(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present”*…

 

The 13 most popular Christmas songs on Spotify, a music-streaming service, have amassed 1bn plays between them. The most popular of them, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, written in 15 minutes and recorded by Mariah Carey in 1994, accounts for 210m of those plays. It has earned over $60m in royalties since its release.

Despite its ubiquity during December, the appeal of festive music varies significantly by geography. Spotify provided The Economist with data for Christmas listening across 35 countries, and for every American state, on a day-by-day basis for the two months leading up to Christmas Day 2016. The data demonstrate that music lovers in Sweden and Norway listen to festive tunes most frequently. One in every six songs they streamed on Spotify during December last year received this classification (the list includes some 1,500 Christmas songs performed in English and local languages). By contrast, during the same period in Brazil—a country with a comparable proportion of Christians—just one song in 150 was Christmas-themed. Listening habits in American states also vary, though to a smaller degree: in New Hampshire Christmas songs accounted for one in nine streams, whereas in Nevada, the state where such tunes are least common, it was one in 20…

Why?  Find out at “The music industry should be dreaming of a white Christmas.”

* Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

###

As we deck the halls, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that 55-year-old German accordionist Will Glahé outsold many established Rock And Roll artists when his “Liechtensteiner Polka” reaches #19 on the Billboard Pop chart. Glahé’s first success in America had come in June, 1939 when his rendition of “Beer Barrel Polka” hit the top of the US Hit Parade, selling over a million copies. (Your correspondent has no explanatory link for this one…)

 source

 

Written by LW

December 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Dear Santa, before I submit my life to your scrutiny, I demand to know who made YOU the master of my fate?!*…

 

Father Christmas as pictured in Josiah King’s The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686)

Contrary to what many believe, Santa Claus as we know him today – sleigh riding, gift-giving, rotund and white bearded with his distinctive red suit trimmed with white fur – was not the creation of the Coca Cola Company. Although their Christmas advertising campaigns of the 1930s and 40s were key to popularising the image, Santa can be seen in his modern form decades before Coca Cola’s illustrator Haddon Sundblom got to work. Prior to settling on his famed red garb and jolly bearded countenance, throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Santa morphed through a variety of different looks. From the description given in Clement Moore’s A Visit from St Nicholas in 1822, through the vision of artist Thomas Nast, and later Norman Rockwell, Mr Claus gradually shed his various guises and became the jolly red-suited Santa we know today…

The illustrated story of St. Nick at “A Pictorial History of Santa Claus.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes)

###

As we finish our letters, we might recall that it was on this date in 1913 that Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross,” the first crossword puzzle, was published in the New York World:

2-3.    What bargain hunters enjoy.        6-22.    What we all should be.
4-5.    A written acknowledgment.         4-26.    A day dream.
6-7.    Such and nothing more.                2-11.    A talon.
10-11.    A bird.                                            19-28.    A pigeon.
14-15.    Opposed to less.                           F-7.    Part of your head.
18-19.    What this puzzle is.                     23-30.    A river in Russia.
22-23.    An animal of prey.                      1-32.    To govern.
26-27.    The close of a day.                      33-34.    An aromatic plant.
28-29.    To elude.                                      N-8.    A fist.
30-31.    The plural of is.                           24-31.    To agree with.
8-9.    To cultivate.                                     3-12.    Part of a ship.
12-13.    A bar of wood or iron.                20-29.    One.
16-17.    What artists learn to do.            5-27.    Exchanging.
20-21.    Fastened.                                      9-25.    To sink in mud.
24-25.    Found on the seashore.             13-21.    A boy.
10-18.    The fibre of the gomuti palm.

solution (source)

 

Written by LW

December 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Now, the supreme moment, the Christmas pudding was brought in, in state!”*…

 

Central Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1900

What did people eat in America 100 years ago during the holiday season? Menus catalogued by the New York Public Library from Christmas dinners served in the early part of the 20th century offer an interesting look at our ancestors’ dining habits. The menus come from a survey of restaurants, hotels, and even an Army fort’s Christmas dinner service…

Just in time to aid in planning this year’s holiday meal:  more (and larger) menus from an age gone by.

* Agatha Christie, “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding”

###

As we bake the bread to break, we might recall that it was on this date in 1843 that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol— a novella he’d written over the prior six weeks– was formally published; it had been released to book stores and the public two days later.  The first run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve, and the book continued to sell well through twenty-four editions in its original form.

Cover of the first edition

source

 

Written by LW

December 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”*…

 

 

It seems that in northern Siberia, the reindeer developed a taste for those colorful red and white mushrooms, fly agaric (amanita muscaria), and will eat them till they’re higher than a kite.  Anyone eating the meat of such reindeer will get equally high. The village shamen soon figured out how to reduce the toxicity of the mushrooms, while increasing the potency and claiming it helped them fly.  Folks in the far north had not yet discovered the art of fermentation, so the fly-in visits from the shaman with his mushroom treats were much anticipated.  A further point…many shamanistic arctic tribes such as the Koryaks of Siberia lived in semi underground yurt like structures, whose only entrance was a ladder through the smoke hole, or chimney, in the roof, down which the shamen would climb with his gifts, carried in a sack.

