H.P. Lovecraft’s Christmas Writing Podcast

Let’s listen to all of HP Lovecraft’s Christmas poetry and his one story set at Christmas time, “The Festival.” I got help from YOU, the good people of Weird Christmas Town!

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HPL and Felis, his friend Frank Belmont’s cat.

Thanks in particular to my friend Lisa who read most of the Christmas notes and Kris Rhodes who read the scary one. Kris is also a poet in his own right (better than Lovecraft), and you can buy his book Brroop at Amazon here.

And thanks to the following followers for following and for reading on the podcast:

You can read Lovecraft’s poetry here and here if you really want to dwell on the stuff. And here’s a link to the full text of “The Festival.”

The carol at the beginning, “The World in Terror and Madness Lies,” was made by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, and all of their great tunes are on youtube and available for sale at the HPLHS site.

I shamelessly stole a bit of “The Call of Cthulhu” from Garrick Hagon on youtube. But his is my favorite version that costs less than money.

The cheery music at the end is by the Supraphonics, and you’ll hear more from them soon. Great surf-music Christmas stuff.

Listen! Subscribe! And please dear god love a review for chrissakes because what else do you have to do!?!?

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Dead Thing Cards (birds, cats, whatever)

The dead bird cards seem to be making the rounds more than usual this year. I haven’t seen any new write ups about them (yet), but they’re coming from a bunch of different directions on Twitter and Tumblr.

So I thought we should revisit and add to what I said here. (Check it!)

So, just to keep the tally, I know of four Victorian Christmas cards that feature dead birds:

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Focus on that word: “Joyful.”

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“Pleasures”

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“Joyful,” again. This time hanging by a string.

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“Loving.”

 

Then there’s one general well-wishing card:

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“Kind.”

 

After that, there’s also this thing, although I assume they’re more drunk than dead. (Don’t miss the guy in the bowl):

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It mentions New Year’s, after all, and that’s all about gettin’ smashed.

 

But dead things of all sorts were fairly common on Victorian cards. For example, who could forget the ever-popular “Frog Murder Christmas” card, which is always the most popular thing I ever share?

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How joyous.

 

I still stand behind my close reading of this card from another post, but I found another possible explanation that I actually think has some weight. Christopher Davis thinks this might actually be a Christ/Judas allegory of sorts, with the bag of cash being like the 30 pieces of silver. (though why then “2000”? Who knows…) But, if you’re gonna be serious, that makes more sense than anything else I’ve heard. (He also mentions Wren Day as the explanation for the dead bird cards, but I POSTED THAT TWO YEARS BEFORE HIM SO I WIN THE INTERNETS!)

But it’s not just frogs. There also this, which gives my cat-hating heart such joy that I don’t really need an explanation:

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Compliments indeed, friend rats. Compliments on high!

 

Before I get hatemail from cat lovers, don’t worry. The rats got their comeuppance when the feral sprite people went hunting:

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Giant rat or tiny people?

 

And don’t forget the frogs! You can’t have Victorian Christmas without frogs.

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This is a “sweet Christmas moral.”

Gotta admit that I’m not sure if they’re actually dead. But the poem does mention coming to “grief” and…is that blood underneath them? Why make the reflection red rather than green?

Then when I found this thing, I thought I’d finally hit pay dirt:

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“Bright and happy” it says. Not cold and lifeless.

But, unfortunately (well, unfortunately for me), it’s not a dead person, but either a toy or a scarecrow or something. It’s a wooden “man.” But the point seems to be something about sympathy for cold/lost things. (Although if this is part of some other story or legend that I’m just not catching, please let me know!)

Unless I’m forgetting something, that’s all the dead animal cards I know of. You can find plenty of things being cruel to each other like this:

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“Hearty” Christmas. Get it?

But cruelty and death seem significantly different themes, so we’ll leave it there.

Podcast! Santa and Magic Mushrooms!

It’s totally a thing! Don’t believe me? Then listen!

Okay, maybe it takes some suspension of disbelief, but IT’S A BEAUTIFUL IDEA!

Here’s all the stuff I promised in the podcast.

First, here’s a link to the full interviews with both Dr. Rush and Dr. Ruck:

 

Dr. John Rush, Professor of Anthropology

Dr. Carl Ruck, Professor of Classical Studies

 

Further reading:

Jerry and Julie Brown, The Psychedelic Gospels: The Secret History of Hallucinogens in Christianity

John Arthur, Mushrooms and Mankind: the Impact of Mushrooms on Human Consciousness and Religion

Terrence McKenna, Food of the Gods: the Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution

Phyllis Siefker, Santa Claus, the Last of the Wild Men

 

Mushrooms!:

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Thomas Nast‘s Santa:

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Siberian shaman:

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Music from the episode:

Podcast! Drunken Christmas Music

More music in the latest Weird Christmas podcast. This time, it’s all about drinking!

Links:

The music:

Podcast! Weird Christmas TV and Movies with Joanna Wilson

Looking for “The House of Seven Santas”? Click here.

On the latest podcast, I speak with author Joanna Wilson, the master of all things Christmas-y and TV-y. She wrote one of my favorite books on Christmas television specials that highlights all the oddball, unusual, and uncategorizable holiday TV and movies you could ever want: The Christmas TV Companion: a Guide to Cult Classics, Strange Specials & Outrageous Oddities. Her other books include an encyclopedia of Christmas TV shows and movies, a chronicle of watching A Christmast Story for 24 hours straight, and more.

Her website (Christmas TV History.com) also has a wonderful discussion of all kinds of Christmas specials, special events (like Christmas in July), and information on all the holiday TV coming up you could want. (Her Twitter, @TistheSeasonTV, is also a great resource and full of fun.)

