Category Archives: Holidays

Memorial Day (U.S.)


Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who gave all to serve this country. At national cemeteries and smaller ones around the country, flags and flowers have been placed to remember them. We also remind ourselves that freedom is not easily granted, often requires great sacrifice. President Lincoln made note of this in his famous 1863 Gettysburg Address:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

God of power and mercy,
you destroy war and put down earthly pride.
Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
that we may all deserve to be called your sons
and daughters.
Keep in your mercy those men and women
who have died in the cause of freedom
and bring them safely
into your kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(Memorial Day Prayer, USCCB)

 

Gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery decorated by U.S. flags on Memorial Day weekend.
Photo:Public domain
Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, 1924
Photo: U.S. Library of Congress, digital id npcc 11495

 

Feast of Saint Patrick (17 March)

St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland.
Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and St. Patrick, Goleen, County Cork, Ireland
Photo:Andreas F. Borchert/Wikimedia

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and known for bringing Christianity to Ireland. He was born in 390 A.D in Britain and raised by a Christian family. However he was not much interested in God and at the time was illiterate. When he was 16, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland where he was forced to work as a shepherd on a hillside. All alone except for his sheep and captors. he began to cry out to God for rescue him. He had a dream in which God revealed himself and that he would be going home.

Risking his life, he boarded a ship for Britain where he returned to his family. He was welcomed back but realized that he had been transformed by God. He entered a monastery to pursue his calling as a Catholic priest. As a result of his education, he came to understand Holy Scripture and impressed his peers and superiors with his character. He would be made a bishop in due course. Nearly three decades after this slavery in Ireland, he felt a call from God that he had to return to Ireland and spread the word of Jesus to a people who had become lost. This was no easy journey for him since travel was difficult but he faced hostility from those who opposed him trying to convert people away from paganism. Patrick was ready though to face the trials that might take his life (he was attacked and beaten by thugs and Irish royalty disdained him) and persevered in proclaiming the Gospel and training converts.

His courageous leadership and his crisscrossing the countryside paid off as thousands and more would be converted. Churches were being established and he was training those to shepherd the church after he was gone. He would die on March 17, 461 A.D. He has been venerated as a saint and patron saint of Ireland since then by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches.

St. Patrick’s Day postcard, 1912 of “Old Weir Bridge” at Dinis Cottage, in Killarney National Park, Ireland.
Public Domain/Wikipedia

In Ireland it is a solemnity and thus a holy day of obligation. It is also a cultural day as well to celebrate Ireland. Traditionally many in Ireland will wear shamrocks, wear green, attend Mass, watch parades, have a special breakfast and dinner, and of course celebrate by having a beer in their favorite pub (or outside due to the crowds). It has been a public holiday in Ireland since 1903. Since the feast does fall within Lent and is a solemnity in Ireland, it is permissible to eat foods normally excluded during this time (or any food you have selected to give up). Outside of Ireland though, it is not and local bishops will offer guidance. Usually the bishop will allow those who wish to celebrate to be excused from Friday obligation of fasting but may require you to fast on a different day in the week or the following one.

Fun Fact (or perhaps not)

Many people associate Corned Beef and Cabbage as an Irish dish for St. Patrick’s Day (please do not say St. Paddy’s Day!). However it is not an Irish dish but an Irish-American one. In Ireland of the past, land was precious due to the English seizing lots of it for themselves (and putting many Irish people into indentured servitude in the American Colonies). So people did not have lots of land needed for cows to graze on (you might have a cow for milk but that would be it). Pigs became popular because they require no grazing, can be easily penned, and thus cheaper to keep. So while possibly in the far past they used beef, pork became the preferred meat for many meals and especially for St. Patrick’s Day. When Irish migrated to the United States much later (due to the famine), they discovered corned beef when they saw it being used in Jewish delicatessens. So like dumping turnips for the American pumpkin for the Jack o’ Lantern, corned beef became popular amongst many Irish people since it was easily available unlike in Ireland.  And thus was born the now popular corned beef and cabbage amongst Irish Americans.

Important note for 2024

Since his feast day falls on Sunday this year, the church rule is that only one solemnity can be celebrated.  So for most dioceses that will honor St. Patrick, this will occur on Monday, March 18 (such as is the case in New York and San Francisco). However since St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, his feast day will be celebrated on Sunday replacing the 5th Sunday of Lent.

