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FSogol

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Northern VA
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 10:34 AM
Number of posts: 40,384

About Me

I've been a member of DU for over 14 years, but now it is time for me to check out. The glee people on this site took over bashing Gov Northam is too much. EW Jackson, VA's version of a RW troll is being respected and his options considered while the Gov who expanded medicare to 800,000 citizens of my state (including an adult son) is bashed over a 35-year old indiscretion. I see DU as being infected by RW trolls and ratfuckers while the admins are largely absent. See 2016 if you don't believe me. While Northam was being bashed, threads appeared bashing Harris (she took a hard stance against Franken) and Booker (he's corporate) and promoted people who will never be elected in America such as Gabbard and Sanders. Their indiscretions are ignored. For what reason? Their unelectability? The members here that aren't RW trolls or ratfuckers are attempting to achieve some type of purity that will never happen due to mankind's flawed nature. People ar human and prone to mistakes. The rhetorical tools that attack people such as HRC, Franken and Northam will be turned on people like Kamala Harris and Justin Fairfax. It is only a matter of time. I refuse to help the RW and the PURE destroy people and our party. DU was a noble idea, but is a tool on the internet being used to ruin the Democratic Party, suppress the vote, and destroy decent candidates. I won't take part in this crap any longer. To my couple of friends here, so long, it was nice chatting with you. You know how to reach me if you want.

Journal Archives

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 11: The Time J.R.R. Tolkien Saved Christmas

Starting in 1920 when Tolkien's oldest son was aged three, each Christmas Tolkien would write a letter from Father Christmas about his travels and adventures. Each letter was delivered in an envelope, including North Pole stamps and postage marks as designed by Tolkien.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Father_Christmas_Letters


For the next 23 years, every Christmas Eve, Tolkien wrote a letter to his four children from Father Christmas. What began as short, informative letters—“I am just now off to Oxford with a bundle of toys”—evolved into longer tales about life at the North Pole. The 1932 letter begins, “Dear Children, There is alot to tell you. First of all a Merry Christmas! But there have been lots of adventures you will want to hear about. It all began with the funny noises underground … ”


https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/tolkien-favorite-father-christmas-santa-holiday-letters

Tolkien continued the practice until 1942. His son Christopher Tolkien posthumously published his father's work in 1976.


The stories are told in the format of a series of letters, told either from the point of view of Father Christmas or his elvish secretary. They document the adventures and misadventures of Father Christmas and his helpers, including the North Polar Bear and his two sidekick cubs, Paksu and Valkotukka. The stories include descriptions of the massive fireworks that create the northern lights and how Polar Bear manages to get into trouble on more than one occasion.

The 1939 letter has Father Christmas making reference to the Second World War, while some of the later letters feature Father Christmas' battles against Goblins which were subsequently interpreted as being a reflection of Tolkien's views on the German Menace.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Father_Christmas_Letters

some critics believe Tolkien adapted parts of these stories into his epic, Lord of the Rings and the Father Christmas was the model for Gandalf.





The book was republished in 1999 and re-titled "Letters from Father Christmas". It contains some that were left out of the earlier edition.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 10: NORAD vs Santa Claus

Santa had a pretty good record of delivering presents around the world without getting caught until Dec 25, 1955. Even Santa was no match for the folks at the North American Aerospace Defense Command.



On Dec. 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a young child in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper – the youngster wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus.

The ad said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center.

On duty that night was Colonel Harry Shoup, who has come to be known as the “Santa Colonel.” Colonel Shoup received numerous calls that night and rather than hanging up, he had his operators find the location of Santa Claus and reported it to every child who phoned in that night.

Thus began a tradition carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it was formed in 1958. Today, through satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters, NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.

Every year on December 24, fifteen hundred volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) from around the world. Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in seven languages), over telephone lines, and by e-mail to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers receive more than 140,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the globe.

This year, children and the young-at-heart are able to track Santa through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. To follow us on any of these Web sites, type in @noradsanta into the search engine and start tracking.

