Tag Archives: Christmas

Let It Be A Quiet Christmas

In the North the snow is falling
Soon will come Christmas Day
But the news is so appalling
Only one thing I pray

Let it be a quiet Christmas
Let all the guns be still
Let it be a quiet Christmas
Lord, if it be Thy will
Please let it be Thy will

From the frozen streets of cities
To the deserts’ burning sands
Let all hearts be filled with pity
For those who suffer in every land

Let it be a quiet Christmas
Bid the bombers stand down
Let it be a quiet Christmas
In every village and town
In every village and town

In the camps and in the prisons
At the borders held fast
Bring an end to our divisions
Let the wars end at last

Let it be a quiet Christmas
Let the cries of pain cease
Let it be a quiet Christmas
Let the world know some peace
Lord, let us know some peace

O Come Ye Together

(with apologies to Lennon & McCartney)

here come that donkey
he carry pregnant woman
she got puzzled fiance
they go to Bethlehem
to pay their taxes cause he’s David’s kin
gotta stay outside cause there no room in the inn

here come the baby
he got swaddlin clothes now
he lay down in the manger
he ain’t got no stroller
he does not cry no he does not yell
sent down from heaven gonna go through some hell

o come ye together
right now
come and see

here come those angels
they sing alleluia baby
they got the sky lit up now
they got the shepherds freaked out
they say yo don’t be afraid
get down to bethlehem and check out this babe

o come ye together
right now
come and see

here come the shepherds
and a kid with a drum kit
here come the wise men bearin
gold myrrh and frankincense
peace on earth good will to all
First Christmas party was in a donkey stall

o come ye together
right now
come and see

Holiday Letter 2016 (Skip’s part only)

My wife & daughter have stronger senses of privacy that I do, so we generally don’t put our family holiday letter up on the Net, or even send it out as email. (You’re either on The List or you’re not.)

But this year, it so happened that I took up one side of the page all by myself, and I kinda don’t mind who knows what’s in it. This is because (a) there are a couple of links in there to stuff I feel is pretty important and could use some wider propagation, and (b) there’s nothing sensitive or particularly “private” about it…  So, if you’re interested, and you haven’t gotten your copy in the mail, check it out by clicking the link below – and if not, then “Happy Merries!” to you anyway!

Skip’s Holiday Letter 2016 (PDF)

Preme, virgo sancta, preme

Here is the text to a recently discovered, hitherto unknown Christmas motet, dating from the early 14th century. It is credited to a “Fra Lamazia,” who was apparently choirmaster at a church near Modena associated with the Sisters of the Most Blessed Womb of the Mother of God, otherwise known as the Uterine Sisters. (Some scholars suggest this text may be associated with the Fallopians, but the Fallopian order, though related to the Uterines, was not founded till the late 1500’s.)

The piece is developed in a polyphonic, overlapping style, with one part sometimes interrupting another. There are also marginal notes indicating where a solo voice emits different sounds, ranging from “a low growl” to an improvised “loud, piercing wail, ad libitum.”

Preme, Virgo Sancta, Preme (“Push, Holy Virgin, Push”)

o virgo beata
immaculata
cervix minime dilata

ubi est obstetrix
obstetrix vocata est
preme virgo sancta preme

spira spira spira

ecco nunc obstetrix adveniat

o virgo beata
immaculata
cervix nunc dilata

contractio maior
nunc incipit dolor

spira spira spira

contractiones celeriores
magnificantur tuo dolores

preme virgo sancta preme
preme virgo sancta preme

preme preme preme
spira spira spira
preme preme preme
spira spira spira

alleluia

THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FILES: A SLIGHTLY BETTER WORLD

My column for December 2016…

When we lived in Pittsburgh some 25 years ago, I stood in for St. Nicholas at a couple of corporate Christmas parties.Fake-bearded and properly pillowed (I was thinner then, and clean-shaven), I’d wander from table to table, inviting folks to share their holiday wishes. Rather than extravagant desires for Porsches and diamonds, I was gratified – and a little surprised, frankly – to hear folks express instead a general sense of contentment, and gratitude for their health, their families, and their friends.

I’d had some training from a temp agency that provided Santas to the various department stores around town. (They called their training program the “University of Santa Claus.”) There were a few basic rules – simple enough when you hear them, but not necessarily what you might think of yourself. I’ll share some of them here for any of you who might find yourselves doing Santa duty this year:

  • Keep a twinkle in your eye at all times.
  • Never let loose with a big “HO, HO, HO!!” – you might startle or even terrify a small child. Restrained chuckles will work just fine.
  • If a child does start crying, sympathize with them and gently return them to their adult – your attempts to make them stop will usually just make matters worse. You’re bigger than life, after all, and maybe a little intimidating, despite your twinkle. Keeping your good cheer about you, tell the adult the child may return ”whenever they’re ready.”
  • Never ask about a child’s “parents” – after all, you don’t know what their situation is.
  • Always refer to yourself as “Santa,” not “I” or “me” – for example, “Come talk to Santa!” or “What would you like to ask Santa today?”
  • And most importantly: NEVER promise ANYTHING – the best response is some variation on “Hmmm. Santa will see what he can do.”

So what would I say if Santa aimed his twinkly gaze at me and asked, “So, Skip – come tell Santa what you’d like this year”?

