Blue Christmas/Mumping Day

Blue Christmas, also called the Longest Night in the Western Christian tradition, is a day in the Advent season marking the longest night of the year. On this day, some churches hold a church service that honours people who have lost loved ones in that year. The Holy Eucharist is traditionally a part of the service of worship on this day. Some churches hold a service of worship on the longest night of the year, which falls on or about December 21st, the Winter Solstice.

Blue Christmas, the 21 December is also the traditional feast day for Saint Thomas the Apostle. This linkage invites making some connections between Thomas’s struggle to believe the tale of Jesus’ resurrection, the long nights just before Christmas, and the struggle with darkness and grief faced by those living with loss. Saint Thomas the Apostle (called Didymus which means “the twin,” or Mar Thoma in Syriac) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament. He is informally called Doubting Thomas because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told (in the Gospel of John account only), followed later by his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God,” on seeing Jesus’ wounded body.

Traditionally, he is said to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as Tamilakam which are the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in present-day India. According to tradition, Thomas reached Muziris, (modern-day North Paravur and Kodungalloor in the state of Kerala, India) in 50 CE and baptized several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians or Mar Thoma Nazranis. After his death, the reputed relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far as Mesopotamia in the 3rd century, and later moved to various places. In 1258, some of the relics were brought to Abruzzo in Ortona, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle. He is often regarded as the Patron Saint of India, and the name Thoma remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.

Mumping day also takes place on annually 21 December in parts of England. Mumping is an uncommon word for a seasonal activity, which takes place mostly in the West Country. More commonly it is known as mumming, for a performance that was originally in mime or in which participants were in disguise. The name for my local performance seems to be from a confusion between mumming and another old custom of the pre-Christmas period, also called mumping.

Mumping is attached to the feast day of St Thomas the Apostle on 21 December. This used to be known in some parts of England as Mumping Day, when poor people went around their parish begging for alms. It’s from the seventeenth-century Dutch verb mompen, to cheat or deceive, but it became an English dialect word meaning to scrounge or beg. Mumping is also British police jargon for accepting small favours such as free meals from friendly tradespeople. Activities which take place on Mumping Day include a procession and entertainment under the notional supervision of a Lord of Misrule. Mumping Day was also sometimes called Begging Day. In Kent it was Doleing Day, because gifts or doles — such as draughts of beer or loaves of bread — were given by prosperous people to needy locals. In various counties it has been referred to as going a-gooding, to ask for “good things” for Christmas, which usually meant food or small sums of money, and also going a-corning, to ask farmers for gifts of wheat (English corn) to make bread. Mumping Day is also mentioned in the Discworld novel Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett, 2002.

This mumping, by the way, is not the same as the one, now mainly Scottish, meaning grimacing or grumbling, mumbling or muttering, or moving the jaws as if munching food. That’s linked to another old Dutch verb, also spelled mompen, to mumble, and with the rare German verb mumpfen, to chew with a full mouth. It is from the word Mumping that the name of the viral disease mumps, is derived because of the look of a sufferer’s face when it’s swollen.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

American novellist Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was sadly found dead on 21 December 1940 after suffering a heart attack. He was born September 24, 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to an uper-middle-class family, Fitzgerald was named after his famous second cousin, three times removed, Francis Scott Key, but was referred to as “Scott.” He was also named after his deceased sister, Louise Scott. Fitzgerald spent he first decade of his childhood in Buffalo, New York and Syracuse, New York between 1901 and 1903). Fitzgerald attended two Catholic schools on the West Side of Buffalo, first Holy Angels Convent and n Nardin Academy. Fitzgerald was intelligent with an interest in literature, his doting mother ensuring that her son had all the advantages. Fitzgerald attended Holy Angels for only half a day—and was allowed to choose which half. In 1908, the family returned to Minnesota, where Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy, St. Paul from 1908 to 1911. When he was 13 he published a detective story in the school newspaper. In 1911, when Fitzgerald was 15 years old, his parents sent him to the Newman School, a prestigious Catholic prep school in Hackensack, New Jersey. There he met Father Sigourney Fay, who encouraged him to pursue his literary ambitions.

After graduating in 1913, Fitzgerald attended Princeton University, New Jersey, where he befriended future critics and writers Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop and wrote for the Princeton Triangle Club, the Nassau Lit, and the Princeton Tiger And the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, which ran the Nassau Lit and the Universty Cottage club The Princeton Triangle was a kind of musical-comedy society. In 1917 Fitzgerald left school to join the U.S. Army. Afraid that he might die in World War I with his literary dreams unfulfilled, Fitzgerald hastily wrote a novel called The Romantic Egotist. the reviewer noted its originality and encouraged Fitzgerald to submit more work in the future. During the 1920’s Fitzgerald travelled to Paris and the French Riviera, befriending many members of the American expatriate community in Paris, notably Ernest Hemingway. Fitzgerald supplemented his income by writing short stories for such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s Weekly, and Esquire, and sold his stories and novels to Hollywood studios.

Fitzgerald wrote his stories in an authentic manner then put in “twists that made them into saleable magazine stories. Although Fitzgerald’s passion lay in writing novels, only his first novel sold well enough to support the opulent lifestyle that he and Zelda adopted as New York celebrities. (The Great Gatsby, now considered to be his masterpiece, did not become popular until after Fitzgerald’s death.) Because of this lifestyle, as well as the bills from Zelda’s medical care, Fitzgerald was constantly in financial trouble and often required loans from his literary agent, Harold Ober, and his editor at Scribner’s, Maxwell Perkins. When Ober decided not to continue advancing money to Fitzgerald, the author severed ties with his longtime friend and agent. (Fitzgerald offered a good-hearted and apologetic tribute to this support in the late short story “Financing Finnegan”.)

Fitzgerald began working on his fourth novel during the late 1920s and also wrote short stories. Fitzgerald rented the “La Paix” estate in the suburb of Towson, Maryland to work on his latest book, the story of the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychiatrist who falls in love with and marries Nicole Warren, one of his patients. Some critics have seen the book as an autobiographical novel recounting Fitzgerald’s problems with his wife, the corrosive effects of wealth and a decadent lifestyle, his own egoism and self-confidence, and his continuing alcoholism. This was published in 1934 as Tender Is the Night. Most critics felt that Fitzgerald had not lived up to their expectations. The novel did not sell well upon publication but has since become a classic.

In 1937, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood, Besides writing, he also got involved in the film industry. Although he reportedly found movie work degrading, Fitzgerald was once again in dire financial straits, and spent the 1930s in Hollywood, working on commercial short stories, scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his fifth and final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon. Published posthumously as The Last Tycoon, it was based on the life of film executive Irving Thalberg. Among his other film projects was Madame Curie. In 1939, MGM ended the contract, and Fitzgerald became a freelance screenwriter

Sadly Fitzgerald and Zelda fell out due to his alcoholism; she continued living in mental institutions on the East Coast, while he lived with his lover Sheilah Graham, the gossip columnist, in Hollywood. Records from the 1940 U.S. Census have him officially living at the estate of Edward Everett Horton in Encino, California San Fernando Valley. From 1939 until his death in 1940, Fitzgerald mocked himself as a Hollywood hack through the character of Pat Hobby in a sequence of 17 short stories, later collected as “The Pat Hobby Stories” which were published in The Esquire appearing January 1940 to July 1941.

Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his college days, and became notorious during the 1920s for his extraordinarily heavy drinking, leaving him in poor health by the late 1930s. Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in the late 1930s And was ordered by his doctor to avoid strenuous exertion. He moved in with Sheilah Graham, who lived in Hollywood on North Hayworth Avenue, where he had two flights of stairs to climb to his apartment. On the night of December 20, 1940, Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham attended the premiere of This Thing Called Love starring Rosalind Russell and Melvyn Douglas. As they left the Pantages Theater, Fitzgerald became dizzy and The following day, Fitzgerald jumped from his armchair, grabbed the mantelpiece, gasped and fall to the floor. Upon entering the apartment to assist Fitzgerald, he was found dead on 21 December 1940 after suffering a heart attack. His body was moved to the Pierce Brothers Mortuary. Fitzgerald died at age 44, before he could complete The Love of the Last Tycoon. His manuscript, was edited by his friend, the literary critic Edmund Wilson, and published in 1941 as The Last Tycoon. In 1994 the book was reissued under the original title The Love of the Last Tycoon.

Fitzgerald is considered a member of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. His works are the paradigmatic writings of the Jazz Age, and have inspired writers ever since the publication of The Great Gatsby which is required reading in many school and college classes. He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby (his most famous), and Tender Is the Night. A fifth, unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, was published posthumously. Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories concerning themes of youth and promise along with age and despair.

Fitzgerald’s work has been adapted into films many times. Tender is the Night was filmed in 1962, and made into a television miniseries in 1985. The Beautiful and Damned was filmed in 1922 and 2010. The Great Gatsby has been the basis for numerous films of the same name, spanning nearly 90 years; 1926, 1949, 1974, 2000, and 2013 adaptations. In addition, Fitzgerald’s own life from 1937 to 1940 was dramatized in 1958 in Beloved Infidel. Fitzgerald was also inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009 and is also the namesake of the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, home of the radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion.

