Booty from Christmas Past

Cross-posted from Livejournal


Shut up, you deviants. I mean Jack Sparrow-type booty. Arr…

In 2010, a chest o’treasure arrived in me mailbox from a pretty wench in a far-off land. A whole bundle of silly, fun things: most useful, all appreciated.

The tie was the most interesting of all. To look at, it’s just a nice Christmas-themed cravat (since I only have one other, this will be a fine addition next Yule season.) But on closer examination, there are bits and snatches of words running through the candy canes.

I could tell the writing extended through the candy canes onto the blue background, but it was impossible to see in normal light, especially with the reflection from the shiny silk. So I scanned it, hoping to bring out a bit of detail.

With a little contrast and gamma manipulation, I was able to get the words to come out a bit more (this is just a small section, and my working image was much larger):

What jumped out at me was “The Christmas Joy”, “around the year”, “spot”, and “frozen”. Doing a Google search on these words came up with one – and only one – hit, a poorly-scanned copy of Down Durley Lane and Other Ballads by Virginia Woodward Cloud, published in 1898(!), and illustrated by Reginald Bathurst Birch which included this poem, “Old Christmas”:

It’s a long way round the year, my dears,
A long way round the year.
I found the frost and flame, my dears,
I found the smile and tear!

The wind blew high on the pine-topp’d hill.
And cut me keen on the moor:
The heart of the stream was frozen still,
As I tapped at the miller’s door.

I tossed them holly in hall and cot,
And bade them right good cheer,
But stayed me not in any spot,
For I’d traveled around the year

To bring the Christmas joy, my dears,
To your eyes so bonnie and true;
And a mistletoe bough for you, my dears,
A mistletoe bough for you!

What a delightful, hidden, and serendipitous message!

Miraculous it was that these words were even clear in the transcription, because it was a raw optical-conversion, and much of the text came out as garbage. What’s more, Virginia Woodward Cloud is a rather obscure poet, not unlike Grace Noll Crowell, (whose works I had hunted for over a period of 40 years, only having success last year thanks to another deep internet search). So the odds of finding one of Cloud’s poems on a Christmas tie are pretty slim.

A bit more digging found a beautiful online, zoomable copy of the book – “Old Christmas” is on page 99.

And all this because I gave the wench a stale crust of bread…

The Old Wolf has spoken

A Christmas Quiz

I didn’t know a number of these interesting tidbits. How well will you do?

(Answers at End, no peeking)

1. What British monarch ordered ginger cakes made to resemble friends and family members the precursors of today’s gingerbread men?

2. In what country was the turkey first domesticated?

3. What traditional Christmas beverage takes its name from the Saxon word meaning “wish of health”?

4. How big was the turkey Scrooge bought for the Cratchits?

5. Dr. Joel Robert Poinsett brought the first “poinsettia” plant to the U.S. from Mexico in 1828. What was he?

6. Vaccinium macrocarpon is the botanical name for what Christmas-associated plant?

7. What did NASA workers sneak on board Apollo 8 as stocking-stuffers for their Christmas moon mission?

8. What is the most popular Christmastime dessert in Japan?

9. What are polkagris?

10. Mistletoe was used in pre-Christian times as…

11. Name the 3 Wise Men.

12. Who wrote the Bing Crosby hit “White Christmas”?

13. In “The Grinch that Stole Christmas”, was was the Grinch’s heart full of?

14. How many lights were used this year (2015) to illuminate the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in NYC?

15. In what year was Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” first published?

16. What did O.J. Simpson give Nicol Brown Simpson for Christmas in 1993?

17. What happened at the St. Nicholas church in Arnsdorf, Austria, in 1817 which prompted church organist Father Joseph Mohr and music teacher Franz Gruber to compose “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night)?

18. Why did the Massachussets Public Health Dept. issue a warning against kissing under the mistletoe in 1969?

19. What Christmas object did Edward Johnson invent in 1882?

20. In 1986, the Irish Rovers released a Christmas novelty song originally recorded by an American duo named Elmo and Patsy. Name that tune.

