December 20, 2012

Christmas Island


Some people might call it folk art. Others won’t see it as art at all, not even really good lawn art—though surely everyone can agree it’s a big twinkly Christmas monument to most of the major freedoms found in the First Amendment.

In South Puget Sound we just call it “what’s left of Christmas Island.” Over the past seven decades this giant outdoor Nativity scene has been loved, honored, glorified, ridiculed, vandalized, and evicted. It used to be bigger, it used to be grander, but by golly it’s still here.

It started in 1941 when a man named Leonard Huber built a larger-than-life Christmas display—with lots of angels and lots of lights—outside his house in Olympia. The scene went dark during World War II, thanks to strict wartime blackouts, but by ‘46 it was back again, drawing carloads of post-war families ready for Peace on Earth.

And then in 1959 it turned into Christmas Island. (more…)

December 9, 2012

The Charles Dickens Birthday Dinner


Charles Dickens loved a party. He was perpetually hosting elaborate dinners for colleagues and friends in celebration of Twelfth Night or birthdays or having dashed off the last chapter of the next great English novel. The food and drink were boundless, as were the games and theatrics, the singing and country dancing, the conjuring tricks by the author himself, and the magic lantern shows.

“The profusion of figs, raisins, oranges, och! Such overloaded dessert,” complained Jayne Carlyle, the sharp wife of Thomas Carlyle, suggesting that their manic host didn’t always know when enough was enough. That doesn’t seem to have kept her from accepting more invitations. A lavish evening with Dickens was a soiree not to be missed.

So it only seemed right, in this year of Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, to throw a Dickensian dinner in honor of the man who invented the Three Ghosts of Christmas, Aunt Betsy Trotwood, the Artful Dodger, and Miss Havisham. I thought I owed him that much at least, and maybe a whole lot more. (more…)