Then, in 1931, a young Swedish artist named Haddon Sundblom, obviously familiar with the tales, created a jolly round Santa Claus as a Christmas icon for his client, Coca-Cola,  using the company’s familiar red and white colors.  Coke notes with pride that until that time, St. Nick appeared in any number of guises, from a somber man in priestly garb to a green-clad elf, and it was only after Haddon had developed the character over several years that the jolly fat Santa became our Christmas standard-bearer, shown drinking his first Coke in 1934…

Read more in John Hulls’ terrific blog Somewhat Logically: “Reindeer Really Know How to Fly.”

* the famous reply contained in “Is There a Santa Claus?”, an editorial appearing in the September 21, 1897, edition of The (New York) Sun.

###

As we bake cookies to leave out on Christmas Eve, we might recall that on this date in 1732 Benjamin Franklin published the first edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanack,”  a pamphlet series that he continued, to great success, annually through 1757.  (Indeed, with print runs typically numbering 10,000, the series made Franklin’s fortune, allowing him to spend the bulk of his time on scientific experiments, diplomacy…  and in his own consciousness-altering experiments in The Hellfire Club.)

The first edition (published in 1732 for 1733)

 With the hope that your celebrations will be warm and peaceful, and with thanks for your kind attention over the last twelve months, (Roughly) Daily is going on it’s annual Holiday hiatus…  See you in the New Year!

Written by LW

December 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

“To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year”*…

 

The commercial Christmas card as we know it originated in London in 1843. That winter, Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant who helped organize the Great Exhibition and develop the Victoria and Albert Museum, decided he was too busy to write individual Christmas greetings to his family, friends and business colleagues. He asked his friend, the painter John Callcott Horsley, to design a card with an image and brief greeting that he could mail instead.

Horsley designed a triptych, with the two side panels depicting good deeds (clothing the naked and feeding the hungry) and the center panel showing a family Christmas party. The inclusion of booze at this party got Cole and Horsley an earful from the British Temperance Movement. At the bottom of the center panel was the inscription “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”

The card was lithographed on 5 1/8″ X 3 1/4″ stiff cardboard in dark sepia and then colored by hand. An edition of 1,000 cards was printed and sold at Felix Summerly’s Treasure House in London for a shilling each. Of those cards, twelve exist today in private collections, including the one Cole sent to his grandmother.

Mass-printed cards soon replaced hand-written greetings in most of Europe and the United States. Americans imported their Christmas cards from England until 1875, when a German immigrant named Louis Prang opened a lithographic shop and created the first line of Christmas cards in the states.

While Prang was soon producing more than 5 million Christmas cards each year and had been dubbed the “father of the American Christmas card,” his success didn’t last long. The initial popularity of his cards led to imitations that were less expensive and featured seasonal images instead of the colorful floral arrangements Prang favored. Prang’s imitators drove him out of the market in 1890, and inexpensive Christmas postcards imported from Germany ruled until World War I.

By the end of the war, the modern American greeting card industry had been born and today it supplies the 2,000,000,000+ Christmas cards that are sent every year in the U.S.

[Via Mental Floss, where one can also get a peek at some of the weird turns that the trend took: “9 Delightfully Bizarre Christmas Cards from the 1800s.”]

* E.B. White

###

As we lick envelopes, we might be relived to remember that today os the traditionally-accepted start of the Halcyon Days.  Ovid recounts, in The Metamorphoses, the story of Aeolus, the ruler of the winds, his daughter Alcyone, and her husband Ceyx, the king of Thessaly. When Ceyx was drowned at sea, Alcyone threw herself into the waves in a fit of grief– whereupon the gods transformed them both into halcyon birds (kingfishers).  When Alcyone made her nest on the beach, waves threatened to destroy it; so Aeolus restrained his winds and kept them calm during seven days (some believe fourteen) in each year, so she could lay her eggs.  These became known as the “halcyon days,” when storms do not occur.

While in modern usage the phrase has taken on a nostalgic cast (folks pine for the “Halcyon Days of Youth”), we can hope that they spell a safe and calm Holiday season in 2014…

The Kingfisher

 source

 

Written by LW

December 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

Advent-ure…

It’s that time again:  your correspondent is headed into his annual Holiday Hiatus.  Regular service will resume early in the new year.  In the meantime, with great thanks for your kind attention through this last year, and high hopes for the next, a little something to occupy one until the Big Day:  from the incomparable Bodleian Library, their treasure-filled 2012 Advent Calendar.

(And for a somewhat wonkier– and wonderfully weirder– Christmas countdown, see The Economist‘s “Graphic Detail” Advent calendar.)

###

As we pause to spare a thankful thought for libraries, we might note that this is the date– this very date, this year– that, for better or worse, the world is not ending.

Written by LW

December 21, 2012 at 1:01 am

Heading for the hills…

 

Never does Nature say one thing, and Wisdom another
– Juvenal

 

It’s time for your correspondent to head for the snow-covered hills at the shag end of the Appalachians– where even the people are stuffed with cornbread– for his family’s annual festival of barbeque and brew.  Regular service should resume as the New Year begins in earnest…

Written by LW

December 23, 2010 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: