Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006 First Annual Holiday Spectacular

The current controversies over religion leads to the question of whether this is really a Holiday Spectacular or secretly a Christmas Spectacular? At risk of offending my Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Pokemon readers, you might want to know why this blog is so Christmas heavy.

The truth is I just love Christmas. It wins the popularity contest. I like the trees with their pine smell, the lights, the movies, the bells, the big guy in the red suit, the reindeer, the food, and most of all, the songs. I even sense, on occasion, that there is a little Christmas spirit out there (just people trying to be a little nicer, however briefly). It’s not a religious thing at all. Frankly, I happily take the Christ right out of Christmas. No Christian group has a copyright on good tunes, pretty lights, trees or eggnog.

I have good memories of Chanukah from my youth: the smell of the candles, the dreidel game, gold foil covered chocolate money, and, of course, the presents. But I admit that I am not even sure I say Chanukah right. I know the first version of this post spelled dreidel wrong. There are only three Chanukah songs I know of: Dreidel, Dreidel, Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song and one in Hebrew which name I don’t know. Let’s face it, Dreidel, Dreidel is right up there with Barney’s I Love You, You Love Me, and no one is going to get the celebrity references to Sandler’s song 30 years from now (I guess they could update them). There are dozens of great Christmas songs, movies and whatnot.

But, what the hell. It’s officially a Holiday Spectacular and I hope there is something for everybody. Why not. Everybody’s welcome.

Before we start, I’d like to thank everyone who reads this on at least a semi-regular basis, and I enjoy your occasional comments. To share with you the success of this blog, I will reveal that Ad-Sense, which puts up those advertisements you see, has entered into a contract with me (didn’t that sound impressive – actually, any blog can have one with them; it takes a few minutes on-line) where I let them put ads on my blog and they pay me, I think per hit. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I am about to receive a check for 12 cents. Your eyes do not deceive you. I may have to get a job.

Here are the Holiday Spectacular lists you’ve been waiting for since September.

Best holiday movies

10. Scrooge (the musical with Albert Finney)
9. White Christmas (I liked it better than the original -- Holiday Inn)
8. A Christmas Story
7. It’s a Wonderful Life
6. Serendipity
5. Love, Actually
4. When Harry Met Sally
3. Elf
2. March of the Wooden Soldiers
1. Miracle on 34th Street (The original, and only, the original version)

Many people would put It’s a Wonderful Life first, and it’s easy to see its charms. But Jimmy Stewart can get on your nerves sometimes with all that stammering. There were times I wished Clarence got delayed at the transfer station in Limbo for a few minutes before coming to the rescue. Arguments can also be made that When Harry Met Sally is properly a romantic comedy, but much of the movie has to do with the holiday season, and the story ends on New Years’ Eve. Elf is the only recent movie on the list, but already one of my favorite movies, period. Miracle on 34th Street and March of the Wooden Soldiers probably have a lock on one and two for the rest of history (or my life, which ever ends first).

Best Holiday Songs:

10. Joy to the World (Whitney Houston)
9. Feliz Navidad
8. Messiah/Hallelujah Chorus
7. Frosty the Snow Man (Jimmy Durante)
6. Carol of the Bells
5. Zat you, Santa Claus (Louis Armstrong)
4. Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! (Dean Martin)
3. Snoopy’s Christmas
2. All I Want for Christmas is You
1. Baby, its cold outside (Doris Day and Bing Crosby)

This was a really difficult category. Most likely, if I waited a few days, the order would be different and some other songs would replace some of those in the list. Smoke comes out of my ears when I hear anyone else make covers of these songs. Let me make this clear for all recording artists. Not one of you should ever, ever, ever make another recording of Baby, Its Cold Outside, Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!, Frosty the Snow Man or Joy to the World. Ever! If you have never heard the rarely played Louis Armstrong piece, you should look for it.

Best Holiday Books

5. Maccabees (Some Old Testaments)
4. The Gospels
3. A Christmas Story (Jean Shepherd)
2. The Gift of the Magi (the O’Henry short story)
1. A Christmas Carol

Best posts of 2006

5. Did I Tell You I Hate Cell Phones (11/20)
4. An Electrifying Genius (12/13)
3. A Day of Thunder and Lightning (11/02)
2. A Holiday Tale of Murder and Rape in Old New York (11/29)
1. Read This on the Night Before Christmas (9/13)

If you are wondering why this is a holiday category, the top three all have winter holiday references.

Five Best Holiday Images

5. Tom Nash’s Santa Claus
4. Yule Log show on WPIX
3. Breugel's Hunters in the Snow

2. Skating rink at Rockefeller Center, NY
1. Skating rink at Somerset House, London

I feel guilty leaving off Coca Cola's wonderful collection of Santa Claus images, but there are so many of them, I did not know which to choose. Honorable mention.

Ten Best Christmas Day Historical Events

10. 12/25/1741 – Celsius introduced Celsius temperature scale.
9. 12/25/1868 – President Andrew Johnson pardoned all the Southern rebels.
8. 12/25/1758 – First sighting of Halley’s comet.
7. 12/25/1651 – Massachusetts Court announced fine for Christmas celebration.
6. 12/25/1908 – Jack Johnson became first black heavyweight champion.
5. 12/25/1950 – Scotland’s coronation Stone of Scone stolen from Westminster Abbey.
4. 12/25/1066 – William the Conqueror crowned King of England.
3. 12/25/800 – Charlemagne crowned Emperor of Holy Roman Empire.
2. 12/25/1914 – Unofficial WWI Christmas truce between British and German troops.
1. 12/25/1776 – Washington crossed the Delaware and surprises Hessians.

Five Best New Years Birthday

5. 1/1/1735 – Paul Revere
4. 1/1/1895 – J. Edgar Hoover
3. 1/1/1942 – Country Joe McDonald
2. 1/1/1909 – Barry Goldwater
1. 1/1/1908 – Tess Berger (my aunt)

Five Best Holiday Ironies

5. St. Nicholas was Turkish (way before the Muslims).
4. Chanukah celebrates the Jewish victory over the Hellenistic Greeks who had taken over the Persian Empire. Ignored is the fact that the new independent Hasmodean Kingdom that came out of it made an alliance with Rome, which led to its long loss of independence.
3. White Christmas was written by a Jewish guy (Irving Berlin).
2. The Poinsettia plant is from Mexico, not the first country that pops into your mind when you think Christmas. It was brought to America by the a 19th century Mexican ambassador, Joseph Poinsett.
1. Chanukah is “the festival of lights,” but Christians, not Jews, decorate their houses with hundreds or thousands of lights. Go figure.

Thanks again for your support and have a happy holiday.


  1. Youknowwho6:40 PM

    And happy holidays to you, too. My favorite song? "There's something stuck up in the chimney and I don't know what it is...." I too find "It's a Wonderful Life" tiresome sometimes. I think it's overplayed. I much prefer "Miracle". You forgot "Charlie Brown's Christmas". Does the length of this earn you more $??

  2. Anonymous10:34 PM

    I think that is so sweet that you put Aunt Tess on the list -- I'll have to tell her.

  3. Carolynn3:23 PM

    I was hoping you would do something for Christmas, and I wasn't disappointed. You are probably the smartest person I know -- how do you know so much?????? You should be a writer. Happy New Year.
    PS -- I visited one of the advertisers -- hope it nets you another penny or two!

  4. I also think the "Charlie Brown Christmas " needs to make the list.
    Aren't poinsettias native to all of central America?
    Country Joe????? What? Were you just trying to round out the list?
    Happy Spectacular and Merry Christmas.

  5. Still waiting on the Peloponesian War post.


Your comments are welcome.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .