Holiday Blues and a White Christmas

I love the movie, and the song,  White Christmas  beyond all reason. The film stars Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kay and Vera Ellen,and I think I watched it with my grandfather every year, curled by the fire.We laughed and sang the songs together,  and  knew many of the lines.

trainWCThe movie is ridiculous. (go watch it, NOW) Crosby and Kaye are terrible cross-dressers. Vera-Ellen needs to eat something. Who bursts into song on the train? And how on earth does that rustic little inn have the soundstage for those dance numbers?

None of this matters. Somehow, this confection, conceived in sunny Hollywood with a hit song written by a Jew manages to evoke the most perfect nostalgia and longing for the perfect Christmas that never was.

I’m home snuffling with a cold/flu thing, looking at my one string of lights and missing all my bygone family, who would be getting on my nerves if they were here, and feeling all these pangs of longing for home. Of course, it’s been a big year for me,  moving  beyond the householder’s life and embracing a new simplicity. With it comes freedom and a lightness. Out goes the tree and the three boxes of ornaments.

I heard composer Rob Kapilow describing what makes the song so great, on the Kojo Nnamdi show the other day. It was a hoot to hear Nnamdi say “I grew up in Guyana and never knew what snow was, and this song still gets to me. Thank you for explaining why.”

Rob Kapilow is known for his talks and performances of “What Makes it Great?” which is now also a book. He’s brilliantly enthusiastic about music, and believes that everybody loves music, given a chance to really listen and understand it. In this video he attempts to explain the genius in Irving Berlin’s song. “You can just feel the pang of memory!”

The love for this film, and song, lives on. The song is covered again and again but it will always belong to Crosby. The film gets trotted out every year, shared with new generations. It’s in the mash-up culture: here’s Vera Ellen dancing, brilliantly,  to Run DMC:

Watch the original 50’s jazz music version

Happy Holidays: Night of the Radishes

Giant red tubers grown for Noches de las Rabanos

A friend who emigrated to Oaxaca, Mexico some years ago recently sent out her Christmas newsletter and shared a number of the colorful local Yuletide traditions. But as a gardener and an artist this one astonished and delighted me: “La Noche de los Rábanos.”

Virgin de las Juquila Flickr Photo by Yaya Dada

Each December 23rd in Oaxaca City’s main plaza (the zocalo) thousands of people come for an exhibition of sculptures made from a large red radish. By large they mean up to 6.6 pounds and/or 20 inches in length! These root veggies are the familiar red skinned, white fleshed radish we often snack on, but grow in unusual shapes and to grand proportions.

The carving of radishes creates an interplay of red and white that is used to portray Christmas scenes and everything else you can imagine. Particularly amazing are the representations of lace and other costuming, as well as the portrayal of the beloved local Virgins of Guadalupe, Juquila and Soledad.

Surfer Dudes on Radish Waves Flickr photo by shadowplay

But just google images for “La Noche de los Rábanos” and you will see elaborate tableaus, hilarious interpretations (surfing on radishes) and depictions of everyday life. The architecture is particularly amazing and amusing.

Soon I am off to the garden where I will harvest beets, carrots and daikon radish, my final crops of the year. My daikons grew huge, the discovery of a new crop that is happy in our wierd clay soils, so I will certainly plant them again. But alas, they have no festive red rinds to carve.

May your Holidays be Merry and Bright, and may all your radishes be (red and ) white!