sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

December 15, 2019


virtual advent tour 2019: day 15
posted by soe 6:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2019

Welcome back to the Virtual Advent Tour!

Before I send you off today I wanted to acknowledge that today is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent. Here is “Gaudete” from Erasure, which might be a little more synth-heavy than you’re used to:

Behind Door #15 we have a post from Constance at Staircase Wit, who shares a game that her family plays with their Christmas gifts.

See you back here tomorrow!

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December 14, 2019


virtual advent tour 2019: day 14
posted by soe 6:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2019

Earlier this month, I gave you recommendations for holiday movies from the 20th century that I like. Today, I’ll share ten from the first two decades of this century.

They are in no particular order.

  1. The Holiday (2006): Two women, one in L.A. and one in an English village and both reeling from heartbreak, trade homes at Christmas and find what they need most.
  2. Love Actually (2003): A series of interconnected London romances coalesce through the holiday season, culminating on Christmas Eve.
  3. The Polar Express (2004): A boy, teetering on the edge of no longer believing in Santa Claus, takes a train to the North Pole, ultimately discovering faith in the unseen, yet still known.
  4. Elf (2003): A man, raised by an elf in the North Pole, moves to New York City, in search of a relationship with his birth father, a high-powered ad executive. This is Will Ferrell at his funniest.
  5. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017): A fictionalized version of Charles Dickens, teetering on the edge of personal and fiscal crisis, is haunted by the ghosts of the characters who will come together to form the cast of A Christmas Carol.
  6. Arthur Christmas (2011): In this animated tale, Santa’s bumbling, but well-intentioned younger son, must fix a misdelivery in time to save Christmas for a little girl while overcoming a series of misadventures involving reindeer and his grandfather.
  7. The Santa Clause 2 (2008): In the second of the Santa Clause trilogy, Santa discovers there’s a second clause and that he must find a wife or forfeit the job.
  8. A Christmas Prince (2017): In this Netflix film, a journalist goes undercover in a fictional European nation as a governess to get the scoop on the heir to the throne, but she discovers a much more personally interesting story. (There are two sequels, the newest of which I haven’t yet seen, that continue the saga.)
  9. The Man Who Saved Christmas (2002): Based on a true story, a Connecticut toymaker, whose factory is requisitioned during WWI petitions the government to let him resume making toys to bring joy to the nation’s children during wartime.
  10. The Christmas Chronicles (2018): In this Netflix film, two siblings’ attempt to photograph Santa on Christmas Eve go off the rails, taking them on an adventure that results in Santa’s imprisonment and one of the most joyful jail-cell jams in cinematic history.

Are there any Christmas movies from the past 20 years that you particularly love?

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December 13, 2019


virtual advent tour 2019: day 13
posted by soe 6:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2019

Welcome back to the Virtual Advent Tour! You’re back with me for the next couple of days.

Today is Friday the 13th, and I briefly thought about looking up things that people consider superstitious about Christmas to tie in with the date. After all, superstitions are a form of odd tradition, and this holiday in particular is steeped in customs. But then I decided that I’m not especially superstitious about Christmas (although I might consider it bad luck indeed if my holiday season didn’t include certain things), so I forewent the topic. But I did think it was interesting to consider for a few minutes. Do you have Christmas-related superstitions?

Instead, I’m taking you on another photo tour, this time of the Macy’s windows. I love taking pictures of the ones here in D.C. every year, but since the week before Thanksgiving found me in the Big Apple just after the big unveiling, I decided to head to the flagship store — the inspiration for Miracle on 34th Street — and give you a tour of their windows.

Macy's NYC Flagship Store at Christmas

These are not the best shots I’ve ever taken, so apologies for that. But I do think they give you a flavor of this year’s display.

Macy's NYC Flagship Store Christmas Windows

Macy's NYC Flagship Store Christmas Windows

This year’s theme centers around a little girl who wants to be Santa Claus.

Macy's NYC Flagship Store Christmas Windows

Macy's NYC Flagship Store Christmas Windows

The windows in New York offered a lot of opportunity for interaction, which I assume would be hard to pull off at their other locations. But the features were very popular with tourists, who could make Willow the dog scratch its nose or collect gifts in a video game-like environment.

Macy's NYC Flagship Store Christmas Windows

Macy's NYC Flagship Store Christmas Windows

My photos don’t accurately depict the motion of the windows, but I hope they give you a sense of their whimsy.

Macy's NYC Flagship Store Christmas Windows

Macy's NYC Flagship Store Christmas Windows

I’d hoped to push this post off until I had a chance to get over to the Holidays on Display exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, but as we’re halfway through the month, I’m a little worried I won’t get to the museum until it’s too late to share with you here.

See you back here tomorrow!

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pete’s, trimmed, and teamwork
posted by soe 1:20 am

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. Rudi, Sarah, and I went out for pizza at our favorite D.C. pizza joint last Saturday. The owner of the shop has publicly shared he’s considering moving to Colorado, and none of the shop’s social media pages have been updated in more than six months, so if they suddenly decide to close up shop in the middle of the night, at least we all enjoyed one last pie from them.

2. Rudi helped me finish decorating the Christmas tree the night before he left for Salt Lake City. This tree, which I bought for $20 in Connecticut, had a lot of bare patches in the middle, which might have been a turn-off for some people. It was very obvious when there was nothing on the tree but lights and would have remained so if I’d had a paucity of decorations. But empty space lends itself to dangly ornaments, and the tree has a lot of strong branches to hang heavier ones from, so now you’d be hard-pressed to notice the gaps.

3. Various people on my volleyball team have played together since last spring (four of us from one team, and three from another), but this is the first time the entire team has said they’d like to play together again in the next season. I keep getting emails from them as they sign up for the winter league. I’ve liked various teams I’ve played with before, but this group of folks is the first one that I’ve considered friends.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world lately?

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December 12, 2019


virtual advent tour 2019: day 12
posted by soe 6:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2019

Happy mid-Advent! Today is the 12th, which puts us squarely halfway through the season!

Today the Virtual Advent Tour travels across my living room (and several states, since he’s currently in Utah) to Rudi’s blog, randomduck. Rudi’s post focuses on one of his favorite Christmas songs, a standard popularized in a film 75 years ago, and why it feels particularly resonant this year.

See you back here tomorrow.

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December 11, 2019


virtual advent tour 2019: day 11
posted by soe 6:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2019

Season’s Greetings! Today is the 11th day on our Virtual Advent Tour. With only two weeks until Christmas Day, I hope your planning is going well and that you are managing to fit in fun amidst the chores. Rudi and I finished decorating our tree tonight while watching an old Yogi Bear/Hanna-Barbera special, and I dug the Christmas cards out yesterday, with the hopes that I can spend some time writing them while Rudi’s out of town for the next week.

Behind today’s door is a post from DOD, my dear old dad, who has once again provided us with some interesting facts about one of our favorite Christmas traditions — music:

Two More for the Ages

It’s always been interesting to me how a song evolves from classical or popular music to become one of the Christmas season’s classics. And we already know that you are not required to write about Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Wise Men, Shepherds, or mangers to have your song be accepted and loved at Christmas time. Having Googled “Christmas songs that don’t necessarily refer to Christmas,” the category and number seem to vary in the area between 12 and 20. Most music fans could readily identify songs such as Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” made popular as a holiday song by Arthur Feidler and the Boston Pops, singer/cowboy Gene Autry’s “Frosty the Snowman,” written by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson, and, of course, “Jingle Bells,” a tune James Lord Pierpont, a church organist who was tasked by his minister dad to write a little ditty for Thanksgiving Service (and which of us hasn’t been so tasked).

