CLICK THE MICROPHONE TO SKIP TO LOCAL STATIONS PLAYING CHRISTMAS MUSIC
Friday, December 25, 2009
The Story of Christmas: The Birth of Jesus Christ
The story goes, according to the books of Matthew and Luke, that Joseph
of Nazareth, roughly the 58th-generation of the Holy Lineage from Adam
through David, was engaged to a woman named Mary. However, when Mary (a
virgin) became pregnant, Joseph had a plan to end the engagement before
the child was born, as not to suggest shame upon the woman. The angel
Gabriel convinced him otherwise, telling Joseph that his fiancée
was carrying a child of God. So, traveling to Bethlehem to take part in
a census set forth by Caesar Augustus, Joseph and the pregnant Mary
needed to stop... a nearby "inn" was full, so they directed themselves
to a manger, where Mary delivered the child who would be Jesus Christ.
Upon Christ's birth, angels of God went forth to local shepherds and
distant kings, who came in droves to pay homage to the child and offer
gifts. King Herod of Jerusalem wasn't too happy and denounced claims
that Christ was any king that would infringe upon his reign, so he
plotted to kill the child, asking to "go and worship" him. Having heard
divine warning of the plot, Mary, Joseph, and the Christ eventually
fled to Egypt. The rest, as they say, is history.
Spread to pagan culures: From debauchery to holiness
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, it ran into many pagan
cultures. Many of these cultures had celebrations that marked the
winter and spring seasons. Christians, willing to negotiate on the
issues in an effort to win over the pagans, converted the winter
celebration into Christmas and the spring celebration into Easter, to
mark the birth and resurrection of Christ, respectively. At first, the
"Christmas" celebrations were examples of sex, drunkenness, and general
debauchery until Christian purists demanded that the holiday be taken
Santa Claus is a legend based upon a philanthropist from circa AD 200
known as St. Nicholas of Turkey, a noted clergyman, philanthropist and
(somewhat ironically) anti-paganism activist. For those of you going on
Jeopardy! any time soon, he had a feast named in his honor that was
originally designated on December 6; the proximity to the Christmas
holiday is what caused "Santa Claus" to be lumped into the Christmas
However, the legend has since grown into a
full-blown industry. So here's the general consensus on the legend.
Santa Claus's physical description: he is of unknown height, notably
overweight, he has a long white beard and is bald. His wardrobe is
almost universally red. The story of Santa Claus's origin is disputed;
however, we do know that he is married to a woman known only as Mrs.
Claus and that he lives in a workshop on the North Pole. (Note:
Geologists may note that there are two North Poles, a geographic
[covered in water and ice] and a magnetic [under an island].
Fullervision, for the sake of realistic possiblility, will argue that
the workshop is on the magnetic North Pole on Bathurst Island, Nunavut,
Canada. Other organizations have argued that Santa lives in northern
Scandinavia.) The workshop on
the North Pole is manned by elves, who are responsible for producing
all of the toys in the world. (This despite most claims that they are
made by other diminuted people-- the Chinese.)
The apex of activity at the North Pole workshop comes on Christmas Eve
(December 24 for those of you in Rio Linda), when all of the elves
gather the toys and place them into a large sack for Santa Claus to
carry around the world. The sack is carried out to a large sleigh,
which is powered by nine reindeer (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen,
Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph, the last with a bright red
nose to guide the sleigh during inclement weather). Santa also compiles
a list, from various sources, of all of the children to be considered
"naughty" and undeserving of gifts. The rest of the Christian children
are labeled "nice" and are rewarded with gifts from the sack. The
sleigh navigates in a fashion so that it arrives at the children's
houses at about midnight local time.
Chanukkah (December 11-19)
Chanukkah, also spelled Chanukah or Hanukkah, is celebrated December
11-19 this year, which marks an average start. The
relatively minor Jewish holiday is noted so often because it lands in
roughly the same time frame as Christmas, one of the most major
Christian holidays, and due to the fact that many famous media
personalities are Jewish
(see Adam Sandler's line of "Hanukkah Songs") The story of this holiday
involves a belief that
divine intervention allowed one day's worth of temple oil to last for
eight days. The custom is symbolized by lighting a menorah of nine
candles, one master candle to light the other eight, one for each day.
Also involved is a game of dreidel-spinning (the dreidel being a top
with four sides, each with Hebrew lettering) and feasts including
deep-fried potato latkes (pancake-like creations).
