Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, will be celebrated in 2019 from sundown December 22 to sundown December 30.

It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees, after a 3 year battle, to liberate the Land of Israel from the Syrian Greeks, who occupied it. Under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Syrian Greeks had imposed their culture, defiled the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, and banned Jewish practices.

A miracle is said to have occurred during the re-dedication of the Holy Temple and the restoration of its menorah, or lamp. Only one vial of oil was found for the Temple lamp with just enough oil to illuminate it for just one day, and yet it lasted for eight full days.

To honour this miraculous event, families will light one new candle in their menorah for 8 days, eat special foods, sing Hanukkah songs, play Hanukkah games with family and friends.

To all who celebrate, I wish you a happy and joyous Hanukkah.

Learn more at: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hanukkah-2019/ and https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hanukkah-history/

Solstice Evergreen

December 21 – the longest night of this year, also known by some as Midwinter. A time to celebrate the returning of the sun and the lengthening of days.

It came as a scene from an old picture postcard
of Victorian ladies with skates on their feet
of ponds frozen over and boughs hung with ice tips
and through frosty panes watched the snow and the sleet
and the smoke ventured out from the soot blackened chimneys
and shimmered beneath an icy cold moon
but inside an evergreen stands in the corner
and a bright blazing fire to keep out the gloom

There’s holly and ivy and white mistleberry
the sun is in hiding his face he can’t show
so fill up your glasses so we can be merry
while rosy red cheeks by the fire light glow

Under the street lights they’ll gather together
their shivering voices will ring out with song
to sing in the Yule regardless of weather
and brighten the darkness all the night long
and the mummers perform their plays from the ages
in comes King George a man of courage bold
while out in the orchard we’ll go wassailing
and sup on spiced cider to keep out the cold

There’s holly and ivy and white mistleberry
the sun is in hiding his face he can’t show
so fill up your glasses so we can be merry
while rosy red cheeks by the fire light glow

The holly and oak king are now changing places
And Jack Frost is wearing his new winter vest
While out in the wood pile old Jack Green is sleeping
To awaken in spring from his long dreamy rest
So on this Yule tide we’ll gather together
Beneath the sign of the ancient god’s horns
As the new year beckons through cold misty weather
We’ll raise a toast as the sun is reborn

There’s holly and ivy and white mistleberry
the sun is in hiding his face he can’t show
so fill up your glasses so we can be merry
while rosy red cheeks by the fire light glow

(Spiral Dance, 2006: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wENAJLy68nI)





Those Winter Sundays

 Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

(Robert Hayden, 1966: https://youtu.be/ECgRLTfu6gc)

I’ve Got Everything I Need, Almost

In 2019, Downchild has been celebrating 50 years of making sweet Canadian blues. The cherry on the cake has been having their song I’ve Got Everything I Need, Almost inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Congrats gents, long may you play!

I got everything I need, almost
I got everything I need, almost
But I don't have you
And you're the thing I need the most

I got a car that I bought
Won't get me far
I gotta wish on a star
That you'll be mine

I got everything I need, almost
I got everything I need, almost
But I don't got you
And you're the thing I need the most

I got friends who like me
Cause I got lots of dough
The people recognize me
Wherever I go
I don't got trouble gettin' high
But if I don't get you I believe I will die

I got everything I need, almost
I got everything I need, almost
But I don't got you
And you're the one I need the most

(Don Walsh, 1973: https://youtu.be/JAWjSkbPC2o)

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

 Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

(Robert Frost, 1923)

Snow Day

Growing up in the countryside of south-western Ontario, we definitely knew what winter was all about. We were bussed to school and the drivers were fearless. Some could navigate the unplowed roads and through near blow outs as they had driven the roads every day for years.

I can recall one day having a neighbour stop the bus and haul me and his kids off for he had just found out that the school was closed for a snow day! Another day, the bus came along just to tell everyone on the route that the schools were closed, and then I had to crawl over the ice-covered road to get home as it was too windy to walk.

 Struck brightly by the winter
When the snow falls thick and silent
I can only hear you breathing

I will follow a set of deep tracks
Other people all stay hidden
As the cars rest under snow drifts

So clearly the dark sky
Appears framed by cables
So clearly your breath's white
As you struggle to tell

That the people we have become
Still lay awake hoping to hear airwaves
Say snow day, snow day
Snow day, snow day

Snow day, snow day
Snow day, snow day
Snow day, snow day

As the day goes gray to grayer
We don't think of all the struggle
In our footsteps, it's behind us

So clearly your eyes framed in the light decaying
So quiet your words stood out when you were saying
The people we have become
All know there's more than the setting sun
Snow day, snow day
Snow day, snow day

We can want more
We'll find out in the new morning
We can want more
We'll wait up to hear closings

We can want more
We'll find out in the new morning
We can want more
We'll wait up to hear closings

(Matt Pond PA, 2005:https://youtu.be/NiP6JhZ_Lis)

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

Need an upbeat winter tune to help get your gears in motion? Irving Berlin wrote a real treat in this one : I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.