While it’s tough to say why a song becomes popular enough to move into the Christmas category and be viewed with sanctified awe and respect, we do readily accept those moves. Look what we have accomplished with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” But I digress. I actually have two songs that did not fall into any of the Google informative paragraphs, but which, if you look into information about either, you will find that those two songs have been accepted as Christmas tunes. Thought I’d run some thoughts by you to see whether you concur. The songs are presents — one each — from the 50’s and 60’s. One came to pop music from folk music and the other from the pop format. Both became increasingly popular through singers of country music, but I would expect to hear either song on any Christmas music-formatted radio station between Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Although both tunes list a composer and a lyricist, words count, so we’ll be writing about the person who gave us the pleasure of singing along.

In 1957, the Lennon Sisters (Lawrence Welk’s very own) recorded and released a song about a shopper who overhears a little girl standing outside the window of a toy store. The girl is enthralled by a dolly whose sales card reads, Shake me I rattle, squeeze me I cry. Please take me home and love me. While the song does not mention the Christmas season, you should know that it was snowing. The woman recalls an earlier time when she herself was looking in a toy store window at a doll and was a penny short of the price. We don’t know whether she was able to negotiate the purchase, but the woman goes into the shop and buys the doll and sends it home with the little girl. Regrettably, the Lennon Sisters didn’t make the charts with the song. However, in 1963, Marion Worth recorded the song and it made it to the pop charts up to #42. A decade later, Cristy Lane resurrected the song which made it to #16 on the country music charts. Three decades of successful recordings. And Cristy Lane added it to both of her Christmas albums.

“Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry)” has lyrics by Hal Hackady (1922–2015) who was born in Middletown, CT, and graduated from Wesleyan University. He went on to a career writing tv shows (GE Theater) and Broadway shows (Snoopy, the Musical). He wrote the song “Just One Person” for Snoopy and it was a favorite of the Muppets. It was sung at the funeral of Jim Henson and again in the tv tribute show to Henson. Both performances are available on YouTube, but be prepared to be affected. Hackady sure could write some sensitive music.

On to song 2.


In 1949, Jack Segal (1918–2015) from Minneapolis, Minnesota, spent 15 minutes dashing off a lovely little ballad, “Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair).” Very popular singer Jo Stafford recorded the song in January, 1950, but it didn’t go anywhere. (Some may surmise that it just missed the Christmas season. Could be, could be.) The song sat around the office for a couple of years until Harry Belafonte recorded the tune in 1952. (Yes, Harry also gave rise to Jester Hariston’s “Mary’s Boy Child” later in his career and not part of this story.) “Scarlet Ribbon” was released in 1954 and started its way into our hearts. In 1959, a country group, the Browns, recorded/released the song in November, 1959, just in time for you-know-what holiday. They took the song to #13 on the pop charts and #7 on the country music charts. If you are the person who is not familiar with the song, it describes the plight of a dad who overhears his daughter’s bedtime prayer in which she asks for scarlet ribbons for her hair. Poor day. All of the stores are closed and shuttered — not like these days, eh? — and while he drives around and searches for some ribbons, he finds none. He goes home, peeks in her room and there on her bed are a profusion of scarlet ribbons. He has no idea where they came from, but obviously as a good member of the dad club, he accepts the appearance of the ribbons and knows how happy it will make his daughter. No kidding, I can almost feel those tears welling up now.

The song has been recorded by at least 50 artists; it’s been in tv shows (Wayne Newton sang it on Bonanza), and it was sung by one of the musical acts in something Brian Epstein called Another Beatles’ Christmas Eve Show in 1964. Other artists who have added it to a Christmas album include Burl Ives, Patti Page, Jim Reeves, Michael Crawford, Cliff Richard and Celtic Thunder. If that doesn’t make you want to put it in your next Christmas album, I’ll be surprised.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


Merry Christmas, DOD, and thanks for taking part again in this year’s Tour. I always learn so much from the posts you write.

We’ll see you back here tomorrow.

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