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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

The ghosts of the Ark of the Covenant, in "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981). Image source: Freethoughtblogs.com

The ghosts of the Ark of the Covenant, in “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981). Image source: Freethoughtblogs.com

Watching the original Indiana Jones trilogy is one of my unofficial Christmas traditions, which is helped along greatly by the BBC remembering to schedule them pretty much every year. [Warning: from here on in, there be spoilers, hence the film poster]. (more…)

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"The Nativity at Night", by Geertgen tot Sint Jans (c1490). Oil on oak, National Gallery, London.

“The Nativity at Night”, by Geertgen tot Sint Jans (c1490). Oil on oak, National Gallery, London.

Today’s light emanates from the Christian story that God’s son was born to Mary, a virgin, in a stable in Bethlehem, to save mankind from itself. Christians everywhere today celebrate the birth of that child. It’s a simple little story that has endured through art as well as through faith for over 2000 years, and has inspired beautiful acts of creativity. Many artists signal the child’s holiness through a golden glow surrounding him, as the only light in a dark stable. Geertgen tot Sint Jans (Little Gerard of Saint John) was one such artist, as you can see in the picture above. The National Gallery website (click on the picture to read more) references Saint Bridget of Sweden as the source of this light, so to speak:

The idea of the infant Christ illuminating the Nativity scene comes from the writings of the 14th-century Saint Bridget of Sweden. She wrote that in her visions the light of the new-born child was so bright ‘that the sun was not comparable to it’. A century later, the interest of artists such as Geertgen in depicting naturalistically the contrasts of extreme light and shade served to heighten the sense of the miraculous birth.

However you spend today, I hope it’s a good and happy day! Merry Christmas!

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Cherbourg is my travelling companion and my familiar of some four years standing. He’s been on most of my holidays and research trips, and when I remember to put him in my bag, he’s out and about as part of my daily life. So I could not in all good conscience leave him out of my Christmas celebrations. He is now in the company of Stained Glass Santa Claus, the Tweety Pie angel, and a perplexed-looking robin, on the Christmas tree, and appears to be taking it all in his stride. (more…)

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A pair of facing turtle doves in a roundel, f.32r, Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library MS 24). Image via Aberdeen University Library website.

A pair of facing turtle doves in a roundel, f.32r, Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library MS 24). Image via Aberdeen University Library website.

One of the most wonderful sights in this world is the shimmer of gold leaf on a manuscript page as it comes into the light. It is of course most well-known from medieval manuscripts, but has never quite stopped being used altogether. Consider Phoebe Traquair’s illuminated manuscript of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. A full page, or a full miniature, with a background of gold leaf, never fails to catch my breath, just for a moment. Thus I have chosen as today’s image of light just such a miniature from the Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen University Library MS 24). This manuscript was produced in the 12th century, and has a most interesting history. It has been fully digitised and is available online here, complete with translations and transcriptions. The birds are beautifully realised and stand out wonderfully against the shimmering gold. I chose the turtle dove image because two of these birds were sent, along with a partridge in a pear tree, to the singer of “The Twelve Days of Christmas, on the second day.

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Inspired by the respective #MedievalAdvents of Kathryn Maude (@krmaude) and Sarah Peverley (@Sarah_Peverley) on Twitter, I have finally decided how to countdown to Christmas, and onwards to the end of the year, here on my blog. Regardless of what you believe, or don’t believe, this is a month in which we seek out light and warmth – be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. It has ever been so:

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

(The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper)

I’d also recommend picking up the five volumes of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Risingseries. They make perfect midwinter reading. (more…)

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A final Merry Christmas to all! I hope that you had a lovely time with family and friends, and that you’re looking forward to Hogmanay and the New Year. I decided to fully embrace the #Reverb12 spirit and take a few days off from the phone and the computer to focus on family, friends, and food – all the important parts of Christmas and of life. It’s been great, and I’ve missed being online and on the phone much less than I thought I would, so I think that I will be repeating that exercise every so often. I also think I need to get a Nintendo Wii as soon as possible. (more…)

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By Jean-Pol Gradmont (Creative Commons 3, via Wikimedia)

The best Christmas present that I received when I was 7 was The Everyman Roget’s Thesaurus, by Dr Peter Mark Roget, rev. by D. C. Browning (London: Chancellor Press). I spent hours reading the entries; those about colours fascinated me most of all. The following year, we had to write an essay about Autumn, and during those weeks my Thesaurus was my constant companion. Words like ‘umber’, ‘ochre’, ‘crimson’, and ‘goldenrod’ were all I thought about. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of that Thesaurus; where I go, it goes. (more…)

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