Carl Wilson (The Beach Boys)

The late, great Carl Wilson, Musician with the Beach Boys Was born 21 December 1946. He was one of the founding member of the beach Boys along with his cousins , Brian and Dennis Wilson, and their friend Al Jardine. The Wilson family home was a musical one, and the Wilson family often sang at get-togethers. Urged by older cousin, Mike Love, Dennis approached Brian to form a group and composed a song about surfing. The Beach Boys formed in August 1961 when Brian and his brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson along with Mike Love and Al Jardine first gelled as a music group, initially named the Pendletones. Brian Wilson also began to experiment with recording songs after receiving a Wollensak tape recorder on his 16th birthday. This lead to the Formation of The Beach Boys, and after being encouraged by Dennis to write a song about the local water sports craze, Brian and Mike Love together created what would become the first single for the band, “Surfin’” and they were immediately successful.

Despite the fact that the Beach Boys were named after, and developed an image based on the California surfing culture, Dennis was the only actual surfer in the band. During the first few years of the Beach Boys, Dennis was given the role of the drummer by his brother, Brian. He quickly learned the basics of drumming at school lessons, and like the other members, he picked up more on the job. Brian Wilson took note of Dennis’s limited drumming technique early on and as the mid-60s approached, often hired session drummers such as Hal Blaine to perform on studio recordings (additionally substituting all other players at one time or another, under the demand for the band members on tour). Dennis accepted this situation with equanimity, generally giving high praise to his older brother’s work as Brian’s compositions became more mature and complex. Early Beach Boys recordings include (“Little Girl (You’re My Miss America)” and “This Car of Mine” “Girls on the Beach”) “Do You Wanna Dance?”,

He accompanied himself on guitar and like the other Beach Boys became a multi-instrumentalist. His piano playing and composing in particular was praised by Daryl Dragon, his frequent collaborator in the late Sixties and early Seventies and was showcased on his Pacific Ocean Blue album.Although he had helped Brian write a few other songs dating back to 1963 at the age of 18, Dennis Wilson’s first major released composition was “Little Bird,” the B-side of the “Friends” single, coupled with “Be Still”, also a paean to nature and reflecting on his place in the natural world of which his surfing hobby was only a minuscule part. From 1968 to 1973, as Brian withdrew more and more from active participation with his group, Dennis stepped up as the major creative force of the Beach Boys, having learnt production techniques from observing his brother and showing cosmic-gothic overtones in composing (influenced by Richard Wagner). At least two of his songs were included on all but one of the six albums released in that five-year period, peaking with four songs on each of 20/20 and Sunflower.

Brian Wilson was mainly the lead singer, of the Beach Boys. Mike Love wrote or co-wrote lyrics to many of the Beach Boys songs, mostly with the themes of surfing, cars or love, but also memorable ballads such as “The Warmth of the Sun”. while Dennls Wilson sang backing vocals on stage, occasionally taking a lead, his raspy-sounding vocals being a key ingredient to the group’s vocal blend in the studio, and in the late Sixties and Seventies his lead vocals lent a much-needed bluesy edge to an updating the Beach Boys’ sound, giving their music new dimensions on the retreat of brother Brian’s influence in composing and studio production.

The Beach Boys biggest hits, include “Surfin’ Safari”, “Surfin’ USA“, “Shut Down”, “Little Deuce Coupe“, “Be True to Your School”, “Little Saint Nick”, “Fun, Fun, Fun“, “I Get Around”, “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”, “Little Honda”, “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “California Girls“. Although carl Wilson sadly passed away on 6th February 1998, the remaining members of the Beach Boys released an abum “That’s Why God Made the Radio” in 2012 to celebrate their 50th anniversary and embarked on a worldwide tour and they remain popular.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The world’s first full-length animated feature, Disney’s SNOW WHITE & THE SEVEN DWARFS , premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21st 1937 . Produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures, it is Based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, and was the first full-length cel animated feature film in history, the first produced in full colour, the first to be produced by Walt Disney Productions, and the first in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series.

Snow White” is a nineteenth-century German fairy tale which is today known widely across the Western world. The Brothers Grimm published it in 1812 in the first edition of their collection Grimms’ Fairy Tales. It was titled in German: Sneewittchen. The fairy tale features such elements as the magic mirror, the poisoned apple, the glass coffin, matricide, filicide, and the characters of the Evil Queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother, the huntsman, a beautiful princess named Snow White in a sleeping enchantment, a handsome prince and the Seven Dwarfs.

It starts with a Queen sewing at an open window during a winter snowfall when she pricks her finger with her needle, causing three drops of red blood to drip onto the freshly fallen white snow on the black windowsill. Then, she says to herself, “How I wish that I had a daughter that had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony.” Some time later, the Good Queen gives birth to a baby daughter whom she names Snow White.