It’s guaranteed to get you off of your chair, out of your blue funk, and ready to face those never ending lists of chores, parties, shopping….. that MUST be done before the BIG day arrives.

The snow is snowing, the wind is blowing
But I can weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
I've got my love to keep me warm

I can't remember a worse December
Just watch those icicles form!
Oh, what do I care if icicles form?
Oh, I've got my love to keep me warm

Off with my overcoat, off with my glove
I need no overcoat, I'm burning with love!
My heart's on fire, the flame grows higher
So I will weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
Oh, I've got my love to keep me warm

The snow is snowing, the wind is blowing
But I can weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
I've got my love to keep me warm

I can't remember a worse December
Just watch those icicles form!
What do I care if icicles form?
I've got my love to keep me warm

Off with my overcoat, off with my glove
I need no overcoat, I'm burning with love!
My heart's on fire, the flame grows higher
So I will weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
Oh, I've got my love to keep me warm

The snow is snowing, the wind is blowing
But I can weather the storm, storm, storm
What do I care how much it may storm?
Oh, I've got my love to keep me warm

(Irving Berlin, 1937)
Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong's version: https://youtu.be/OYQMG_Ou27Y

Northern Sky

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky.

I've been a long time that I'm waiting
Been a long that I'm blown
I've been a long time that I've wandered
Through the people I have known
Oh, if you would and you could
Straighten my new mind's eye.

Would you love me for my money
Would you love me for my head
Would you love me through the winter
Would you love me 'til I'm dead
Oh, if you would and you could
Come blow your horn on high.

I never felt magic crazy as this
I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea
I never held emotion in the palm of my hand
Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree
But now you're here
Brighten my northern sky.

(Nick Drake, 1970: https://youtu.be/S3jCFeCtSjk)

River

River, released nearly 50 years ago, is a classically Canadian, non-Christmasy, Christmas-time tune of lost love. It’s perfect for those who may have the Christmas blues, or are just tired of listening to the fake, off-tune, glittery tunes the radio churns out 24/7 this time of year.

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

But it don't snow here
It stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I'm so hard to handle
I'm selfish and I'm sad
Now I've gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Oh, I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby say goodbye

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

(Joni Mitchell, 1971: https://youtu.be/F8MqF7xEGhs)

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Initially released in 1984, Do They Know It’s Christmas? was a collaboration of top UK musicians, under the header Band Aid . The recording was made in an attempt to raise money for the starving in Ethiopia, who the world seemed to have forgotten.

In 2004, Band Aid 20, re-recorded the original song. The records sales were to support the people of Darfur, who were undergoing terrible atrocities at the hands of local rebels but being denied aid by the Sudanese government.

In 2104, Bob Geldof once again reformed Band Aid 30 to record an updated version of the tune, this time to support the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The participants included some members of the two previous versions of Band Aid. Lyrics below show who sang each line.

[One Direction:] It's Christmas time, 
there's no need to be afraid

[Ed Sheeran:] At Christmas time,
we let in light and we banish shade

[Rita Ora:] And in our world of plenty
we can spread a smile of joy

[Sam Smith:] Throw your arms around the world
at Christmas time

[Paloma Faith:] But say a prayer
and pray for the other ones

[Emeli Sandé:] At Christmas time it's hard
but while you're having fun

[Guy Garvey:] There's a world outside your window
and it's a world of dread and fear

[Dan Smith:] Where a kiss of love can kill you

[Angelique Kidjo:] Where there's death in every tear

[Chris Martin:] And the Christmas bells that ring there
are the clanging chimes of doom

[Bono:] Well, tonight we're reaching out
and touching you

[Seal:] Bring peace and joy this Christmas
to West Africa

[Ellie Goulding:] A song of hope where
there's no hope tonight

[Sinéad O'Connor:] Why is comfort to be feared,
why is to touch to be scared?

[Bono:] How can they know
it's Christmas time at all?

[One Direction:] Here's to you

[Olly Murs:] Raise a glass to everyone

[Bastille:] Here's to them

[Sam Smith:] And all there is to come

[Rita Ora:] Can they know it's Christmas time at all?

[All:]
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again
Feel the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again
Heal the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again
Feel the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again

Heal the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again
Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again
Feel the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again

(Bob Geldof, Midge Ure, 1984.)
Updated and re-released 2014: https://youtu.be/i1jeiC-JEsI
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