We talk about a number of shows, and I’ve found as many links as I can below the show.

Wilson’s books (also all available on Amazon):

Shows and special episodes mentioned in the podcast:

Opening songs:

Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Soundcloud!

And if you enjoyed this episode, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider leaving a review on iTunes.

 

 

 

 

“The House of Seven Santas,” Part 5

More than likely, you landed here because you just finished up the Christmas Creep‘s Part 4 of “The House of Seven Santas.” If so, look no further than the podcast below. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you’re late to the party! You’re missing out on an event we like to call Seven Pods for Seven Santas! Go to the Christmas Past Podcast to get started.

Here’s my part:

For Part 6, head over to the Holiday Special Podcast. But first, take a little time to wander around here. It smells weird, but we’re nice. Mostly.

The War on Zwarte Piet

Intocht Sinterklaas Maastricht

Hopefully you find this…questionable.

My wife just got back from the Netherlands. She had some agenda like seeing the family she lived with back in the day, going to museums, eating licorice, stroopwaffels, and vla, and other things that seemed trivial in comparison with my agenda for her: FIND ME ZWARTE PIET STUFF!

Turns out that was harder than she thought.

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Zwarte Piet giving out the goods.

Now, if you don’t know who Zwarte Piet is, if you’re American, and/or you have a shred of social awareness, prepare to get uncomfortable. We’ll go with the neutral version first:

Zwarte Piet is Dutch for “Black Pete.” He’s a traditional character from the Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) story in the Netherlands and has been around since at least the 1850’s. The story goes that he’s a young “moorish” (sometimes) boy who helps Sinterklaas deliver presents on December 5th, the feast of Saint Nicholas. Stories differ, but a lot of parents say that it’s Piet who actually climbs down the chimney to leave gifts. And some say that he’s black not because he’s a “moor” but because of chimney soot. At parades during the holidays in the Netherlands, you’ll also see lots of people made up like him. Like this:

Dancers dressed as Zwarte Piet

Yep. That’s all white people.

In Europe, it’s pretty common for Nick to have a companion. There’s Krampus, of course, but also Knecht Ruprecht, Belsnickel, Perchta, and other various “wild men” or “pagan” hangover figures. But Piet’s background is less innocent than theirs. In 1850, a Dutch teacher named Jan Schenkman wrote a book called Sint Nikolaas en zijn Knecht (“Saint Nicholas and his Servant”) that pretty much solidified his image and story. There had been other “pagan” characters following Nick in the Netherlands before then, but Schenkman’s version stuck. And it’s clear that he was drawing on images and accounts of continental aristocrats who had black slave boys or servants as a vogue in the early 1800’s. The costume that people now wear is specifically this kind of 19th century “servant” gear, and although there are a ton of people who point out that his history is actually much more complicated, Schenkman’s version won the day.

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This isn’t Schenkman’s actual book, but it’s similar to it.

So it’s already a problem that Nick’s “servant” is a black child who is probably modelled on slaves. But hopefully anyone with even a shred of historical awareness in the U.S. knows about blackface. Granted, the Dutch don’t have the same sensitivity to that aspect in particular because it just wasn’t as big a part of their cultural history. But for us, to see a ton of white people dance around painted up like black “servants,” especially at Christmastime…well…yeah.

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When white people mess up.

My wife found quite a few images of him while wandering around the smaller city where she spent most of her time.

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Store window Pete in RAY BANS! The racism is so blinding!

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Zwarte Piet made of zwarte bread.

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I’m a happy cake of evil!

He’s just a normal thing, part of advertisements, part of random holiday imagery, even showing up as a random piece of a Christmas shopping bag.

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Granted, he seems pretty white here.

And her friends said that in the last few years, you can find “Piets” of all different colors. Not races — colors. Like Green Pete or Purple Pete. And that’s obviously trying to downplay the racial aspect but keep the tradition.

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This doesn’t make me feel better at all.

When she got to Amsterdam, though — nothing. Not a Piet in sight. Apparently The Hague is the same way. The bigger cities, where you have a more international population and, of course, more tourism, have played him down. And when he does show up, he’s changing: this year, Amsterdam’s “official” Piet will be a white guy with some soot on his nose.

At one dinner, one of her friends blamed “some American” for all the recent uproar over him. But even the United Nations got involved a couple of years ago, so it’s not like the obvious backlash against him is from a fringe group. And, besides, since Trump was elected, it turns out that a lot of far right groups in both Europe and U.S. have become his staunch defenders. Some cities are even worried about violence around him during parades and celebrations this year.

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“Our heritage. Save Black Pete.”

In truth, though, the Dutch are split on the issue, on both political ends. And that’s understandable. On the one hand, the character is the Saint of Children’s right-hand man, and he’s been around for at least 150 years. Of course people are going to defend him. At the same time…dude’s a slave. And they celebrate him in a way that, intentionally or not, is precisely the same way that white people used to mock black people while also trying to exploit their cultural contributions. (And if you don’t know much about blackface history, at least take a look at this site: http://black-face.com/. It also explains why a lot of the old cards I share are even more racist than you might initially think.)

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Racism goes down better with sugar.

My wife didn’t buy me a Zwarte Piet tree ornament. I’m not surprised. I don’t know that I would have put it on the tree, even ironically. I admit I love that there’s some seriously messed up holiday history out there. But I’m not going to celebrate it. Doesn’t mean I won’t keep showing you Zwarte Piet in all his problematic, offensive inglory, though… And, before you ask, Yes. These are real:

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