Merry Christmas, my friends. Wherever you are.
Hey! Reblog or not, I’ve really been enjoying those stories from the last post. I pretty much have an unlimited appetite for Christmas stories, I guess. I liked the Kate Douglas Wiggin one a lot– she’s underrated. And she was a very interesting person, a pioneer of Kindergarten as well as an author. And I liked the Napa Christmas story. Not great literature, but it was wonderful to read about Christmas in California terms– beautiful descriptions of our beautiful seasons. But don’t read that Benicia story for Christmas. It’s on the same page, but it’s not a Christmas story; it’s about the Virgin Mary’s evil twin or something, I really didn’t get it.
But we’re here to talk about St. Nicholas.
I love St. Nicholas. I’m a bit sorry we don’t have him, really, around here. Especially now that Santa Claus is getting so thoroughly trashed by the commercial Christmas industry. I mean, I love Santa Claus, I’m totally fine with “Miracle on 34th Street,” but have you seen some of this junk? These made-for-TV movies about Santa’s MBA kids, Santa’s no-good brother-in-law, etc. And there’s always something in it about somebody SAVING CHRISTMAS, by getting out the merchandise, of course.
I’ve got news for you, Christmas is already saved. For crying out loud, even the Grinch knew that. “‘Maybe Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.'”
What am I talking about? I don’t know.
Anyway, ST. NICHOLAS. Truly awesome guy. Let me give you a present for St. Nicholas’ Day. I can never get enough of this website– there’s so much on it, it’s hard to find your way back to the things you like. Try the screensaver. And the animated e-card.
Anyway, what a legend. I suppose ninety percent of it isn’t true, strictly speaking, but I was thinking this afternoon, how incredible it was to live a life which made such an impression of goodness, and kindness, that it continues to bear fruit in tales and images of goodness even after centuries and centuries.
Here’s a really nice St. Nicholas story from the site.
You know, I grew up in the days of print: things were written down, and they were WRITTEN DOWN PERMANENTLY. It’s only in the last few years, when I’ve finally had my own computer, and my niece explained to me about fan fiction, that I’ve sort of gotten the feel of what it must have been like in the good old days of oral tradition. I don’t want to oversimplify it– oral tradition is also very carefully transmitted, more often than not– but there’s always that sense of fluidity there, which you sense in ancient documents, but which I always had a hard time imagining, till I saw the modern version taking place before my eyes. People like to tell stories about the people they like, and admire. Which accounts for some very weird stories about Gilgamesh.
So apparently St. Nicholas has come in for a huge share of this, because how can you not love him? There’s reality (he WAS real), and there’s canon legend, more or less, and then it seems there are a million made-up stories. I love the one I linked to above! But as with all fan fiction, some storytellers are better than others. Some don’t seem to get the point of the character at all.
Like, read this one.
Say what? What is that, psychopath St. Nicholas? And I was complaining about cheesy Santa Claus movies. But really, visit that site, and Happy St. Nicholas Day. May he give you all the best gifts, and what your heart desires.
I wish someone would do a site like that for St. Lucy!
Wow. I love Project Gutenberg. And Christmas stories. And, and…
I love that reblog button. This came via Doggedly In Rome, BTW.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today marks the first day of December and we couldn’t resist sharing Project Gutenberg’s Literary Advent Calendar courtesy of Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, all texts listed below are free online by clicking on the links. Of course, you can supplement or substitute with Christmas favorites of your own including children’s Christmas stories like HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS and THE POLAR EXPRESS.
A LITERARY ADVENT CALENDAR
December 1: A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens
December 2: THE GIFT OF THE MAGI by O. Henry
December 3: THE STORY OF THE OTHER WISE MEN by Henry Van Dyke
December 4: OLD CHRISTMAS from the Sketchbook of Washington Irving
December 5: CHRISTMAS TALES AND CHRISTMAS VERSE by Eugene Field
December 6: THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS by Henry Van Dyke
December 7: A CHRISTMAS GARLAND by Sir Max Beerbohm
December 8: THE FEAST…
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I’ve been saving this picture. The strange thing is, I’d been looking for it for about four decades, since I saw it in National Geographic as a kid. I even searched for it online, once or twice. Then one day, it came across my Tumblr, out of the blue.
I was wanting to say something with it, about a legitimate place for beauty, and romance, in religious life– well, I’m not sure what I was planning to say. It was definitely deep. But anyway, I woke up this morning, and it occurred to me that I should post it today. I usually post a poppy picture, and some piece of WWI poetry on my other blog, mainly just for me to look at. I don’t know much about World War I, but even I know more than some people, and it’s always freaked me out a little how quickly such a perfect storm of horror could be forgotten– swept under the rug, even. When it was not only a catastrophe in itself, but the gateway to the 1984-like state of unending war we’re now apparently engulfed in.
When I was a kid, there were still WWI veterans downtown sometimes, selling artificial Flanders poppies. Otherwise, we don’t see much of that around here; our poppies are orange. But everyday life was flooded with WWII vets, like my dad, and while I’m sure there was some PTSD among them, they didn’t seem to spend a lot of time wondering what it was all for. They figured they knew that. War was hard, but not insane: you didn’t permanently lose your way in it– frankly, they tended to think war was a nice, straightforward answer to everything. Some things were worth fighting for, so you did what you had to do, even if it looked like it was jaw-droppingly brutal and crazy. Then good triumphed.
Look how old I am– I’m like a hundred years old, and I’m still not sure what I think. “Some things are worth fighting for” is a cliché, but sometimes I wonder if anything is worth fighting for. I remember reading that Dorothy Day said that maybe we would have the moral high ground if we had let the Ottomans overrun us, in the 17th century or whatever. I can’t really wrap my mind around that. Maybe it has to do with declining to fight against– then you have to be really clear about exactly what you’re holding out for.
I mean, it’s clear that a choice for non-violence doesn’t mean there’s not going to be violence. I’m always in awe of the kind of non-violent witness the Catholic Worker has presented to the war machine, over the years– plenty of violence involved there, they just changed its distribution. And Linda Maendel gives us this incredibly moving piece today on the Hutterite martyrs of World War I. I find it hard to imagine that kind of sustained courage. Non-violence draws violence and insanity to the surface. Is it transformative? I think you have to have a certain gift of faith to be convinced that it is, or even, to hope that it is.
I know it’s lazy to steal… uh, reblog… someone else’s post. But I love everything she says, as well as the Wendell Berry poem, of course, and she says it a lot more convincingly than I could, maybe because she lives it a lot more convincingly than I do. Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing…
posted by Lauren Plummer
Today we will vote or not vote, and someone will be elected to lead our country. And still – to the children of distant lands and children of our own land, in the bodies of women, on the backs of the poor, in the souls of men, and to the earth herself – still unspeakable violence will be done. Our hope cannot rest in elected officials.
Yes, our choices today, and especially the intentions and consciousness they spring from, matter. But forget the noise and distraction of Right or Left; both are Babylon. As people of faith, Election Day is such a tiny piece (much more the beginning than the end) of our work in the world. Let this be our real work – to use up our lives every day casting a vote for Justice over Comfort, Mercy over Power, Community over Self, Love over Fear, Life…
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