The Minstrel Boy

Probably one of the most favored Irish tunes is The Minstrel Boy. Here is a version from Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Wounded, Following it is a more traditional version. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 

Sources:

“Who Was St. Patrick? – Celebratation, Ireland, Catholic | HISTORY.” HISTORY, 4 Mar. 2024, www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/who-was-saint-patrick.

“St. Patrick – Saints and Angels – Catholic Online.” Catholic Online, www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89.

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Patrick. www.newadvent.org/cathen/11554a.htm.

Today is President George Washington’s Birthday (President’s Day)

George Washington (1732–99) by Gilbert Stuart
Photo: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

Although today is referred to as “President’s Day” it is not a federal holiday by that name. It is officially designated as Washington’s Birthday under federal law. There was a movement to combine both Washington and Lincoln’s birthday (since they occur days apart) or honor the office of president. That never came to be. Instead in 1968 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed and came into force in 1971. That shifted most federal holidays to a Monday if it fell during the week. Washington’s Birthday name was not changed and so under federal law it is still Washington’s Birthday. However many states issue their own proclamations celebrating not only Washington but Lincoln and others from their own state. Advertisers have caught on as well. So today many call it President’s Day but who it commemorates beyond George Washington is up to the state governors.

The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize.
President George Washington,Farewell Address, 19 September 1799.

For Further Information

Nevins, Allan, and Henry Graff. “George Washington | Life, Presidency, Accomplishments, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 Feb. 2024, www.britannica.com/biography/George-Washington.

Zapata, Christian. “George Washington: Facts, Revolution and Presidency | HISTORY.” HISTORY, 7 Feb. 2024, www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/george-washington.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon. “George Washington.” George Washington’s Mount Vernon, www.mountvernon.org/george-washington.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr Day

Martin Luther King, Jr.(1964)
Photo:Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress digital id cph 3c26559)

 

The following stirring speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the best calls for equality in modern times. King reminds us that in seeking freedom not only for African-Americans, it is also for everyone. He wanted all people to be treated fairly, justly and not by the color of their skin but on the content of their character. He did not want it done out of bitterness or hatred but to work towards brotherhood where all would be free.  We honor and remember a man who sought freedom not by the gun but by peaceful and forceful demonstrations to remind many of the promises of this country and what God himself has taught us in Holy Scripture.

I Have A Dream
Lincoln Memorial
August 28, 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends — so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi — from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring — when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Sources
Martin Luther King Jr (Biography.com)
Martin Luther King Jr (History.com)
Martin Luther King Jr Online

 

Today is the Feast of St.Stephen (Boxing Day U.K.)

Saint Stephen by Carlo Crivelli (1476)
Source: National Gallery, London via Wikimedia Commons.
Public Domain in UK and US; may be restricted in other countries.

If you remember the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas , you heard the name. Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian church who was accused of blasphemy and put on trial by Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. After a trial in which he denounced them, Stephen was stoned to death. One of the witnesses to the event was Saul of Tarsus, who later converted and is known today as the apostle Saint Paul. Stephen is considered the first martyr for the faith, the reason his feast day immediately follows the celebration of Jesus birth. All the major Christian congregations–Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox–all venerate him as a Saint and celebrate the feast day (Western churches on 26 December, 27 Dec Orthodox, and 8 Jan Oriental Orthodox). In some countries (mainly Western Europe) it is a public holiday.

In the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand it is celebrated as Boxing Day, a secular holiday that falls on the same day as Feast of Stephen. Traditionally it is the day in which servants and tradespeople receive the “Christmas box” from their employers. While that tradition may still hold true, it is either a second Christmas day for some or an extra shopping day (though in some countries it apparently is a day when a lot of returns to retailers takes place). It is also a major sports day as well.

Further Information

St. Stephen (Catholic Encyclopedia)
St. Stephen (Britannica)
Boxing Day (pauldenton.co.uk)

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Merry Christmas from Titanic News Channel

Titanic News Channel wishes everyone a blessed and joyous Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!