NORAD Tracks Santa has become a magical and global phenomenon, delighting generations of families everywhere.


Note: NORAD's Santa info are press releases and not bound by DU's copyright rules.

http://www.norad.mil/About-NORAD/NORAD-Tracks-Santa/

Shoup's children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began. The Santa Tracker tradition started with this Sears ad, which instructed children to call Santa on what turned out to be a secret military hotline. Kids today can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk to NORAD staff about Santa's exact location.

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. "Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number," she says. "This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States," Rick says. The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?' "

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," her sister says. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus." "It got to be a big joke at the command center. You know, 'The old man's really flipped his lid this time. We're answering Santa calls,' " Terri says.



Col. Harry Shoup came to be known as the "Santa Colonel." He passed away in 2009.

More at NPR: https://www.npr.org/2014/12/19/371647099/norads-santa-tracker-began-with-a-typo-and-a-good-sport

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 9: The Numerous Friends of Sir Henry Cole

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole was a senior civil servant in charge of the new 'Public Record Office' (now called the Post Office) and was tasked with getting it used more by ordinary people. At the time, stamps were expensive and the system was only used by the rich. The cost of deliverying mail was quickly dropping due to railroads.

Cole had another problem. He was too popular and kept up too many correspondences.

During the holiday season of 1843, those friends were causing Cole much anxiety.

The problem were their letters: An old custom in England, the Christmas and New Year’s letter had received a new impetus with the recent expansion of the British postal system and the introduction of the “Penny Post,” allowing the sender to send a letter or card anywhere in the country by affixing a penny stamp to the correspondence.

Now, everybody was sending letters. Sir Cole—best remembered today as the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—was an enthusiastic supporter of the new postal system, and he enjoyed being the 1840s equivalent of an A-Lister, but he was a busy man. As he watched the stacks of unanswered correspondence he fretted over what to do. “In Victorian England, it was considered impolite not to answer mail,” says Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. “He had to figure out a way to respond to all of these people.”

Cole hit on an ingenious idea. He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, and asked him to design an idea that Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer. The image was printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.” It was the first Christmas card.


https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-christmas-card-180957487/


The first card. Note the small child drinking wine

Other prominent Victorians copied Cole's invention and it slowly caught on.

As printing methods improved, Christmas cards became much more popular and were produced in large numbers from about 1860. In 1870 the cost of sending a post card, and also Christmas cards, dropped to half a penny. This meant even more people were able to send cards.

Christmas Cards appeared in the United States of America in the late 1840s, but were very expensive and most people couldn't afford them. It 1875, Louis Prang, a printer who was originally from German but who had also worked on early cards in the UK, started mass producing cards so more people could afford to buy them. Mr Prang's first cards featured flowers, plants, and children. In 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark Cards, who are still one of the biggest card makers today.


https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/cards.shtml

The Hall Brothers standardized the 4" wide x 6" tall, folded card inserted into the enevolpe that is most common today.


Hallmark's most popular card of all time, 1977. Still published today, it has sold over 34 million copies.


A card designed by Jackie Kennedy to benefit the Kennedy Center


A Hallmark card designed by Salvador Dali


A Hallmark card by Norman Rockwell

If you like this stuff, I highly recommend the Smithsonian article referenced above.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 8: Christmas and the US Post Office

Note: Items from USPS are press releases to the public and not bound by DU copyright rules.


Image of the first Christmas-themed U.S. postage stamp, which was issued in 1962 and featured a wreath and candles.

The United States Post Office Department issued its first Christmas stamp in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 1, 1962. Customers had requested such a stamp for years.

Anticipating a huge demand for the new Christmas stamp, the Department ordered 350 million printed - the largest number produced for a special stamp until that time. The green and red four-cent stamps featured a wreath, two candles, and the words "Christmas 1962". The initial supply sold out quickly and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing began working around-the-clock to print more. By the end of 1962, one billion of the stamps had been printed and distributed.