All I want for Christmas…? Well, I can’t say I’m content, exactly, though I am certainly grateful for the many blessings I’ve had in my life so far. There’s just one thing I’d wish for:

A slightly better world.

Liberals are sometimes criticized for harboring utopian beliefs in the “perfectibility” of humankind. It’s a theological and philosophical debate that goes all the way back to ancient Greece, and I’m certainly not going to try to rehash it all here. But our imperfectibility, I’d argue, while pretty obvious, is also no excuse for not trying to make things better… even if only slightly.

Let there be a slightly better world …

  • where it isn’t quite so easy to cause harm
  • where people are a little less reckless with themselves and each other
  • where facts have a bit more power than demagogues
  • where jerks don’t get rewarded just for being jerks
  • where simple kindness is the default choice
  • where it’s harder to make profit from war
  • where we have learned the meaning of “enough” and “too much”
  • where love is always natural and hate is always a disease
  • where we better understand the actual costs of things
  • where the laughter of children outweighs any item on any balance sheet

I hope that’s not too much to ask for … oh yes, I know: Santa will see what he can do.

Happy Holidays to you, whatever your path – and best of luck to us all in 2017.

ON MY DRUMS

Based on “The Little Drummer Boy,” up to…

“Can I play for you (barumpapapum) on my drum…?”

Mary nodded (barumpapapum)
The guys backed up the truck (barumpapapum)
Unloaded all the gear (barumpapapum)
Moved the animals to the rear (barumpapapum, barumpapapum, barumpapapum)
then I laid it down (barumpapapum)
On my drums…

(fff) ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!

We rocked that stable hard (barumpapapum)
The neighbors called the guards (barumpapapum)
I played my drums for Him (barumpapapum)
Played my ass off for Him
(barumpapapum, barumpapapum, barumpapapum)…

(mp)Then he flashed the sign \m/ (barumpapapum)
For me and my drums…

NO! STOP! (IT’S TOO DAMN SOON)

I was pushing my cart
Through the local Bloat-Mart
When I saw something that near stopped my heart
I had to calm myself
What was that on the shelf
Holy crap, did I just see an ELF?

NO! STOP! It’s too damn soon
We haven’t even seen the Harvest Moon
I’m still working on my tan
So let’s wait a minute man
At least until the cranberries are out of the can!

Now I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong
I love to sing those Christmas songs
But the timing has to be just right
YOU DON’T START TO CAROL ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT

NO! STOP! It’s too damn soon
Someday we’ll start to decorate in June
So put that mistletoe away
No matter what the stores may say
Why can’t we just wait till Turkey Day??

NO! STOP! (etc. etc. ad lib to fade)

WE SURVIVED ANOTHER CHRISTMAS

All the gifts are unwrapped, and the turkey’s been eaten
And although our credit cards took quite a beating
It wasn’t too bad, not as bad as we’d feared
We survived another Christmas this year

Christmas spirits were flowing, but no one got too drunk
Or got so depressed that they just sat in a funk
There were quite a few smiles, and a good bit of cheer
We survived another Christmas this year

(bridge)
It’s a lot of hard work to prepare all this merry
We might not recover till mid-February…

There weren’t any meltdowns – well, okay, one or two
But we worked our way through them, and I hope so did you
It’s important to treasure the ones we hold dear
The laughter and hugs will make up for the tears
Remember it’s just 52 weeks till next year’s…
But we survived another Christmas
Yes, we made it through Christmas
We survived another Christmas this year!

I Saw Three Ships (of Refugees)

I Saw Three Ships (of Refugees)
(Traditional; new words Skip Mendler)

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day
And each was loaded to the brim
On Christmas Day in the morning

And what was in those ships all three
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day
A sight that no one should have to see
On Christmas Day in the morning

Those ships were filled with refugees
On Christmas Day, On Christmas Day
Who from a brutal war did flee
On Christmas Day in the morning

Pray, whither sailed those ships all three
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day
Pray, where might their cargo be safe and free
On Christmas Day in the morning

Oh, they came to America
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day
Oh, they put their hopes in America
On Christmas Day in the morning

And every one was welcomed in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day
With open hearts was welcomed in
On Christmas Day in the morning

And all the children did laugh and sing
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day
And hope for better futures bring
On Christmas Day in the morning

For all the angels in Heaven approve
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day
To see strangers welcomed with God’s own love
On Christmas Day in the morning

So let us all together rejoice
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day
Whatever our language, whatever our voice
On Christmas Day in the morning

HOLLY JOLLY MAN

(with apologies to Donovan)

Christmas Eve I could not sleep
Crept downstairs to take a peek
To find that he was by the tree
Laughing oh so merrily
Twas then that the Holly Jolly Man
Came with his bag of toys
Then when the Holly Jolly Man
Came bringing bags of toys

“Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Jolly,” he sang (3x)

(instrumental bridge)

Memories of Christmas past
Candlelight his spell is cast
Down the years without a pause
The “ho ho ho” of Santa Claus
Tis then that the Holly Jolly Man
Comes singing songs of joy
Then when the Holly Jolly Man
Comes singing songs of joy

“Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Jolly,” he sang
“Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly…”
“Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Jolly,” he sang
“Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Jolly,” he sang
Here comes the Jelly Belly Man and he’s singing songs of joy
“Jelly Belly, Jelly Belly, Jelly Belly, Belly,” he sang
“Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas,” he sang
“Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Holly Jolly, Jolly,” he sang… (repeat ad lib. to fade)