 

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst 1590–1656)
Image: Public Domain (Wikipedia)

….And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

 

Christmas Music: Silent Night

Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.
Photo:Gakuro

Silent Night(Stille Nacht in German, Silens Nox in Latin) is perhaps the most beloved Christmas Carol. It was composed in 1818 by Franz Guber, an organist and schoolmaster, to lyrics by Father Joseph Mohr of the St. Nicholas parish in Oberndorf  bei Salzburg, Austria. It was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818 and since the organ was broken, the only musical accompaniment was the guitar. The popularity of the song spread and the version commonly used today comes from a translation in 1859. John Freeman Young, serving as an Episcopal priest at Trinity Church in New York City, translated and changed the tempo of the song. The original rendition by Gruber was more like a dance tune and sung faster. Young made into a slower lullaby style that is the most common version today. Because it has been so widely translated, it is the one Christmas carol that is known worldwide.

In Austria Silent Night is not heard until Christmas Eve, usually around 9 p.m. Then it is played on the radio once an hour and of course during church services.

Silent night, Holy Night
All is calm, all is bright
round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy infant so tender and mild,
sleep in Heavenly peace!
sleep in Heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
glories stream from Heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ, the Saviour, is born!
Christ, the Saviour, is born!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, Love’s pure light
radiant, beams from Thy Holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

(In German)
Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab’ im lockigen Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Jesus in deiner Geburt!
Jesus in deiner Geburt!

Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn,
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt sehn,
Jesum in Menschengestalt!
Jesum in Menschengestalt!

 

 

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Christmas Favorite: A Christmas Carol

Marley’s Ghost.
Image from 1843 edition of A Christmas Carol, illustrated by John Leech
Source: British Library via Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain

On 19 Dec 1843 noted writer Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol was published by Chapman & Hall. The book came at a time when Christmas was fading but at the same time people were rediscovering Christmas traditions and exploring new ones (such as Christmas cards and Christmas trees). The story relates how Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly man, who receives the ghost of his dead partner along with Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. The visitations changed Scrooge into a warmer, forgiving man and the book sold out all its initial copies on Christmas Eve.

The story has become a favorite at Christmas time owing to its theme of transformation. While some academics argue about whether his story was secular or a religious allegory, the story alludes to a higher power at work to help Scrooge reflect on his life and to make changes. Scrooge shows everything wrong about the age-of acquiring money for its own sake and nothing else. He showed no empathy nor compassion for the plights of his fellow men and women wanting only to increase his wealth at the expense of others. One can be lulled into thinking though that Scrooge is just a two-dimensional character at first. As the story progresses, we learn of his early years, his being at school alone, of his lovely sister who brings him home, and the joy of working with old Fezziwig. And then he changes, slowly but steadily into the man we see at the beginning and losing the woman who loved him in the process. And we see as he reflects back upon his past, he starts regretting ill-treating his nephew and his clerk Bob Cratchit.

The story is of redemption, but not done in the modern syrupy way you see now in terribly done holiday movies of today. There are hard truths that Scrooge has to face about himself, and his choice is simple: continue as he is now and face a terrible fate or change to becoming more caring and joyful in his life. We also get to see the joy of Christmas being celebrated both in the Cratchit house and later with his nephew Fred. Despite not having a lot of money, the Cratchit’s have a wonderful holiday together. Christmas is depicted as a time for families, children, and to care about our fellow brothers and sisters. Dickens wanted to relate in his book that poverty was no small thing and that we needed to help those in need rather than ignoring them (especially children).

Christmas, like much of the world in Dicken’s time, was undergoing a major change. The observance of the Nativity of Christ was important to the faithful. Yet while it was a time of celebration, it was a simpler celebration. The religious part took place in church while food and drink were at home. Some took the partying to excess causing social problems. General George Washington famously crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day in 1776 knowing that after a day of partying the German soldiers would be unable to fight. The Reformation had wiped out Christmas traditions in many places, and the Puritans had banned its celebration in England and later in the areas they settled in North America. It was not a public holiday in the United States (except in states that made it a holiday) or much of Europe.

The social changes brought by the dramatic shift from agrarian to industrial society made people want to look for a deeper meaning to things. And Christmas was ripe to be revitalized after being so low-key or ignored for a long time, or a time for wild partying. Dicken’s depiction of the day was family, church, mistletoe and holly, charity, and food. After the book came out, more traditions would be created from Christmas carols, St. Nicholas, Christmas cards and trees. And as many people wanted to celebrate the day with family, it became eventually a national holiday in just about every country in Europe, North and South America, and parts of the far east (Russia mostly). And reading A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas tradition as well. Dicken’s was at the cusp of change when it came to Christmas. He wrote great books before and after this one, but many remember him chiefly for the story of redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Adaptations

There are many adaptations that have been made from plays to movies. Here is a list of those you might want to watch. Almost all the movies change the story in varying ways but try to keep faithful to the overall story.

