Sunday, December 21, 2008

Celebrating the season

With snowflakes falling outside my window and George Winston's CD December playing in the background, I want to mention a few things of interest:

***This is the shortest day of the year, with the longest night ahead. The actual winter solstice occurred at 7:04 a.m. EST today. For thousands of years people all over the world have marked and celebrated this day -- Saturnalia, Yule, Dongzhi, Mean Geimhridh and Midvinterblot are some of the names used to mark the occasion at various times by different cultures, and the observance of Christmas comes out of these traditions. While today marks the beginning of winter for us, in many parts of the world this is the season's midpoint.

***The Globe has a story today on Christmas caroling, which seems to be making a comeback. I think that's pretty cool. Can you imagine a group of carolers making their way down the sidewalks of East Boston? Anyone want to run with that idea?

***I've long been a fan of the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life, and a recent piece in The New York Times discusses some of the charms of the Frank Capra film. Despite the feel-good conclusion, much of the movie is a rather bleak depiction of the modern world and of a decent man's complete unspooling. Look closely at Jimmy Stewart's face as his character's world crumbles and then as the course his small town would have taken without George Bailey becomes apparent -- the scene at Martini's bar where George prays before getting punched out; the scene where he grabs his son and desperately holds him close; the scene where he sits across from the delighfully amoral Henry Potter and realizes that the old man is right: George Bailey is worth more dead than alive; the few seconds before he jumps off the bridge to end his life in what he thinks is the most honorable way out; and, most of all, the scene where, in the alternative, George-less universe, he is rejected by his cold, impatient mother, and Stewart, unshaven and haggard, runs confused and frightened right up to the camera and stares out at the horrific world around him with crazy eyes. Though the opening is sappy, there is lots of wonderful stuff in It's a Wonderful Life.

***I was recently in a bit of traffic coming off Route 1 in Saugus at the Lynn Fells Parkway exit when I realized the source of the slowdown was people checking out the elaborate holiday displays at a pair of houses just off the highway. While a few lights can be nice, the over-the-top gaudy spectacles strike me as cheesy and wasteful. A piece indicates that some other people agree.


N.starluna said...

I personally like Christmas lights. When I was growing up, we used to take road trips to look at other people's lights. When we are back in California with the family, we still do that.

The lights are only on a few weeks out of the year anyway. And I think they are/ should be equal opportunity holiday decorations. I was happy to see my Jewish friends do blue and white Chanukah decorations with the same enthusiasm that others do their Christmas decorations. I personally would never do the blow up Santas, but hey, if that's your thing - go for it. I think it would be fabulous to see some Ramadan or other Eid decorations too.

This time of year, we can use as much light as we can get. I'm an environmentalist as much as the next gal. I know you can overdo it (a la Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation) but you can also drink too much water. That doesn't mean people shouldn't do it. If you unplug all of your unused electronics and put your lights on a timer, your electricity use would be largely in balance.

And after watching a couple of neighbors fight over a cleared out parking space, it wouldn't hurt to have "Let there be peace on earth" playing on my street.

Eastie Girl said...

I was with you until you called out the lights as being cheesey and wasteful. I'm in agreement with N.starluna when she describes how to minimize the wastefulness.

Some of the things that strike me upon travelling the streets of East Boston and elsewhere are A)how few people seem to decorate for the holidays and B) how easily one can get a spirit boost just by viewing light displays. Although few are very elaborate, there are those that are delighftfully over the top! Just last week I headed out on a little evening road trip with a couple of girlfriends to view some holiday lights. Prior to reading your piece, I came across some of the most delightful displays - I would have thought they could have warmed even the Grinches heart.
To revisit the wastefulness issue again, I'd gladly trade in some of my PC time to subsidize some of this good old fashioned holiday cheer.

Happy Holidays!

Sonya said...

I was walking out of Maverick ... last week, maybe, and there were carolers. I'm not sure if they were raising money or what. I also forget what was so important that I didn't notice, or didn't stop to listen. Perhaps it was the first of the cold weather.

I happen to have a full repotoire of Christmas carols from that time I was in A Christmas Carol in college. Perhaps that's what I should do with my Christmas Eve this year ...