Kwanzaa: It's fake, it's racist, I don't even consider it a
Radio: Holiday Music Watch
The following outlets are expected to carry Christmas music this
year. Expect most American stations to change some time on
November 20, 2009.
UPDATE 11/16 7 a.m.: Of all the cross-town rivalries, the WJYE-WTSS
Christmas music rivalry is always one of the most amusing. WJYE had
already made public its intentions to switch over to Christmas music at
7 a.m. on Monday, November 16 (right around when they usually do). They
did, true to their word, and even brought in Donny Osmond to kick off
the music. WTSS was more subtle: switching in the middle of the night
before, segueing from Lady Gaga into Celine Dion... blech. These two
stations always change within a few hours of each other, usually
minutes. Kudos to WJYE for sticking to their guns and realizing a few
overnight hours wasn't worth it.
UPDATE 11/21 midnight: Apparently WRMM jumped the gun about 7 hours,
and switched at 5 p.m... very abruptly, too: from Steve Winwood's "Back
in the High Life Again" straight into "The Christmas Shoes..."
definitely NOT the song I'd pick to start off a Christmas music
marathon at all.
The Dr. Demento Show (will change around 11/30?... will not
be available online-- at least free)
Your Weekend with Jim Brickman
Please note that all times
listed are subject to change. As the holiday approaches, I will update
dates and times as well as remove any dropped specials.
Most notable television specials, by network (NOTE: This list is
missing some dates. I apologize.)
the Red Nosed Reindeer Dec. 12 The first and original
Rankin-Bass claymation special featuring the voice of Burl Ives and the
famous Gene Autry song, as well as the longest running Christmas
special on television today. In addition to strictly following the song
storyline to the word, this series also incorporates several good
subplots including Hermie the Dentist Elf, the Abominable Snowman and
the Island of Misfit Toys.
Snowman Dec. 18 Rankin-Bass's only
hand-drawn animation series based upon the infamous winter carol. A
brave young girl named Karen attempts to keep Frosty safe from rising
temperatures and the notoriously bad (in more ways than one) magician
Frosty Returns Dec. 18 A leftist piece of tripe
produced by CBS as a sequel to Frosty the Snowman.
Movie: Elf Dec. 19 The movie starring Will
Ferrell as a man who was raised by elves and has to return home to New
A Home for the Holidays Dec. 23
Yes, Virginia Dec. 11 Based on the classic "Yes,
Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter.
Charile Brown Christmas Dec. 8 and 15 The first animated
Peanuts special ever created, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is considered
to be one of the best Christmas specials of all time. The story is
effectively a lament of Christmas gone awry due to commercial excess
and a reminder of what Christmas is truly celebrating. Coupled with
"Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales."
Prep and Landing Dec. 8 and 16 8 p.m. Billed as the first animated
Disney television special produced specifically for ABC (most of
Disney's specials have debuted on ABC Family or Disney Channel), Prep
and Landing is about an elite team of Santa Claus's elves.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas The television adaptation
of Dr. Seuss's book, narrated by horror flick legend Boris Karloff,
about a character who plots to steal all material possessions related
to Christmas from the tiny, innocent town of Whoville... but fails to
quash the Whos' Christmas spirit. Movie includes famous "You're a Mean
One, Mr. Grinch" performance by Thurl Ravenscroft. The program moves to
ABC and will also air on TBS and Cartoon Network.
The 2003 movie adaptation of this story starring Jim Carrey and
directed by Ron Howard can be
seen on ABC/ABC Family.
Movie: The Polar Express Dec. 3 Partially-animated
spectacle featuring Tom Hanks's voice and head plastered on a lot of
Santa Claus is Coming to Town Dec. 7 Another Rankin-Bass
special, this one focusing on the story of Santa Claus (only loosely
based upon the title song). A tripped out hippie scene makes this one a
worthwhile watch. Replays on ABC Family.
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown! This sequel to "A Charlie
Brown Christmas" (actually, the second such sequel) was first released
after the death of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, and focuses on the
youngest and newest Peanut, Rerun van Pelt, taking in Snoopy's
desert-living cousin Spike as a pet. (NOTE: This special was bumped
from the 2009 schedule due to a speech by President Barack Obama.)
