Hoping for Peace in Our Time: Wishes For a Wonderful New Year!

Dove of Peace: Pablo Picasso, Lithograph (1949)

There is so much to be grateful for! Best wishes to all for a Wonderful, Happy and Healthy New Year! God bless us everyone!

Playing For Change: Song Around the World – “Stand By Me”

Glee’s Very Extraordinar Holiday Spectacular!

The Glee Holiday Spectacular!

Imagine flipping through the television channels and you turned on Glee’s Extraordinary Merry Christmas, expecting a group of rambunctious teenagers covering a number of holiday pop songs, but instead you get a black-and-white homage to Judy Garland’s 1963 Christmas Special, complete with laugh tracks, a Luke Skywalker lookalike (including a lightsaber) and an Irish holiday elf!

Well, this Glee Christmas program was every bit as strange as it sounds, but maybe in today’s times it takes a show like this to spread holiday cheer and inspire the gift of giving.

The Glee Holiday Spectacular!

(Best Watched in Full-Screen Mode)

The Glee Cast: Do They Know It’s Christmas?

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It Was The Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas

It Was The Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas

The Night Before Christmas was originally a 1968 Animated Christmas Television Special, with background music provided by the Norman Luboff Choir.  It was shown regularly for about 10 years as a holiday special, but has since disappeared from television.  The classic holiday animated short film tells the heartwarming true story of how Clement C. Moore came to write the Christmas poem beloved by generations of children, and includes a joyous retelling of the charming A Visit from St. Nicholas.

In the film, Clement Moore goes on a short trip just before Christmas to give a series of lectures at a university, and he promises to get his daughter Charity a storybook about Santa Claus for Christmas while he is away.  Charity develops pneumonia while he’s gone, and the doctor says she might not survive.  When Clement arrives back home, he’s distraught to see his beloved daughter near death.  Making things even worse, he hadn’t found any books about Santa Claus when he went shopping, and even through her fever she’s asking for one.  Feeling that he had broken his promise, he decides to write a story of his own and read it to her; it is the story which became A Visit from St. Nicholas.

The Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas (1968)

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: Even Miracles Need a Hand!

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: Even Miracles Need a Hand!

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a 1974 animated short film, originally a television Christmas special based on Clement Moore’s famous 1823 poem that opens with this line. For some unexplained reason, all the letters sent to Santa Claus are being returned to the children of Junctionville. It seems that some disenchanted resident of the small town has angered Santa, calling Christmas nothing but “a fraudulent myth!” The skeptical resident turns out to be little mouse Albert, who has to be brought to his senses. The way in which Albert is persuaded to change his tune paves the way for Santa’s jolly return to Junctionville and the joyous finale of this charming animated fable.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: Even Miracles Need a Hand!

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The Snowman: A Magical Journey of Adventure, Friendship, Death and Loss

The Snowman: A Magical Journey of Adventure, Friendship, Death and Loss

The Snowman is a magical, classic animated short film directed by Dianne Jackson, based on the best-selling children’s story by Raymond Briggs. The film premiered on the United Kingdom’s BBC Channel 4 on Christmas Eve 1982, and has aired every year since then. The Snowman won the 1983 BAFTA TV Award for Best Chilcren’s Program and was nominated for a 1983 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

The Snowman tells the wordless story of a young boy whose snowman comes to life on Christmas Eve and takes him on a series of adventures, only to melt into nothingness by dawn of the next day. It is a beloved holiday tradition; for many children of the 1970s and 1980s it was the first program they ever saw that addressed the issues of death and loss.

The Snowman: A Magical Journey of Adventure, Friendship, Death and Loss

A sequel to the silent Christmas classic The Snowman, titled The Snowman and the Snowdog, is scheduled to air this Monday on BBC’s Channel 4, more than 30 years after the original film’s premiere.

A Sequel to The Snowman: The Snowman and the Snowdog

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The Christmas Bell Ringer: Gimme Yer Darn Money!

The Christmas Bell Ringer: Gimme Yer Darn Money!

The Bell Ringer is a humorously delightful animated short film created by Royale, a motion design and production studio in Los Angeles. The film was launched as part of Royale’s interactive holiday site, raising funds for The American Red Cross Disaster Relief in support of those affected by Superstorm Sandy. At the heart of the 25-day fundraising effort is the animated short about Edith, a sweet old lady who sets up shop on a busy street corner to raise money for charity.

Edith, the altruistic bell ringer, embarks on her holiday mission in a faraway land on a wintry city sidewalk. After many fruitless attempts at ringing in the spirit of giving, Edith becomes so frustrated that she angrily hurls her bell at the next uncaring passerby, which causes a coin to curiously bounce her way. Ignored yet again, she throws her bell at another passerby, this time yielding even more coins. Soon, Edith’s red canister is brimming with wads of paper money and a pile of coins, even a shiny engagement ring. The film’s ending reveals a knockout surprise for a noble cause.

The Christmas Bell Ringer: Gimme Yer Darn Money!

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Down on the Bowery: A Fairytale of New York

Down on the Bowery: A Fairytale of New York

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl: Fairy Tale of New York

Some people feel that The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is the best Christmas song ever, and not just one of the best, but a gorgeous song no matter why or how you observe Christmas. Fairytale of New York isn’t exactly the epitome of restraint, with Shane MacGowan and the sadly departed Kirsty MacColl singing all over each other, slurring words and tossing all kinds of insults at each other.

The song starts out tenderly, with MacGowan recounting Christmas Eve spent in a Bowery drunk tank, but also his recent gambling win and dreams for the future. MacColl lets us know, as the tempo picks up, that they met on a Christmas Eve, and after some light banter they really get into it, blaming each other for anything they can get their hands on, MacColl ending with “Happy Christmas your arse / I pray God it’s our last.

But then they sing the chorus again, and a string section that actually sounds like it belongs in a Christmas song begins to take over. And it all feels, in spite of itself, grand and sweeping and even a little touching. They squabble a little more, the same as every Christmas, but they’re losing steam; finally MacColl accuses MacGowan of stealing her dreams when they met. This is a terribly poetic way to depict the deadening of expectations in terrible lives. But MacGowan’s voice turns gentle, even though it’s still rough, and he responds: “I kept them with me babe, I put them with my own, Can’t make it all alone, I’ve built my dreams around you.”

It’s a tough old life, and Fairytale of New York practically oozes with the gritty spirit of urban decay, poverty, alcoholism and general dysfunction. But as the sounds of those strings float off and out of sight, it doesn’t seem to matter. Not to them and not to us, because it’s the day to sigh and give in to our better inclinations and hold each other and admit there’s still something there. Christmas is the arbitrary day of the year that purely through willpower and tradition we’ve turned into the day where we all try just a little bit harder at being better than we thought we could be.

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl: Fairy Tale of New York

Slide Show: Down on the Bowery

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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