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It Is Happening Again: Christmas

December 20, 2014

Cross-posted from


Christmas is an annual tradition here in Charlottesville. Though many choose to ignore it, others embrace it with a fervor ranging from mild to frenzied to irredeemably Clausian.  It is impossible to cover the full range of local Christmas activities, but here are some of the highlights.

The Hep Imp Christmas Special

It was an hour after midnight, on the 11th of December, that countless of our local folks gathered around their gently glowing radios with friends and family, mugs of hot buttered absinthe in mittened hands, to listen in rapt attention to a very special Hep Imp selection of seasonal favorites on WTJU. If you missed out, fear not, the show will be available here for streaming right up until Saint Nick himself, in gore-drenched suit, crawls down out of your chimney, tearing through your fireplace barricade, unstoppable by board or chain, while his mighty Nordic stags beat merciless upon the roof with heavy hooves, keeping the time of your terrorized heart.

Christmas at The Paramount

There is no better cure for the depression and anxiety that Christmas inevitably brings than the sound of a multitude of singers singing together, in glorious harmony, lifting up their voices to the very gates of heaven, pounding on them, insistent, mightily entreating for entry, making all who hear feel, for a moment, that indeed those gates have opened, and that all joy lies before them, a field of light, a perfect realm of music. This is what the Oratorio Society of Virginia will be attempting, at 2:30 and again at 7:30, at the Paramount Theater on Saturday, December 20th.

Then, on Sunday at 2:00, the Paramount will be screening It’s A Wonderful Life.  Now for myself, if you give me a choice of which Frank Capra Christmas suicide picture to watch, I am going to go with Meet John Doe every time. I find it a more interesting and provocative exploration of the American Nightmare than Wonderful Life. And I have always preferred Gary Cooper to Jimmy Stewart (between Barbara Stanwyck and Donna Reed there is simply no contest). But a lot of people love this one and there is no denying that both films are batshit insane enough to be deemed true Christmas classics. See it like it was meant to be seen, in a grand movie palace of the old school.

The Country Christmas Show

I am not a brave man, so I have always left town early for the holiday, well before the mayhem begins. A downside to this (undeniably prudent) course of action is that I have never been around for The Country Christmas Show, a beloved local tradition that I can only imagine has got to be as warm, friendly, and fun as a mug of hot buttered absinthe in a mittened hand on a cold night in a warm place beneath the stars of a Virginia sky. Featuring The (All New) Acorn Sisters, Jim Waive & the Young Divorcees, and Peyton Tochterman, this year’s show will be on Sunday, the 21st, at The Southern. For a good time, go there.

A Dark Forest of Unmentionable Delights

In Germany, a gift shop is where assassins purchase their poisons. Here it is a place that sells you things that you don’t want yourself, but you do want to give to other people. A curious institution.  It is both an incubator of, and parasite upon, our noblest virtue, generosity. And, often enough, our foolishness, vanity, and bad taste. There is no better place to contemplate the wonder and mystery of the human condition than a good, or bad, gift shop; it is also useful for buying gifts. At the Bridge this holiday season there is a good gift shop. Among the the things that have caught my eye there: finely carved whacking sticks, handmade glass eyeballs, fragrant nunchuks of wax, crocheted fetishes of a vanished civilization, and the tools of a literary arsonist. What you find there, what speaks to you, may be entirely different. The shop is small, but the things it contains seem never-ending, like something out of a horror novel. It took me hours before I even noticed the little narwhal throw pillow. I stood beside other shoppers, their hands in full view, my eyes upon those hands with such attention it bordered on rudeness, as they plucked, from tables I had studiously perused just minutes before, objects that I could swear I had not seen there, had indeed never seen before in my life, and, oftentimes, could never have even dared to imagine. This, my friends, is a cabinet of wonders, a forest of dreams, and a great place to spend a little bit more money than you intended for people who, after all, you love.

Merry Christmas.

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