic On Line

Requiescat In Pace

You probably won't recognize his name. I did not. But character actor Vincent Sciavelli died on St. Stephen's Day at his home in Sicily at the age of 57.

Oh yeah, that guy! I just saw him the other day while watching Amadeus (he had a small part as Salieri's valet at the start of the movie) and was also in the Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai.
Schiavelli was also the author of three cookbooks.
Requiescat in pace.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Nativity

The Nativity, by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1475-1480, Florence

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The First Day of Christmas

The Nativity, by an unknown Flemish artist, probably from a portable polyptych altarpiece, c. 1400

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