Movie: The Santa Clause This 1994 movie features
Tim Allen as a toy salesman and father who unwittingly accepts the
duties of Santa Claus-- and then physically transforms into him to
boot, causing his ex-wife to worry for their child's sanity. It has
since produced two sequels. Also watch for The Santa Clause 2.
Christmas Countdown Elmo from Sesame Street
crosses over into commercial television after over a decade in
commercial toyland. About time.
Walt Disney World Christmas Parade Watch one big fat honking
Disney commerical disguised as a parade. Hosted by Regis Philbin
and Kelly Ripa from Walt Disney World in Florida.
Shiny New Year In this Rankin-Bass
sequel to the original "Rudolph," the title character is sent out to
find the New Year's Baby, who has gone astray in time. Airs
Rockin' Eve with Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest,
Dec. 31 10 PM Dick Clark returns with
co-host Ryan Seacrest to count down to 2008.
Christmas at Rockefeller Center Dec. 2 A two-hour extravaganza
featuring a dozen musical performances and culminating with the
lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular The annual stage show
featuring the world-famous short-skirted Rockettes.
A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa Dec. 11
Movie: It's a Wonderful Life, Dec. 12 The famous movie about a
man who wishes he had never been born-- and then sees what his life
would be like without him through the help of a guardian angel. Special
presentation narrated for the blind by former President George Bush.
A Christmas Story, Dec. 24 Jean Shepherd narrates
his life story through the character of "Ralphie," an enthusiastic
young boy whose life goal is to get a Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine
Action Air Rifle for Christmas. Many memorable moments (wow, I've
become Irv Weinstein) exist, including the ad-dispensing decoder ring,
the tongue stuck to the flagpole on a "triple dog dare," and the
continuously repeated phrase "you'll shoot your eye out."
"25 Days of Christmas" -- A 25-day virtual marathon of
Christmas specials (home page)
programming will begin on 12/1, including the following specials:
Frosty's Winter Wonderland Rankin-Bass's original
sequel to Frosty the Snowman, narrated this time by Andy Griffith and
built around the song "Winter Wonderland." In this special, Frosty
seeks a wife.
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July The full-length
both the Rudolph and Frosty stories, featuring a very dark and bizarre
storyline, some plot inconsistencies, and (drumroll, please)... Ethel
Year Without a Santa Claus (animated version) Two kids negotiate a
deal with the Heat Miser and Snow Miser (two weather-controlling
demigods who have catchy and nearly identical theme songs) to bring
snow to the South, but in return, the North Pole is warm for Christmas,
which jeopardizes Santa Claus's ability to leave via sleigh.
A Garfield Christmas Special The story of Jon
Arbuckle's trip to Christmas dinner with his family. Garfield
eventually discovers Jon's grandfather's old love letters to Jon's
grandmother and returns them as a gift to Grandma. CBS discontinued
this special after losing the rights to A Charlie Brown Christmas; the
two specials had aired side-by-side for several years. CBS sold the
rights to Garfield to Fox and they have opted not to air the special;
however, Fox has made the special available on DVD. ABC resumes airing
Other claymation specials: Jack Frost, Pinnochio's
Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy, among others
Christmas Movies all month long (WARNING: Many are of the
"Hallmark Hall of Fame" variety and have a high "cheese factor" if you
know what I mean.)
More cable outlets to be added soon.
NOTABLE DISCONTINUED SPECIALS
The Homecoming: A Christmas Story The made-for-television
movie that spun off the television series The Waltons, this story is
the tale of a rural Depression-era family who is rocked by the
disappearance of their father. CBS had aired the program on Saturday
mornings until the late 1990's, when it inexplicably disappeared. It is
available on DVD but is rare and comparitively expensive. Yes, I have a
copy. No, you can't have it.
It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown! I have never seen this
little known sequel to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" produced in 1992.
Bootleg copies are floating around on Youtube, I believe.
Holidaze, the Christmas that Almost Didn't Happen The story of Rudolph's
little-known, incompetent and depressed reindeer brother, Rusty.
The Story of Santa Claus This special previously ran on
CBS and The CW.
Blizzard A 2003 film about reindeer.
Television Sports (Christmas Eve/Christmas Day)
San Diego Chargers @ Tennessee Titans, 8:15 p.m. ET Christmas
Day, NFL Network
Boston Celtics @ Orlando Magic, ABC
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Los Angeles Lakers, ABC
NCAA football and the NHL are taking Christmas Day off.
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Dedicated to the memory of Andrea C. Morton (1988-2009)