The day after Halloween, the Christmas decorations went up in my neighborhood. Then right after Boxing Day, there were already Valentine’s Day candies in stores. As someone who really enjoys the holiday season, this early decoration overkill and immediate disappearance seems like both too much and too little. That’s why I appreciate some historical perspective on the season.
Just some locals in Williamsburg enjoying the holidays.
18th century Americans didn’t decorate until Christmas Day and then spent the next 12 days celebrating with parties, dancing, weddings, and lots of eating and drinking. To take in the classic (and not so classic) wreaths, greens, and holiday trimmings essential for the holiday spirit, I spent a few days in Jamestown and Williamsburg, two living history museums in Virginia.
Christmas cheer along Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland
Thank you all for following along in 2015! It’s been a busy month for me (as evidenced by the photo of Grafton Street in Dublin above). I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and holiday season, and hope you are surrounded with family and friends!
As I listened to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the radio yesterday, for the first time in my life I didn’t picture huts and palm trees like some cartoon Christmas TV special. I thought back to the actual Bethlehem in the West Bank which I visited in the Spring. The old stable of my imagination has been replaced by a drafty Byzantine basilica and the straw by Orthodox icons and lamps. The shepherds and wise men in the Bible story are now an equality diverse group of international visitors. But with all that, the Church of the Nativity still maintains some of the midnight atmosphere and anxious stillness of the first Christmas which is remembered here.
Interior of the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, before restoration began. (Photo: Nick Thompson, flickr)
One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the festive decorations. From wreaths to bows, snowflakes to candy canes, I love how city streets, shop windows and public buildings are transformed. Riga, the capitol of Latvia, has taken this one step further and is sponsoring a public art exhibition called the Christmas Tree Trail. Artists and students have constructed modern interpretations of the classic Christmas tree. These fantastic sculptures are on display throughout the city from December 6 – January 12. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites!
ATMINAS PAR SNIEGU (Memories of Snow) – Māra Maižele Uģis Bērziņš
Madonna and Child by Giotto (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC)
To celebrate Christmas, here is one of my favorite Madonna and Child paintings by Giotto, done between 1320-1330. Despite the fact that baby Jesus resembles a little man, there is a delicacy and sensitivity in how both figures are holding or reaching for the flower. The painting to me is one of the first Renaissance works and a lovely, peaceful image for Christmas.