I’ve been talking about Seasonal Books all week. There are other Seasonal Entertainments that I enjoy. Reading I do all year round, and I’ve often read the “seasonal books” mentioned this week in other seasons, even that far distant season, summer. (Except Winter Solstice. That is pretty much a Christmas read.) But it isn’t summer, it is Christmas. This evening 1Mom and I went to a performance of The Nutcracker put on by a local ballet school. It was a lot of fun. I’ve never seen The Nutcracker in a live performance ever — I’ve watched it on TV, but never live. When I was small, I used to love to watch The Nutcracker on TV, then danced around the house (badly) for days or even weeks afterward. AMom thought this was cute, but not an indicator that I should take ballet. She was probably wise.
Other Seasonal Favourites:
1. The Messiah. I often go to the sing-a-long version the Sunday before Christmas. I’m not going this year, but I’ve been loads of times, and it is a lot of fun. I’ve also got a great recording that I listen to all year round. It is the performances or sing-a-longs that are seasonal for me.
2. Carol sings. The past several years I’ve gone to a German-English carol sing on the first Sunday of Advent. This is very fun and includes singing Kling Glöckchen! I’ve also gone to other carol services or singing events in the past. In the dim and distant past we used to go carolling with people from church every year. We loaded up a bus and went to all the houses of the seniors from our church.
3. Christmas TV specials. I don’t watch TV any more, but if I did I’d watch the Grinch and Charlie Brown for sure. Those were my favourites. I’m not so big on Rudolf or any of the others, but definitely the Grinch and Charlie Brown.
4. Gingerbread. AMom makes awesome gingerbread. She used to make gingerbread houses — once there was a gingerbread castle, and another time a Victorian Gingerbread Mansion. These days it is just gingerbread cookies, but that is fine. The gingerbread houses we couldn’t touch until they were stale. Cookies are better because we can eat them right away.
Lots of people talk about favourite Christmas movies. I’ve never seen most of the movies they talk about. I think I’ve seen the Alastair Sim version of “A Christmas Carol” once. I don’t associate movies with Christmas. The only movie we’ve seen on a semi-regular basis as a family at Christmas is “The Sound of Music.” And that’s not really about Christmas.
What are your favourite seasonal things?
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher is not on my List of Some Books I’ve Read 3 Times or More, though I have indeed read it three times or more. Representing Ms Pilcher’s oeuvre on the List in Question is Coming Home, which I discussed during Historical Fiction Week. I do, however, have to mention Winter Solstice here because it is so obviously a seasonal read. Much of the action happens before Christmas and the book ends before Christmas Day, but Christmas and the true celebration of that holiday is pivotal to the action in the book.
Because a Christian celebration is pivotal to the book you might think that the theology of the book is what makes it appealing to me. There’s some theology, but I’m afraid it is pretty far in the background. Some might find the theology in the book pronounced. I thought not. Oh, it is there, but it is a weak tea sort of theology, nothing robust at all. It is too bad, because there is potential for a bit more. I frequently read Winter Solstice at this time of year, not for the seasonal cheer, but because of a particular scene or two in which a guest or stranger arrives at a house and finds an unexpectedly warm welcome. This sort of theme recurs through the book. This theme is very theological, and much more robust than the explicit weak-tea theology in the book. The book also captures the darkness of the season well, along with the pleasure of a well-lit room viewed from a dark street. It is a nice bit of brain candy for the winter.
Today is Santa Lucia, and I did attempt to think of a book that connected with the festival. I thought of Coming Home (which led to Winter Solstice) because in the opening scene two friends leave school for the Christmas holidays after eating saffron buns. Saffron buns are a large part of celebrating Santa Lucia, even when we are slightly cheeky and call them eye-ball buns. The Norwegian taught us how to celebrate Santa Lucia and so I lift a (unfortunately imaginary) glass of mulled wine in her direction and say Happy Santa Lucia!
I forgot to include an Advent hymn in my post for today. Oops.
In honour of the German-English Carol sing that 1Mom and I went to last Sunday evening, here are two versions of Kling Glöckchen, one really funky and the other a bit more traditional:
Klinging more traditionally
Lots of Best of 2011 lists appeared this week in time for Christmas shopping. Its exciting that Advent 1 comes right after American Thanksgiving, so I don’t feel like I’m totally out of synch by insisting that celebrations be muted until Advent begins. It’s Advent!
Globe and Mail 100
Publisher’s Weekly best of 2011
Library Journal best of 2011
and the Guardian best of 2011
And a hymn for the first Sunday in Advent:
Lo He Comes
It is time for the Sunday lists. I’ve got two for your listing pleasure this week.
A. The Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction of 2011 list — it is that time of year when all and sundry publish lists of the Year’s Best Books. Since this is a blog about back list books, these are mostly my future reading. I have read one book from the Kirkus Reviews 2011 list — Reamde by Neal Stephenson. I got on the library wait list early and got it almost as soon as it was released. I don’t usually do that, but hey, Stephenson takes his time between books and this one looked interesting.
B. 50 Famous Writers Name Their Favourite Book list. I’m not sure about the provenance of this list given the hosting site, but it is an interesting list. Possibly take it with a grain of salt or two, but maybe some of these are worth checking out.
Happy Sunday reading on Christ the King Sunday.
(This means Advent begins next week!)