Christmas Music

On iTunes I have 476 tracks identified as Christmas music. I’ve created a playlist with them that automatically drops a track off after it’s been played. At this writing I have all 476 left to hear this year.

The types of music vary widely from Classical to Country, Jazz and New Age, but include of course the usual standards of which I suppose Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is the archetype. (Of the 476 tracks, 12 are in fact versions of “White Christmas” including two copies of Bing.)

I have a lot of favorites. I grew up in Catholic schools, so am nostalgic when I hear the carols, and have several albums of guitar covers by artists like John Fahey and Eric Williams. I particularly like Christmas in Santa Fe by Ruben Romero & Robert Notkoff, Winter Dreams by R. Carlos Nakai & William Eaton and Navidad Cubana by Cuba L.A. — it gets you dancing around the old árbol de Navidad.

And no collection is complete without Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.

But when it comes down to it, this may be my favorite. It’s an OK video but the point is to enjoy Clyde McPhatter tenor and Bill Pinkney’s bass.

Updated and reposted from years past.


Farolitos

Those bags with sand and candles that are a New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition; the correct name for them is farolitos.

Often farolitos are called luminarias. Lumanarias traditionally were actually small bonfires.

Farolitos (literally “little lanterns”) replaced lumanarias (“altar lamps”) as towns became more densely populated. The purpose of both was to light the path to midnight mass.

Farolitos are the coolest Christmas decoration ever, especially when whole neighborhoods line their sidewalks, driveways and even roof-lines with them. (Electric versions are common and can be found throughout the season. The real deal are candles and displayed only on Christmas Eve.)

Buy some sand (for ballast), some votive candles and some lunch bags and bring a beautiful New Mexico Christmas Eve tradition to your neighborhood this year. Get your neighbors to join you. You could become famous if it’s never been done in your area. And the kids love it.


Thinking About Columbus Day

I am well aware of the feelings among many American Indians about Columbus Day. One Lakota woman who worked for me used to ask if she could come in and work on Columbus Day, a federal holiday.

My feeling though is that we can’t have enough holidays and so I choose to think of Columbus Day as the Italian-American holiday. Nothing wrong with that. We have an African-American holiday on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. We have the Irish-American celebration that is St. Patrick’s Day. And Cinco de Mayo is surely the Mexican-American holiday, a much larger celebration here than in most of Mexico.

So, instead of protesting Columbus Day, perhaps American Indians should organize and bring about a holiday of their very own. Given the great diversity among Indian nations (and, lets face it, a proclivity for endless debate), the tribes might never reach agreement, though, so I will suggest a date.

The day before Columbus Day.


Decoration Day

In 1868, Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

The first national celebration of the holiday took place May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. Originally known as Decoration Day, at the turn of the century it was designated as Memorial Day. In many American towns, the day is celebrated with a parade.

In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended the honor to all soldiers who died in American wars. A few states continue to celebrate Memorial Day on May 30.

Library of Congress