21. What country blocked the entry of Marie Osmond and The Pointer Sisters on Bob Hope’s 1990 holiday tour to entertain U.S. troops?

22. The first artificial (polyvinyl) Christmas trees made their appearance in which 20th-century decade?

23. Gene Autry’s association with the song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is well known, but the singing cowboy wrote and recorded another Christmas hit in 1949 which went on to be recorded by more than 300 other artists (including Elvis) and to sell more than 80 million copies. What was/is this famous song?

24. When/where did silver foil “icicles” first appeared?

25. Which of the following is St. Nicholas NOT associated with? A. children; B. thieves; C. scholars; D. virgins; E. musicians


  1. Queen Elizabeth 1
  2. Mexico
  3. Wassail
  4. Twice the size of Tiny Tim
  5. The first U.S. ambassador to Mexico
  6. The American cranberry
  7. Three bottles of brandy
  8. French style strawberry shortcake
  9. Swedish candy cane
  10. Being associated with fertility, it was supposed to be a cure for sterility
  11. Kaspar, Melchior, Balthazar
  12. Irving Berlin
  13. Dirty stockings
  14. 45,000 LED lights.
  15. 1843
  16. 6K diamond earrings
  17. The organ was broken; a mouse chewed the bellows (Silent Night was originally composed as an a cappella piece).
  18. To prevent a spread of mononucleosis.
  19. Christmas tree lights
  20. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”
  21. Saudi Arabia
  22. 1960s
  23. “Here Comes Santa Claus”
  24. In Germany, in the late 1870s.
  25. E

And to all a good night!

Innsbruck - Altstadt - Clock Tower at Christmas

Stadtturm, Innsbruck, Austria at Christmas

Christmas Videos – Alternative and Traditional

FNAR (for no apparent reason) I present you with some of my favorite songs regarding Christmastide.

The first, by Tom Lehrer, was sung in 1959. The inimitable Mr. Lehrer is now in his 80s, and I’d love to hear a song about what he thinks of today’s commercial Black Friday madness.

The next is Bob Rivers’ eternally -amusing “The Twelve Pains of Christmas”. Linguistic aside: I love the Jersey pronunciation of “terlet paper.”

My wife and I have always loved Tim Minchen, and his song “White Wine in the Sun,” while addressing the humanist slant on the holidays, has some powerful thoughts buried in there. It’s particularly poignant for me in terms of the focus on the importance of family.

Returning to the traditional, if you haven’t seen Pentatonix’ version of “Mary Did You Know,” I present it here for your enjoyment:

Lastly, a lovely version of “Christmas is a Feeling,” long one of my favorite Yuletide songs and sadly seldom recorded, with a message which I wish more people would embrace:

Wishing all people everywhere a joyous season of reflection, rededication, and renewal.


The Old Wolf has spoken.

Wizards in Winter: Taking it to the next level

In 2005, Carson Williams, a Mason, Ohio electician, decorated his home and synchronized it to the music “Wizards in Winter” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. A higher-quality version of the original video that was circulated by email can be seen below.

Not to be outdone, a neighborhood in Yucaipa, Calif. decided to one-up the Joneses, as it were, and got everyone on an entire block to come up with a similar synchronization. They recorded the result with a drone; it’s breathtaking, to say the least.

Paul Ó Neill, the creator of TSO, was moved. He told Billboard “We were incredibly honored and flattered when we first saw a house in Mason, Ohio, sync their lights to ‘Wizards In Winter,’ but to see a whole community band together and do something like this is beyond words. We only hope they don’t send us the electric bill!”

Here’s the neighborhood video:

This is one of my favorite pieces of music, largely as a result of the original video; I was delighted to see this evolution.

Probably not good for epileptics, though.

The Old Wolf has spoken.,