Although the decision to print a Christmas stamp generated some controversy, especially from groups concerned about maintaining the separation of church and state, legal actions to bar the stamps were not successful.


https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/christmas-holiday-stamps.htm

Since US started being issues in 1847, not having a Christmas stamp until 1962 seems strange. It took them a while to catch up to the Holidays of other faiths. (Although in their defense, I'm not sure sending greeting cards is a tradition for these other holidays.)

In 1996, the Postal Service paid tribute to Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, by issuing the first Hanukkah stamp, which featured a stylized illustration of a menorah. A design featuring an ornate dreidel followed in 2004. This season, the Postal Service will continue selling the 2009 Hanukkah stamp, the third U.S. stamp to commemorate the holiday.

In 1997, the Postal Service paid tribute to Kwanzaa, the celebration of family, community, and culture, by issuing the first Kwanzaa stamp, which featured a colorful portrait of an African-American family, a “symbol of family and togetherness.” A design featuring seven figures in colorful robes followed in 2004. This season, the Postal Service will continue selling the 2009 Kwanzaa stamp, the third U.S. stamp to commemorate the holiday.

In 2001, the Postal Service paid tribute to Eid, by issuing the Eid stamp, which features the phrase “Eid Mubarak” — meaning “blessed festival” — in gold Arabic script on a blue background. The stamp commemorates the two most important festivals on the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The stamp has been reissued in the original design to reflect current stamp prices.


There is currently a petition for the USPS to issue a stamp for the next Hindu festival of Diwali.

How does Christmas affect the Post Office?

From an article last year in USA Today:

This holiday season, the U.S. Postal Service said it expects to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail, including 850 million packages. Despite the rise of email and more private package deliverers, USPS says its volume is expected to be 10% more than the same period last year. Take that, Santa

The holiday crunch time begins Dec. 11, but climaxes Dec. 18 to 24. USPS predicts its workers will deliver close to 200 million packages during each of those two weeks. And amid the pre-Christmas week rush, the post office will handle close to 3 billion pieces of first-class mail as holiday card-sending reaches its peak.

The busiest day online will likely be Dec. 18, as over 7 million people go to the service's website to ship packages, the Postal Service forecast.


https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/10/25/postal-service-expects-10-rise-holiday-mail-volume/798726001/

Tomorrow I'll look at the origins of the Holiday Christmas Card,

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 7: Kissing Under the Mistletoe

Mistletoe is a parasitic shrub that grows in willow, oak, and apple trees. The version you see for sale in convenience stores has plastic berries.



Cecil Adams of the Straight Dope writes:

Your unease about mistletoe is well founded. Mistletoe berries, for one thing, are poisonous, and some species can kill the trees that host them.

Even worse is the legend that supposedly accounts for our custom of kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas. In the account given by Edgar Nash in the Saturday Evening Post in 1898, the Scandinavian god Baldur told his mother Frigga that he had a premonition of death, whereupon Frigga extracted promises from every animal, vegetable, and mineral that it would not harm her son. She overlooked only the inconsequential mistletoe, a fact that came to the unfortunate attention of Loki, the god of destruction. Loki promptly hustled over to where the other gods, obviously in desperate need of entertainment, were hurling spears and whatnot at Baldur for the fun of seeing them swerve aside without harming him. The pitiless Loki, however, shot an arrow of mistletoe*, which fatally pierced Baldur’s heart. Rather than punish Loki, the gods decided the answer was mistletoe control, and turned the plant over to Frigga to do with as she saw fit, provided it did not touch the ground. (Why it was important that it not touch the ground I do not know, although since it grows on trees mistletoe in fact generally does not touch the ground.) Frigga hung up the mistletoe and, to show she did not bear a grudge, declared that all who passed beneath it should receive a kiss of love and forgiveness rather than, say, a severed aorta. So when somebody smooches a fellow hominid who has strayed beneath the mistletoe, he or she is implicitly saying: be grateful it’s only a kiss, babe, I could have killed you.


https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2378/mistletoe-kissing-origins-why-do-worms-surface-during-rain/

* Not true, Loki talked the blind god, Hodur into doing the deed and gave him the mistletoe arrow.

