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Archive for December, 2011

Okay, so I am a Messiah dork. A scratchy LP recording of Handel’s oratorio with Eugene Ormandy, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was played over and over again in our house every December. That was the beginning of my dorkdom, but it wasn’t the end of it. Not by a long shot.

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Christmas Wreath

This is an amplified and expanded version of something I wrote a couple of years ago.

On Christmas Eve of 1984, my first in San Francisco, I found myself at the home of a close friend’s new boyfriend (I’ll call him “Daniel”), enjoying a little “pre-party,” prelude to a celebratory night of clubbing. While we sipped his elegantly crafted cocktails Daniel began to spin a web of enchantment, sharing with us some of his favorite memories of the season. Bittersweet to heartwarming to hilarious, Daniel’s stories of Christmases past tumbled out one on top of another, creating an almost palpable atmosphere which was nearly visible and wholly hypnotic. I was transfixed. What a magical Christmas Eve this is turning out to be, I remember thinking.

I had no idea.

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My family connection to this story is gossamer thin, so this is really more “history” than “family history.” But since it’s a nice story for the season, and largely unknown, I offer it here.

Several years ago, when Rockefeller Center began what has since become a traditional part of Christmas in New York City they paid tribute to what they called “the only two true Christmas carols composed in America,” O Little Town of Bethlehem by the Rev. Phillip Brooks, and Far, Far Away on Judea‘s Plains by John M. Macfarlane. Probably no one in the audience had heard of John M. Macfarlane…

John Menzies Macfarlane emigrated from Scotland in the 1850s and settled in a small village in the red rock desert of the American Southwest. Here’s the story of his Christmas carol.

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