A year later, Snow White’s father, the King, takes a second wife, who is very beautiful, but a wicked and vain woman. The new queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother, possesses a Magic Mirror, which she asks every morning, “mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” The mirror always replies: “My Queen, you are the fairest one of all.” The Queen is always pleased with that, because the magic mirror never lies. But as Snow White grows up, she becomes more beautiful each day and even more beautiful than the Queen, until the mirror states “My Queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than you.”

This angers the Queen who becomes envious, and turns against Snow White. Eventually, the angry Queen orders a huntsman to take Snow White into the deepest woods to be killed. As proof that Snow White is dead, the Queen demands that he returns with her lungs and liver. The huntsman takes Snow White into the forest. After raising his knife, he finds himself unable to kill her and he spares her life. Snow White is told that her stepmother wants her dead and to get far away from the kingdom as possible.

After wandering through the forest, Snow White discovers a tiny cottage belonging to a group of Seven Dwarfs. Since no one is at home, she eats some of the tiny meals, drinks some of their wine, and then tests all the beds. Finally, the last bed is comfortable enough for her and she falls asleep. When the Seven Dwarfs return home, they immediately become aware that someone snuck in secretly, because everything in their home is in disorder. During their loud discussion about who snuck in, they discover the sleeping Snow White. She wakes up and explains to them what happened, and the Seven Dwarfs take pity on her and let her stay with them in exchange for housekeeping. They warn her to be careful when alone at home and to let no one in when they are away delving in the mountains.

Meanwhile, the Queen asks her mirror once again: “Magic mirror in my hand, who is the fairest in the land?” The mirror replies: “My queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White beyond the mountains at the Seven Dwarfs is a thousand times more beautiful than you”. The Queen is horrified to learn that the huntsman has betrayed her and that Snow White is still alive. So She plans to get rid of Snow White herself by disguising herself as an old peddler. The Queen then walks to the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs and offers her colorful, silky laced bodices and convinces Snow White to take the most beautiful laces as a present. Then the Queen laces her up so tightly that Snow White faints, causing the Queen to leave her for dead. But the Seven Dwarfs return just in time, and Snow White revives when the Seven Dwarfs loosen the laces.

The Queen then consults her Magic Mirror again, and the mirror reveals Snow White’s survival. Now infuriated, the Queen dresses as a comb seller and convinces Snow White to take a beautiful comb as a present. She brushes Snow White’s hair with the poisoned comb and the girl faints again. Luckily She is revived by the Seven Dwarfs when they remove the comb from her hair. The Magic Mirror tells the Queen that Snow White is still “a thousand times more beautiful”. So in a third attempt to rid herself of Snow White, the Queen secretly consults the darkest magic and makes a poisoned apple. Disguised as a farmer’s wife, she offers it to Snow White. The girl is at first hesitant to accept it, so the Queen cuts the apple in half, eating the white (harmless) half and giving the red (poisoned) half to Snow White. The girl eagerly takes a bite and falls into a state of suspended animation. This time, the Seven Dwarfs are unable to revive Snow White and Assuming that she is dead, they place her in a glass casket.

A prince traveling through the land sees Snow White and is Enchanted by her beauty and instantly falls in love with her. The Seven Dwarfs let him have Snow Whites coffin, then a piece of poisoned apple falls from between her lips and Snow White awakens saying “Where am I?” The Prince then declares his love for her and proposes and Snow White accepts. Meanwhile the wicked stepmother again asks her Magic Mirror who is the fairest in the land. The mirror says: “Thou, lady, art loveliest here, I ween; but lovelier far is the new-made Queen”. So she visits the Queen unaware that the new Queen is in fact Snow White

The story was adapted by storyboard artists Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears and Webb Smith. David Hand was the supervising director, while William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen directed the film’s individual sequences. In 1989 It was added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. It was one of two animated films to rank in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films of all time in 1997 (the other being Disney’s Fantasia), ranking number 49. It reached number 34 in the list’s 2007 revision, this time being the only traditionally animated film on the list. The AFI named the film as the greatest American animated film of all time in 2008.

The Winter Solstice

The Winter solstice occurs annually on 21st of December in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the time at which the Sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon it usually occurs on December 21 to 22 each year in the Northern Hemisphere, Which also corresponds to the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Conversely the time at which the Sun is at its northernmost point in the sky in the southern hemisphere corresponds to The Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere and the Summers Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, this usually occurs annually between June 20 to 21 each year.

The axial tilt of the Earth and gyroscopic effects of the planet’s daily rotation tends to keep the axis of rotation pointed at the same point in the sky. As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the same hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in Six months time, face towards the Sun and experience summer.

Since the two hemispheres face opposite directions along the planetary pole, as one polar hemisphere experiences winter, the other experiences summer. Winter Solstice is more evident from high latitudes, where it occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest. Since the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as “midwinter”, “the longest night”, “the shortest day” or “the first day of winter”. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most Northern Hemisphere cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.