Saturday, December 24, 2011

Marley was dead.

 The season of the ghost is now upon us. Again? I've written about this before, of the uncanny connection between the Christmas holiday and the day which is the reason for this blog existing. The progression is a natural, if not often thought of one; All Hallow's Eve is celebrated on the verge of the major change, the summer's abundance ending, with the fear and knowledge that the end is coming, the nights growing longer, on the ever chilling wind. Halloween leads into the season where our weather is (in climates which allow) the coldest, the most severe, the darkest. And this is where Christmas happens.

 Christmas itself is a study in contrast. What is generally celebrated as the feast of light, good-will and peace among women and men happens in the dead of winter, when the earth and world are barren and frozen. Families travel to be together during the times of the year which can bring the harshest weather for traveling, and there is a mad rush to give-- to others, our family and friends.

 I think Charles Dickens lighted onto this concept of what Christmas was, and penned "A Christmas Carol." For the modern world, it's hard to imagine a Christmas season without "A Christmas Carol"-- whether in the original novella form, or the numerous film and television adaptations the classic has seen. What would appear the definitive story about the celebration of Christmas is, frankly, a story where a miserable man is literally haunted by Christmas personified as actual, from-the-grave ghosts. In other words, "A Christmas Carol" is about a man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is so miserable and cold to the world he lives in Christmas sees no choice but to terrify him, and shake him out of his wicked ways. While Scrooge is alive, his soul is dead. And while his ex-business partner Marley is dead, he returns to Scrooge with a message more alive than the both of them.

 It would appear Mr. Scrooge needed a little Halloween to show him what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

 What works so perfectly about the tale is that Christmas is so full of ghosts-- the ghosts of our past, our childhood, those and that which have come before. The year-ending season is a time to stop. And think. About the Christmases of the past- who was with us, what we might have done, and what we may have wished we had done. While Marley serves as a frightening specter to Scrooge because, in life, Scrooge knew him, and now must witness the ghostly fright that is his existence after death-- the Ghost of Christmas Past haunts Scrooge (and us) because of the many forms the ghost takes. Often depicted as a candle, or with either a candle or candle-stopper, the ghost always haunts, fragile and fleeting, because she was here-- and will always remember. Never be able to be changed.

 Her successor, the Ghost of Christmas Present, was and has continued to be a manifestation of the modern Christmas spirit-- a very much St. Nicholas/Santa Claus type of spirit-- bearded, joyful and abundant in laughter, good will (and size.) But at the same time, the ghost is deeply reflective, offering biting critiques on society, in addition to his jovial nature. This ghost's haunting is different-- haunting to Scrooge and us all by making us aware of our surroundings-- the joy of the season, the suffering of the less fortunate in the world, like the Crachitt family. And lastly, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come haunts us when we think of the ghosts of the past, the ghosts of the present-- and what they mean if they remain unchanged. This ghost, nearly always depicted as a Grim Reaper or similarly hooded figure (and, in an original twist in the recent Disney animated adaptation, as simply a shadow never seen) scares-- or, rather, makes him aware-- Scrooge into the knowledge of the nature of his ways, by literally bringing him to the grave. Where all the memories of Christmases past and present will end, without opportunity to change them for the better.

 And so. While Christmas has become not only a Christian holiday, but developed a secular following and celebration around the season of giving gifts-- I wish you a Merry Christmas. And all the comes with it.

Happy haunting, if your need be.

Images: Behind the Thrills & Brett Helquist

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Missing October

 As the holly, the ivy and the mistletoe go up and the snow soon begins to fall, I thought I'd post a set of photos I took at Forest Lawn this past October.

 The following I took during the early afternoon of October 17. I had just discovered the different kinds of black and white options on my new camera, and enjoyed looking at old friends such as Silas Henry Fish, the Pratt monument and others through eyes of black and white.

 Part of me was torn between being able to capture Forest Lawn at it's most beautiful peak-- deep, bursting autumn oranges and reds and leaves--and capturing a different view, by using the black and white.

 The weather was a bit odd. The sun shone high and bright, while enormous gusts of wind rushed across the grass, taking leaves from the trees. All Hallow's Eve was only a few days away, and the cemetery was  extremely quiet. The only other person I saw was a Forest Lawn caretaker driving by.

You may view my Photo Album here:

Forest Lawn, 10-17-11 (Early afternoon wind, Black and White)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Merry Krampuslauf

I had no idea until earlier today of the legend of Krampus. A character seemingly more at home in the dark nights of October, the Krampus myth lives throughout the countries of the Alps. Legend has it, that Krampus travels with Saint Nicholas during the Christmas season-- giving warnings or punishments to children who have been bad, while Nicholas rewards the good with presents.

 Krampus, simply put, is one scary beast. Traditionally, he is depicted as a devil-like, horned demon creature. In some areas of the Alps, on December 5, young men will dress like Krampus and scare children by shaking bells and chains. Think of a more vengeful, angry, horned Marley's ghost hell-bent on terrorizing children.

Sounds just like Christmas to me. Or, how Christmas should be. I don't know about you, but if this creature came to my door, I'd be begging Saint Nicholas to just leave me coal.

 And here's some video from YouTube of what Krampus looks like and is, in modern times. I believe this will be the first in a series of posts that examines the many, shall we say, similarities between Christmas and the holiday I prefer.

If only we had Krampus in America.

YouTube User: MOSHV4L

Second Postcard Image via Derek Nobbs @ Anachronistic Decay