What does this all have to do with Christmas? Just another pagan custom adopted by the Christians.

The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. It is supposed to possess mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and wards off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that's where the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from.

When the first Christians came to Western Europe, some tried to ban the use of Mistletoe as a decoration in Churches, but many still continued to use it! York Minster Church in the UK used to hold a special Mistletoe Service in the winter, where wrong doers in the city of York could come and be pardoned.

The custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from England. The original custom was that a berry was picked from the sprig of Mistletoe before the person could be kissed and when all the berries had gone, there could be no more kissing!

The name mistletoe comes from two Anglo Saxon words 'Mistel' (which means dung) and 'tan' (which means) twig or stick! So you could translate Mistletoe as 'poo on a stick'!!! Not exactly romantic is it!


https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/mistletoe.shtml

PS. If trying to get kissed under the mistletoe, I recommend avoiding the "poo on a stick" etymology lesson.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 6: Good King Wenceslas and Good Duke Wenceslas

One of my favorite Christmas Carol's s Good King Wenceslas. Wiki tells us:

"Good King Wenceslas" is a Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the Second Day of Christmas)*. During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king's footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935). The name Wenceslas is a Latinised version of the modern Czech language "Václav".

In 1853, English hymnwriter John Mason Neale wrote the "Wenceslas" lyrics, in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore, and the carol first appeared in Carols for Christmas-Tide, 1853. Neale's lyrics were set to the melody of a 13th-century spring carol "Tempus adest floridum" ( "The time is near for flowering" ) first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Wenceslas
* The 2nd Day of Christmas called the Feast of St Stephen or more commonly boxing Day is a day for charitable giving.


His statue in Prauge. Legend has it that if the Czech Republic is ever in danger, he will return.

Wenceslas didn’t come from Christian stock: his grandfather had been converted to Christianity by Saints Cyril and Methodius. And his mother was the daughter of a pagan tribal chief – though she was baptized before she was married. When young Wenceslas’ father died there was a power vacuum: the young boy’s mother was banished and his grandmother killed by assassins – it’s said she was strangled with her own veil.

But once the dust had settled, the people of Bohemia decided they’d like Wenceslas to be their ruler. His mother ruled as regent until young Wenceslas reached the age of 18… at which point he promptly banished her. To try and avoid disputes, the country was split in two and half given to Wenceslas’ younger brother, Boleslaus.

But Boleslaus wasn’t happy with the set up and in September 28, 935 he plotted with a group of noblemen to kill his brother. The three nobles – Tira, Česta, and Hněvsa – stabbed Wenceslas – before his own brother ran him through with a lance.


https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/real-story-good-king-wenceslas-carol/

He was promoted to Sainthood two years later due to his work helping the poor. His Saints Day is Sept 28. He is buried in St Vitus’ Cathedral (Prague) & his Saint’s Day is a public holiday in the Czech Republic.

This song has been performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles. IMO, the best version of this song was performed by Dennis Day on one of the Jack Benny Christmas shows in the 1940s.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 5: The Fake Colonial Christmas Decorations of Williamsburg, VA

The pineapple-studded wreaths, oyster-shell-trimmed swags and apple fans are some of the highlights of the annual holiday tours at 18th-century Colonial Williamsburg. They're also the icons of what's become known as the classic Williamsburg look.

But when tour guides drop the bomb that none of these decorations, nor the single candles lit in the windows at dusk, would have been there in the 1700s, visitors sometimes gasp.




Very little documentation exists that the colonists who settled in Virginia did any kind of Christmas decorating inside or outside their homes — no wreaths of dried okra and lemons, no door fans of pomegranates and lady apples.


The truth is that if the colonialists had lemons, apples, and pineapples, they would have eaten them, not decorated with them. All of the fake colonial stuff came from John D. Rockefeller who restored the colonial town of Williamsburg in the 1920s.

