Despite what the shrieking dummkopfs in the right-wing media sphere might have you believe, there was only ever one war on Christmas on this continent and it happened during the 17th century. The aggressors in question were Massachusetts Puritans, offshoots of the Mayflower borne pilgrims, whom we were taught to venerate as schoolchildren as the founders of the Great American Experience. This group of people was so disgusted by what they saw as a frivolous and scripturally unfounded joyful bacchanal reeking of Catholic popery that many communities banned all celebrations outright. When the Puritans back in Merry Olde swept to power during the English Civil War, they outlawed the holiday altogether in the mid 1640's, along with Easter and Whitsun (Pentecost). This was not a popular law and many records exist of the citizens in small British towns forcing shop owners to close their doors and celebrate the glad tidings with the rest of Christendom. Eventually things changed and the rigid forefathers of modern conservatism found new scapegoats to hunt and torture.
This holiday, if anything beyond being the most holy and sacred observation of the birth of the Messiah, is a time for celebration and not a time for mindless consumerism or Puritan austerity. It's a time for generosity, love, redemption and the recognition of the vast plurality of the human experience. So close the shops, tell your misinformed Puritan friends to "shut it" about the culture war and please enjoy yourselves. Be nice to each other, look past the walls of identity to the glowing lights of humanity that each living person bears daily. And do good things for each other because, if nothing else, it's pretty cold out there right now.
Groundation is a nine-piece reggae jazz outfit that has been around for more than two decades in various iterations. Tonight the ensemble plays Humbrews, so expect funk and jazz metrics amid improvisational flourishes underneath a big ol' reggae umbrella. This should be a fun one for the devotees and casuals alike. At 9:30 p.m. ($25, $20 advance).
The Arcata Playhouse presents Wintersongs by Kitka tonight at 7:30 p.m. Kitka is an all-female vocal ensemble founded in 1979 that specializes in the intricate harmonic music of Eastern Europe, Eurasia, the Balkans and the Caucasus Mountains. This is incredible stuff and, although our winters have nothing on the frozen austerity of those regions, I believe that this glorious music will resonate with those of us on the Lost Coast of California ($30, $25 members/students/veterans).
Saturday (Winter Solstice)
It's the beginning of what were traditionally the coldest months of the year until we drop-kicked the planet's ecosystems in the interest of our species' bizarre obsession with making a few dozen white dog turds who run the fossil fuel industry richer than intergalactic pharaohs. Instead of doing the reasonable thing and putting those billionaire creeps on what's left of the polar ice floe and kicking the whole mess out to sea, we have strangely decided to continue enabling their greedy mass murder of our beloved home. So I can't tell you what sort of a winter we should expect this year, only that today is the official start of it. And what better way to bring in the beautiful months of solar withholding than to head over to the Miniplex to celebrate the third annual Krampusfest, a celebration of that dark and evil demon who haunted the good people of various European countries during Yuletides of yore? The music will be provided by the elusive Blood Gnome, the always delightful sonic storytelling of The Comix Trip and the punk eruptions Sad Krotch 9 p.m. ($10). Starting at 7:30 p.m. at the bar at Richards' Goat, there will also be a Krampus onsite who will be available for pictures and naughty child — or corporate bastard — disposal.
Today I highly recommend heading down to the Arcata Plaza at 4:30 p.m. to enjoy the Chabad of Humboldt's public celebration of Chanukah. This being the first night of Chanukah, there will be the lighting of a 9-foot-tall menorah, traditional Jewish food will be available and the debut of a brand new band called Or B'Shachor ("light in the black/darkness") is happening. Chag sameach.
This is the beginning of the quiet patch that leads up to Christmas so I don't have any musical recommendations for you. Enjoy a quiet Chistmas Eve eve.
Tuesday (Christmas Eve)
Reading ghost stories used to be standard during Christmastime in England. One can still see remnants of that tradition in the popularity of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and in its many modern versions (my personal favorite is the movie Scrooged). Might I suggest that you spend tonight pursuing this idea? One such spooky showing I enjoy is a double feature of two of director Bob Clark's best holiday tales: 1974's excellent proto-slasher Black Christmas followed by his massively popular and somewhat less-scary film A Christmas Story. You can also sneak Gremlins in there as padding.
Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth and goodwill to all humankind.
Full show listings in the Journal's Music and More grid, the Calendar and online. Bands and promoters, send your gig info, preferably with a high-res photo or two, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collin Yeo wants just one thing for Christmas this year: joy for all of his fellow Humboldtsheviks. If he can get two things, the second would be for the New Orleans Saints to win the Super Bowl. He prefers he/him and lives in Arcata.