Dec. 24, 1999
The Wind in the Willows, a carol from
Poem: "Carol" from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham.
It’s the birthday of Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold, born in Laleham on the Thames, England (1822). He was professor of poetry at Oxford, inspector of schools in England for many years, and author of the famous poem, "Dover Beach."
On this day in 1871, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida had its first performance, in Cairo, Egypt. It had been commissioned by the local ‘Khedive’[kuh-DEEV]who ruled Egypt as viceroy for the Sultan of Turkeyto inaugurate the city’s new opera house, built to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal.
It’s the birthday of cartoonist and author (John Barton) ‘Johnny’ Gruelle [grew-ELL], born in Arcola, Illinois (1880)who created the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy series based on a rag doll his daughter Marcella had found in the family attic.
On Christmas Eve in 1906, the first radio program was broadcast. Canadian-born Professor Reginald Aubrey Fessenden sent his signals from the 420-foot radio tower of the National Electric Signal Company, at Brant Rock on the Massachusetts seacoast. Fessenden opened the program by playing "O Holy Night" on the violin. Later he recited verses from the Gospel of St. Luke, then broadcast a gramophone version of Handel’s "Largo." His signal was received up to 5 miles away.
Today is Christmas Eve, once called the Vigil of Christmasin religious terms, the culmination of the pre-Christmas Advent season, which began 4 weeks ago. Many denominations have midnight services: a ‘communion service’ for Episcopalians; a ‘vigil’ for Eastern Orthodox churches; and the Catholic midnight masswhich in former times was called, in Latin, a missa in nocte [MEE-sah in NOKE-tay], or "mass at night." (This mass is the first of 3 Christmas masses priests are permitted to say, and isor used to be, in more formal daysa resplendent service, with the celebrant arrayed in white and gold vestments.) The timing of midnight services reflects the belief that Jesus was born near that hour. Protestants sometimes celebrate Christmas Eve at midnight, but more often hold a vesper service earlier in the evening. Evergreen and poinsettias typically decorate churches; candles are lit; excerpts from Frederick Handel’s Messiah are performed; Christmas carols are sung; and often a re-enactment of the Nativity story is presented with young children playing some or all of the holy family, shepherds, livestock, and Wise Men bearing gifts. In many European countries, Christmas Eve is the main focus of the holiday season, and includes the opening of gifts. In Denmark, a bowl of rice and milk is often left out to appease the Christmas gnomea tiny bearded old-timer wearing gray, with a red pointed cap, who lives in the attic and decides which residents should be awarded good or bad luck. In France and Italy, setting out a family crèche [cresh] or presepio [pray- SAPE-yoh]a manger scene complete with angels, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, farmyard animals, and shepherdsis a traditional Christmas Eve event. The French often follow midnight mass with a ‘reveillon’ [reh-vay-OH], or late supper.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®