Scrooge (1913)
One of the early silent movies starring Seymour Hicks. It is one of the few that shows Bob Cratchit sitting by the body of Tiny Tim.

A Christmas Carol (1938)
This version stars Reginald Owen who plays Scrooge well. The story cuts out a lot of the sadder parts of the story and alters the story in other ways (Cratchit is fired early in the movie). Still a good movie to watch for the excellent acting.

Scrooge (1951), re-titled A Christmas Carol
This one starring Alistair Sim is considered by many to be the best. Sim really nails Scrooge, and it is closer to the original in some ways. Shows a bit of his life not covered in the book or other movies to show how became so mean and miserly.

A Christmas Carol (1984)
This version stars George C. Scott as Scrooge. This was a made for television unlike the others above. It was filmed on location in the historic town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire, England lending it an authentic look. Scott’s depiction is not as harsh in tone as Alistair Sim’s depiction, but just as ruthless and unbending in his ways. It has a good cast as well with David Warner playing Bob Cratchit. It has become a favorite and seen on Hallmark and AMC channels during Christmas. Scott’s portrayal got him a nomination for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special. The combination of a great supporting cast and Scott’s performance as Scrooge makes this adaptation better than Alistair Sim’s version.

A Christmas Carol (1999)
This version based on Patrick Stewart’s one man play, but with a full supporting cast, It was inspired by the Sim movie and shows a lot of the grimness of the story. Stewart’s depiction of Scrooge is even more harsh than what Sim or Scott did. Solidly acted but one may be put off by the harsh and grim version of this Scrooge.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This musical starring Michael Caine and all the Muppet favorites is funny and amusing at times. It is heartwarming and enjoyable on its own terms. Michael Caine delivers a great performance as Scrooge. It is mainly directed at kids, so they will enjoy it best. Adults may find it tedious at times, but the payoffs are the wonderful musical numbers and how the Muppet characters interact during the story. Especially when the Ghost of Christmas yet to be appears. It sends our narrator running for cover until the scene is over. There are two songs that really make this worth watching. One is the song It Feels Like Christmas sung by the Ghost of Christmas Present which says why Christmas is important and how to keep it with us all year. The second is sung by Scrooge (Michael Caine) called Thankful Heart. This song really neatly ties together all the lessons Scrooge has learned and what we should learn as well.

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Today is the Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice occurs usually between December 20-23 with the sun directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. This results in the North Pile being tilted the furthest away making it the shortest day of the year followed by the longest night. The further north you live during winter means less daylight during the winter. Some areas in Alaska or Scandinavia can be nearly dark or near dark during this period. By contrast, those in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate the Summer Solstice, as it marks the beginning of summer. Which is why while people shiver in Philadelphia and New York for Christmas but down in Australia, Christmas is celebrated outdoors with a barbeque.

Solstices and Equinoxes
Image: NASA

 

Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as it marked an important time in the agricultural cycle. By this time all crops and livestock had been prepared for winter. Important foodstuffs were stored for the months when virtually nothing grew. Wine and beer, which had been fermenting during the year, was ready. Cattle and pigs would often be killed at the start of winter so they would not have to be fed during this time. The early months of winter were tough in many places and often called the “famine months” since little food was to be found. Many cultures observed the Winter Solstice as a renewal or that the year was reborn. For out of the seeming withdrawal of the sun, it would come back just as strong and powerful as before. Thus, the Winter Solstice was seen by many as the start of a new year such as the old Roman Feast of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) which happened around the 25th of December.

 

For more information:

“Winter Solstice – Date, Definition and Traditions | HISTORY.” HISTORY, 21 Sept. 2017, www.history.com/topics/natural-disasters-and-environment/winter-solstice.

“Winter Solstice | Definition and Diagrams.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 21 Dec. 2023, www.britannica.com/science/winter-solstice.

Donvito, Tina. “13 Fascinating Winter Solstice Traditions Around the World.” Reader’s Digest, 20 Dec. 2023, www.rd.com/list/winter-solstice-traditions. Accessed 21 Dec. 2023.