I know, I know. It’s not December anymore, so technically, I should be onto the next month’s topic. But let’s just say that I was very much still in holiday mode this past week, and I wasn’t ready to move on just yet. So I hope you will indulge me one last time as I take a look at the art of the holidays. There actually were quite a few of them on the road to “Happy New Year!”
First up was a holiday that I grew up celebrating, but never entirely understood. I’m talking, of course, about Boxing Day. The day after Christmas when people inexplicably flock to the shops for door busting deals and savings. I’ve never understood the appeal of Boxing Day shopping. Then again, I’ve never really liked shopping in general. But I figured there had to be more to the day than just mass consumerism. And as it turns out, there is.
Boxing Day originated in the United Kingdom, and today it is celebrated in most countries of the British Commonwealth. It was traditionally a day to give gifts to the poor, and the custom dates back to the Middle Ages. By the 18th century, Boxing Day had become the day when Christmas boxes would be given to people in service positions. Hence the name of the holiday. Today, however, it is known primarily as a shopping holiday, similar to Black Friday in the United States. Which is unfortunate given its charitable origins.
Also unfortunate is the fact that Boxing Day hasn’t really inspired much art. I did find a couple of poems about fighting off indigestion the day after all those Christmas feasts. However, other than that, it was slim pickings, and I thought I would have to skip Boxing Day as part of The Daily Hart. And then I found this video from the cast of Ted Lasso and everything was right with the world.
Of course, the biggest holiday of this past week was New Years, which unlike Boxing Day, has inspired a lot of art. I watched Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! and Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne. I also listened to “Auld Lang Syne” and finally looked up the lyrics. Boy is that song is a lot more melancholy than I thought. And as promised, I did a deep dive into the Japanese holiday of Ōmisoka.
As it turns out, Ōmisoka is basically just Japanese New Years, but as I learned this week, it’s one of their most important holidays of the year. It is typically spent with family, eating toshikoshi noodles and drinking amazake. Both of which sound delicious. And apparently there is a long tradition of listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony during Ōmisoka. There is also Kohaku Uta Gassen, which sounds amazing.
Kohaku Uta Gassen is a national singing competition that is televised on December 31st every year. The top singers, bands, and groups are invited to perform, with women forming the red team and men forming the white team. They all perform a song, a panel of judges and the audience votes to determine the winning team, and all the contestants sing “Hotaru no Hikari” together to wrap things up. As I said, it sounds amazing. So of course I tried to find somewhere I could watch it online this year, but no luck. Instead, I’ve been gorging myself on the snippets of performances NHK has posted on their YouTube channel. The theme this year was Colourful, and it looks like it was quite the show. And in case you were wondering, the red team won. Second year in a row!
I also learned that Ōmisoka lasts until January 3rd, so just another excuse for why I extended December’s topic into January. But this is officially the end of the road for art of the holidays. Next week I’ll be back with a brand new topic and the start of a whole new deep dive. I can’t wait. Until then, Happy New Year everyone! I hope there are better days ahead in 2022 for all of us.
One last note. I’m totally going to Japan for New Years as soon as COVID allows. It looks like an awesome time.
Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!