The holidays in 18th-century Williamsburg were more low-key than we celebrate them today," says Joseph Beatty, Colonial Williamsburg's director of research and interpretive education. "People would go to church and have big meals and gather with families and friends. As far as decorations go, we are pretty confident that maybe a few people would put up a bit of greenery and hang mistletoe inside, as was English custom, but that was it."


(I wrote about Kissing Balls last December: https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181013422 )

Williamsburg also puts single candles in all the windows. This would have been considered wasteful and fire hazard to the colonialists, but they did do it from time to time. There is a whole history of candles in the window, but I'll leave that for another post.

More at https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/the-history-of-williamsburgs-beloved-but-not-very-colonial-holiday-decorations/2017/12/19/0e24a5fe-c59d-11e7-aae0-cb18a8c29c65_story.html?utm_term=.9eb1f1e879c0

PS: These last two are Williamsburg's tribute to Star Wars from 2015, something that the early Americans clearly wouldn't have done. (I am not making this up.)





(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 4: The Yule Goat and Scandinavian Elves

Yesterday, I noted some references to the Christmas Elf, a mostly, British, North American, and Irish tradition about the worker who make Santa’s toys but in Scandinavian Countries, they are different.

Scandinavian elves would be more known as Gnomes to us. Called the Nisse in Danish, Tomte in Swedish, and Tomtenisse in Finnish, they wore red pointed hats, had white beards, and would appear around the Winter solstice. Garden gnomes are based on them. They were spirit guardians and hung around burial mounds. Many people believed they were the personification of a collection of dead ancestors.

According to tradition, the Nisse lives in the houses and barns of the farmstead, and secretly act as their guardian. If treated well, they protect the family and animals from evil and misfortune, and may also aid the chores and farm work. However, they are known to be short tempered, especially when offended. Once insulted, they will usually play tricks, steal items and even maim or kill livestock.


By the 19th Century, the nisse delivered gifts to doors at Christmas time often with the help of the Yule goat (but sometimes a pig.)

This was formalized by an 1881 poem by Viktor Rydberg with the following illustration from Jenny Nystrom.



The Yule goat is another pagan tradition that got wrapped up into Christmas celebrations as Christianity spread. The goat probably had his origins in the Norse god Thor who owned 2 goats.

The function of the Yule goat has differed throughout the ages. In a Scandinavian custom similar to the English tradition of wassailing, held at either Christmas or Epiphany, young men in costumes would walk between houses singing songs, enacting plays and performing pranks. This tradition is known from the 17th century and still continue in certain areas. The group of Christmas characters would often include the Yule goat, a rowdy and sometimes scary creature demanding gifts.

During the 19th century the Yule goat's role all over Scandinavia shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts, with one of the men in the family dressing up as the Yule goat. In this, there might be a relation to Santa Claus and the Yule goat's origin in the medieval celebrations of Saint Nicholas. The goat was then replaced by the jultomte (Father Christmas/Santa Claus) or julenisse during the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, although he is still called the Joulupukki (Yule goat) in Finland, and the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared.


The Yule Goat lives on in Scandinavian both in the form of Julebukking, (similar to the wassailing) as Christmas ornaments, and course in goat Burning Festivals.





Gradually, commercialism has made him look more and more like the American Santa Claus, but the Swedish jultomte, the Norwegian julenisse, the Danish julemand and the Finnish joulupukki (in Finland he is still called the Yule Goat, although his animal features have disappeared) still has features and traditions that are rooted in the local culture. He doesn't live on the North Pole, but perhaps in a forest nearby, or in Denmark he lives on Greenland, and in Finland he lives in Lapland; he doesn’t come down the chimney at night, but through the front door, delivering the presents directly to the children, just like the Yule Goat did; he is not overweight; and even if he nowadays sometimes rides in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, instead of just walking around with his sack, his reindeer don’t fly — and in Sweden, Denmark and Norway some still put out a bowl of porridge for him on Christmas Eve. He is still often pictured on Christmas cards and house and garden decorations as the little man of Jenny Nyström's imagination, often with a horse or cat, or riding on a goat or in a sled pulled by a goat, and for many people the idea of the farm tomte still lives on, if only in the imagination and literature.


