It’s Saturday night and we are soon off to Imad’s work Christmas party! I did have a longer post planned for today, but I thought it would be in the spirit of the Christmas party to share a carol instead (though I doubt that the party will be quite as peaceful as this one!). The Wexford Carol is a little bit more unknown, despite the fact that it is one of the oldest Christmas songs in the world, dating all the way to the 12th century. Hope you like it!
Christmas around the world, December 13, Finland, Helsinki, Lucia, Lucia's Day, lussekatt, Norway, Norwegian Christmas customs, Santa Lucia, St. Lucy, Stockholm, Sweden, Swedish Christmas music, Swedish christmas songs, Swedish Christmas traditions
Today is December 13th ,which means that it’s Saint Lucia’s Day in the Swedish-speaking parts of the Nordic countries! (Finland, like Canada, has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish). What I love about this day is that it is celebrated to bring light into the darkness of winter, which is surely needed when it is this cold and dark outside! (Here in Toronto it’s -8 at the moment)
Lucia’s Day usually consists of a mass, and a parade with the elected Lucia, wearing a crown of candles. She is followed by a choir of girls with white gowns and red belts (to symbolize the blood of the original Lucia) holding candles, and boys with stars to symbolize the star of Betlehem and the three wise men. But the day is also combination of older traditions that precede Christianity. The 13th of December was traditionally believed to be the longest night of the year, which meant that all sorts of evil things were out to get you; witches, trolls and all that! These stories, combined with the tale of Saint Lucia bringing light into the dark catacombs, fighting the dark, was something that people took to heart and so Lucia’s Day is celebrated in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark as a day of light before the approaching Christmas festivities.
Here are a couple of clips from the Lucia mass and celebrations, first from Stockholm’s Storkyrka, the main cathedral in Stockholm.
“The” song for Lucia is an old Italian song, which most of you will probably know as not a Christmas song. The original words to the song have nothing to do with Christmas or even winter, but the Swedish and Finnish lyrics are all about snow and glistening stars! (When I was 19, I was one of the choir girls in a smaller Lucia celebration like this one! I can’t believe it was over ten years ago!)
This is clip shows Helsinki’s Lucia from last year, filmed in the main cathedral in Helsinki (you can also see the main building of University of Helsinki to her left when is she walking down the cathedral stairs).
And last but not least, here’s a clip of a Lucia celebration from Norway, with some local Norwegian Christmas customs as well. Happy Lucia Day, lots of light and warmth to every house and home!
Christmas songs are a sure sign that Christmas is just around the corner. Here is one of my favorite festive songs of the season, Nu tändas tusen juleljus. There is also a Finnish language version, but this is the original. It is a beautiful song in either language and always puts me in the Christmas spirit. The song talks about the star of Betlehem bringing light into the darkness of the world, to every house, home and heart, and of lighting a thousand Christmas candles.
Piano is played by Benny Andersson (from Abba!). In the background of the video you can also see a Nordic Christmas custom; Saint Lucia (the girl with candles in her hair) and the children with their candles (which I will probably write more about on Saint Lucia’s Day next week! Update: Here is a link to my Lucia’s Day post where you can find more Scandinavian Christmas music as well).
Nu tändas tusen juleljus
på jordens mörka rund,
och tusen, tusen stråla ock
på himlens djupblå grund.
Och över stad och land i kväll
går julens glada bud,
att född är Herren Jesus Krist,
vår Frälsare och Gud.
Du stjärna över Betlehem,
o, låt ditt milda ljus
få lysa in med hopp och frid
i varje hem och hus!
I varje hjärta armt och mörkt
sänd du en stråle blid,
en stråle av Guds kärleks ljus
i signad juletid!
I stumbled upon a new song by Masrou’ Leyla, my favourite Lebanese band. Their music definitely falls into the ‘alternative’ genre of Arabic music, but I just love their sound and also their courage: Recently the lead singer came out regarding his sexuality, which in Lebanon is a very brave thing to do.
I don’t claim to understand what the song talks about, but I read though some of the comments and apparently (?) it is about distraction by secondary things over (political) issues that really matter. The song is called ‘for the country/nation’ (or something like that… excuse my non-existent Arabic skills!). I like how simple the video is, with a tacky 1980’s feel to it. I just love the song, and if it is about what I think it is, the band does an amazing job showing just that with a simple dance.
(Imad is currently in New Haven, Connecticut, so I don’t have anyone to translate the song for me. But when he comes back, I’m hoping for a better translation of the song and maybe a Yale t-shirt too 🙂
What to do with all those tears of unemployment? How to survive a financial crises? Chisu has the answer.
Here’s a favorite song of mine from few years ago when the economic troubles began.
(Artist and song Chisu: Baden-Baden)
One day I was sad and penniless
I was fired from work because of this recession
I scratched my head, where will I get even just one bill?
All I could do was cry, but that made me think…
I’ll bottle my tears and sell them to the Sahara
Where they’re needed by that dry, bare ground.
