Friday, December 23, 2011

EscalatorYule: Stave 5 - "X" Games, Flavored Nuts, and The Fabbest Christmas Yet

I gotta admit folks, I simply don't get how "Xmas" is taking the Christ out of Christmas. Sure, sure - there's an obvious grammatical difference - but if you actually believe that it's going to change the meaning of the holiday, then you might have other things to worry about.

Look, I'm not the most devout of the folks I know, I've always been of a more spiritual mindset than one felt bound by religious tactility. However, I love Christmas. Keep loving Christmas. Will always love Christmas. I know where it comes from, I know the story behind it, and always acknowledge from whence Christmas got its name. You can't not acknowledge that - no matter how commercial the holiday gets, even when it seems overrun by overnight sales and keeping up with the Joneses - all this flurry and fuss began because we remember the birthday of a man whom did great things and brought joy to many people worldwide. I'm not talking about Santa Claus here.

No matter what your belief in the Jesus story happens to be (and, as we've read "judge not, lest ye be...") - I don't think anyone can ignore where the traditions of the modern holiday originate. Over 2000 years, of course, every story gets mangled, manipulated, expanded, redacted and re-circulated - it becomes an evolving tale.

The use of the letter X in place of the name Christ has it's origins over ten centuries ago. In Greece, X is the symbol for "Chi" - the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. According to Wikipedia (because Encyclopedias, even online ones - are pretty good about knowing stuff):

"Around 1100 the term was written as "Xp̄es m├Žsse" in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle"

Also, a slightly different version, one of my favorites - "X'temmas" - is popularized around 1551.

All I'm saying is that faith, history, and guidance are not something that can be altered by an advertising sign or cardboard decoration. Everyone knows, even Santa, that of all the traditional celebrations that occur throughout so many different religions and cultures at this time of year - Christmas is the headline grabbing show-stopper. Do we really think that it's origins will be forgotten through an alternate spelling?

Many folks even tend to see the X itself as a symbol of the cross on which the story of Jesus life ends. Doesn't that seem like the perfect way to close a circle?

(And it should give you pause to think about that other group of rebels with supernatural powers - the X-Men...Merry Christmas, comic geek.)

I'm a fan of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker". I think a lot of people are; unless you are one of the unfortunate children whom had to be in the chorus of a play or ballet version of the show - in which case you spent a lot of time backstage being hot in your costume that would almost always get wrinkled by the time to got to have your 30 seconds in the light while dancing across stage during a costume change for Drosselmeyer or something, in which case I feel sympathy for your very soul.

Where was I? Oh yes. The Nutcracker. Man, did that Pyotr know how to write or what? For me, the strength of a song is not only how good the original sounds, but also how malleable the music tends to be. A great song can lend itself to all genres of music. The Nutcracker Suite is proof of this. Even though it was written at a time when there were very few genres to actually lend to.

Thank goodness, technology allows us to examine some of the differences and similarities that make music so cool. This piece has always been a holiday favorite of mine - and I always enjoy finding new versions of bits from Tchakovskys amazing musical. Here are a few:

I want to start with Duke Ellington, not only one of the coolest cats ever to record, but with a great "behind the scenes" promo clip for his record company -

But, you say you're more of a traditionalist? Well, how about a classical version, with visual accompaniment by Walt and Company-

Of course, I'm a fan of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's Christmas pieces (they have a few). I really dig their take on B. Bumble and The Stinger's "Nut Rocker" -

I also enjoy the Brian Setzer Orchestras take on the Les Brown arrangement. All the greatest hits of The Nutcracker rolled into one:

These sweet Nutcracker clips could go on and on, but I know you've got things to do - so here's just one more from the Duke-

That should fill your eyes and ears for the day. Ahhh, but this is the holidays - why not have a little extra? Herewith: we end this installment of EscalatorYule with a hefty dessert of Beatle Christmas Pudding - Bon Appetit!

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - North Pole A/V Squad
Professor Hinkle - Bad Magician
Burgermeister - Meisterburger

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