Sadly, "commercialism has made him look more and more like the American Santa Claus" a theme across many of these Christmas traditions.

sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule_Goat
http://mentalfloss.com/article/54262/fiery-history-scandinavias-yule-goat

Netflix animated a Frank McCourt story: Angelas's Christmas

It's about his mother, growing up in poverty in Limmerick in 1914.

Angela is voiced by Lucy O'Connell, who voiced Saoirse in "Song of the Sea."

Recommended.

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 3: Louisa May Alcott and the Creation of Santa's Elves

Wiki tells us:

In American, Canadian, Irish, and British cultures, a Christmas elf is a diminutive elf that lives with Santa Claus at the North Pole and acts as his helper. Christmas elves are often depicted as green or red clad with large, pointy ears and pointy hats. Santa's elves are often said to make the toys in Santa's workshop and take care of his reindeer, among other tasks


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_elf

and we know that Clement Clark Moore described Santa as "He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf." in his 1823 poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (more commonly known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas" ), but where did the idea of Santa's elves come from?

The answer? Louisa May Alcott (Little Women).

Santa’s elves, instrumental in getting all the toys made each year, were first mentioned by Louisa May Alcott in her book “Christmas Elves” finished in 1855. From her journal of 1855: “Finished fairy book in September.” “October. May illustrated my book, and tales called “Christmas Elves.” Better than “Flower Fables.” Now I must try to sell it.”


The book was illustrated by her little sister, May. Despite never finding a publisher, the idea caught on.

Two short years later, in 1857, Harper’s Weekly published a poem called “The Wonders of Santa Claus” which tells how Santa “keeps a great many elves at work/ All working with all their
might/ To make a million of pretty things/ Cakes,
sugar-plums, and toys/ To fill the stockings, hung
up you know/ By the little girls and boys.”




In 1876 Louisa May Alcott returned to the subject of Santa’s elves in a poem entitled “Merry Christmas:”

In the rush of early morning,
When the red burns through the gray,
And the wintry world lies waiting
For the glory of the day,
Then we hear a fitful rustling
Just without upon the stair,
See two small white phantoms coming,
​Catch the gleam of sunny hair.

Are they Christmas fairies stealing
Rows of little socks to fill?
Are they angels floating hither
With their message of good-will?
What sweet spell are these elves weaving
As like larks they chirp and sing?
Are these palms of peace from heaven
​That these lovely spirits bring?

Rosy feet upon the threshold,
Eager faces peeping through,
With the first red ray of sunshine,
Chanting cherubs come in view:
Mistletoe and gleaming holly,
Symbols of a blessed day,
In their chubby hands they carry,
​Streaming all along the way.

Well we know them, never weary
Of this innocent surprise;
Waiting, watching, listening always
With full hearts and tender eyes,
While our little household angels,
White and golden in the sun,
Greet us with the sweet old welcome, -
“Merry Christmas, every one!”


Note: This poem is in the public domain.

another early toy-making elf promoter was Godey’s Lady’s Book



Published from 1830 to 1878, Godey’s Lady’s Book was the most widely circulated magazine in the years before the Civil War. It published the first widely circulated picture of a decorated Christmas tree
and in 1873 it published a front cover engraving showing Santa Claus surrounded by elves at work.
Called “The Workshop of Santa Claus”, “Santa is shown directing his elves in the making of toys. We see dolls,
sports equipment, animals, musical instruments and the like. Little birds sit on the numbers of the 1873
date.” The caption was “Here we have an idea of the preparations that are made to supply the young folks
with toys at Christmas time.”


http://www.santaswhiskers.com/the-elves.html

And the final early promoter:

Austin Thompson's 1876 work "The House of Santa Claus, a Christmas Fairy Show for Sunday Schools".


Many people credit Norman Rockwell, but he was working many decades after these earlier sources. This one is from 1922.


Just to keep things complicated, Christmas Elves also have a Scandinavian origin too. I'll write about them tomorrow.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )
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