Even the president heard about my idea
‘Here’s the solution to our export problems’, she thought
‘Production would be cheap, Finland is a rather depressed country But you’ll get more money from Europe than from Africa!’
–So let’s bottle our tears
and sell them to Baden-Baden
Where our sorrows are pumped into fountains
Yes, let’s put tears in bottles, by train to Baden-Baden
where a tourist, and another, bathes in them
So the nation cried and economy got back to its feet… (cont’)–
I pride myself in spotting new music; discovering Florence Welches and Lana del Reys of the world before they become The Florence Welches and The Lana Del Reys.
Well, from bragging (sorry!) to actual praise, my latest musical discovery: A relatively unknown artist, Yadi — who I’m predicting won’t be unknown for long! I overheard 10 seconds of one of her songs in a shop and after I got home, googled frantically to learn whose song it was.
Yadi is a girl from London, England, and she has an interesting mix of North African (?) beats to her dance pop’ish sound that is a bit reminiscent of Little Boots, or Lykke Li. I didn’t find much more information about her, but I really like her music and since youtube does seem to have more than a ten thousand or so views on her videos, I thought I’d give her a shout-out here. She is going to do really well (and that would mean I could add a new flower to my imaginary musical discovery hat :-)!)
1:30AM. The night is dark and full of
In Paul Krugman’s latest blog post in the New York Times, Conscience of a Liberal: Friday Night Music, he writes:
‘We Americans, we are an insular people. A European suggested that I might like Isabelle Geffroy, and when I looked up her performances I discovered that she has a huge multinational following — but none of my usual music sources here had even heard of her.’
…and that mysterious anonymous European — is me! I can’t believe my recommendation made it all the way to his blog!
But Zaz is amazing, and she does Piaf almost better than Piaf. Almost.
She reminds me of a friend who would burst out in song in the middle of the street because… why not if you can?!
A few weeks ago we went for a night of ‘Tango and Buenos Aires’ at the local Spanish Centre and discovered some beautiful nuevo tango.
“Other music exists to heal wounds; but the tango when sung and played is for the purpose of opening them, for the purpose of sticking you finger in the wound and to tear them until they bleed.” Anonymous
creative work, criticism, deciding when a story is finished, editing text, finishing stories, Hans Zimmer, importance of editors, Inception soundtrack, inner critics, Jurassic Park, perfectionism in writing, Twilight, writing, writing and doubt, writing and procrastination
Yep. It’s February and my draft folder is bursting at the seams. Just when it’s time to do the final edits, I get oddly attracted to doing something other than writing. Like laundry.
Deciding that a story is done is a bit like saying “it’s perfect!” (which of course nothing ever is), and the most terrifying thing about finishing a story is accepting that it, truthfully and honestly, is the best story I could create at a given time and that despite all my efforts, it might not be any good. Admitting that I have done my best, and accepting that the end result might be like a burnt Sunday morning pancake (lots of promise, massive fail) is never easy. And so I procrastinate, move on to writing a new story and leave the final edits for tomorrow that never comes.
Sometimes I wonder if published writers with agents and editors have it any easier. Probably not, but at least they have someone there to say if something sucks. Someone who cares and will warn you when your writing is repetitive, boring, and awful (in the form of constructive criticism I hope, rather than whipping the poor writer to death). Whereas at the moment it is just me, alone by the computer, hoping that I had an editor to tell me “that paragraph needs revision”, “that’s not English”, “I fell asleep during the second chapter — change it”. At times I think what I manage to produce is quite good, and at times horrendous and a waste of time.
My advice for others working on creative projects would be to be kind to yourself and just finish whatever you are working on anyway. Living according to one’s own teachings can occasionally be challenging (do as I say, not as I do!) and though sometimes I am convinced that I have produced a pile of dinosaur doo-doo instead of a good story, there is hope out there. As my friend lovingly pointed out, “it can’t be as bad as Twilight”.
I sure hope so.
There isn’t a kind and loving Dumbledore type of figure whispering reassuring words into one’s ear. A good editor is more valuable than gold but most of writing is solitary paddling in muddy waters with a vague destination in mind, with an inner critic that isn’t always the gentlest as the heavy passenger in a boat that barely carries two.
This month’s writing soundtrack from Inception keeps me paddling along, and is quite a sensory journey in itself. Many off the tracks start off almost meditative, and then explode into a firework of sound; electric guitar and strings.
A new musical discovery from the past week:
I am nothing without pretend
I know my thoughts
Can’t live with them
I am nothing without a man
I know my faults
But I can hide them
I still keep my baby teeth
In the bedside table with my jewelry
You still sleep in the bed with me,
My jewelry, and my baby teeth
I don’t need another friend
When most of them
I can barely keep up with
I’m perfectly able to hold my own hand,
but I still can’t kiss my own neck
I wanted to give you everything
but I still stand in awe of superficial things
I wanted to love you like my mother’s mother’s mothers did