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holiday plan

2003-11-26 - 11:48 a.m.

Yes, I've been alive; just busy.

Die Walkure was wonderful. Glorious. Riveting. I can't think of the words to fully describe this opera, this spectacle. It is said there is your life before the Ring cycle and your life after the Ring cycle. Placido was fabulous (naturally) but the rest of the cast measured up to the standard he set. The staging was fabulous, and the Magic Fire (involving no actual flames) was done tastefully and effectively.

But kids, the real moral of this sotry is that until you have heard the famous Ride of the Valkyries complete with the chorus of "Hojota-ho!" you simply have not heard the damn music at all. I've always hated that orchestral piece--overblown, overbearing and over-pompous. But once you add in the Valkyries dashing around the stage singing at the top of their ultra-glorious voices (as well as the dancers pretending to be their horses), the music suddenly becomes a glorious paen to fallen heros. Hojota-ho!

It took me a few days to recover, and I'm afraid Die Walkure has left its mark seared into my soul. I never thought I could love Wagner--a despicable person who wrote the music of Nazis. But hey--Wagner probably wouldn't have liked the Nazis (he was uber-nationalistic but still very much a liberal) and although he was a virulent anti-Semite, he loved Halevy's La Juive, both for the music and the story. To cut myself off from experiencing Wagner is a sin--he's one of the three major operatic players. To cut myself off from enjoying Wagner doesn't seem to make much sense to me. Granted, I'd probably never perform Wagner--but then, I don't have the voice for it, so it's not even an option.

Thanksgiving is coming and we're headed up to PA to see my paternal family and then a quick jaunt over to see the maternal family. I think both of us would really rather stay home this year, but I feel that we have an obligation to go see my grandparents. Maybe next year we'll stay home and do our own Thanksgiving. But most likely not.

But we are doing our own Christmas. Yes, and Chanukah--I may be a Christmas-tree-Jew, but I don't forget to light my candles!

So here is your long-promised "Wealhtheow's Guide to an Ecumenical and Enjoyable Christmas/Holiday Season."

Step 1. Realize, regardless of marketing ploys and rampant consumerism, there are precious few times of the year when people decide to be good to each other. I don't think it matters if they're doing it out of a sense of religious oblication or because the mass media tells them to. Just join in and enjoy it. Instead of focusing on the bad parts of the season, focus on the good.

2. Get in the mood with some holiday music. For those of you who enjoy traditional stuff, I'd reccomend the Kings Singers or John Rutter's Cambridge Singers. For those looking for classical traditional, the Messiah is always a favorite (even though it was originally written for EASTER) but don't overlook Bach's Christmas Oratorio, which contains some of the most glorious music EVAH. For those looking for something a little different, I can reccomend "Bright Day Star" by the Baltimore Consort. This has the Bellman's carol with its classic line "Instruct and teach your children well the while that you are here, It will better be for your soul while your corpse lies on the bier." But it also has one of my favorite carols, "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day." Another perfect album is "Angels on High" with the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers. As far as I'm concerned, Robert Shaw is GOD ALMIGHTY in the realm of choral singing. Highlights here include "The Carol of the Birds," an incredibly beautiful Andalusian carol, "Magnum Mysterium" by Morton Lauridsen (perfection) and as an added extra-special bonus, Britten's Ceremony of Carols.

3. Food. Christmas is the only time of the year I drink eggnog, and I love that thick eggy nog. I also try to convince the husband to make Chanukah latkes, and some years I'm more succesful than others. My grammie always sends me fudge and fruitcake. Most of it I take into work, but it's such a nice tradition--I can't remember a winter without Grammie's fruitcake. The point here is not to overindulge in gluttony, but rather to reserve certain foods for one special time of the year. Let them act as Proust's madeleine did, bringing back memories of all the holidays past.

4. For most of us, the winter will be coming on strong in the next few months. Christmas and Chanukah, not coincidentally, coincide with the Winter Solstice. This is a time to remember those who have passed on, but also a time to celebrate those who are with us still. For many of us, this is done by an exchange of presents. Last year I found a lot of people have problems with this, with buying into the "consumer machine." Heifer International offers wonderful gifts at many prices; gifts of sustenance for needy people around the world. Or buy someone a membership in a nonprofit dear to their heart. Make a gift yourself. Or see something in a store that would be perfect for a loved one and buy it. I don't understand why people see this as a burden. I agree; financially this can often be tough. But think of the receievers of your gift. Do they really want you to go broke? Of course not. Do something you can handle, and do it with love. And at the risk of sounding Hallmark cheesy, realize at the moment of exchange that what you are really giving is nothing that is material.

5. On the note of gifting, avoid the damn malls. Shop at smaller stores; they're less crowded. Purchase gifts online. Not having to deal with aggravated crowds will make a huge difference in your enjoyment of the holidays--I promise. Not seeing all the signs pressuring you to spend money, to buy this and that, telling you what a "perfect Christmas" should look like (they say "holiday" but they mean "Christmas")--who needs it?

Go into this holiday season determined to find joy, and it shall be there. May the light of the season see you all through the dark winter.


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Die Entfuehrung
Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction From
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