Earliest surviving recording of “Jingle Bells”

In 1998, The Dawn of Sound, a website that features vintage audio, released a CD of some of the earliest Christmas recordings. Among the recordings is a version of “Jingle Bells” from 1898 by the Edison Male Quartet.

From the original CD liner notes:

Of all things Christmas nothing is more traditional than the singing of carols and songs. Songs that capture in lyrics and in music the many traditions that we have at Christmas – the birth of the Christ child, the Christmas tree, the opening of gifts and even sleigh rides. Any well dressed sleigh ride featured those cheery sounding bells attached to the horse’s harness. In fact one of the most beloved Christmas songs ever, “Jingle Bells” celebrates this sound and the spirit of a country sleigh ride. On October 30, 1889 banjoist Will Lyle made history by recording “Jingle Bells”, the very first Christmas record. Although no known copies of this record survive one of the earliest vocal examples of “Jingle Bells” does survive on an Edison brown wax cylinder entitled, “Sleigh Ride Party”. It was made a decade later and was reissued for the first time on this CD (now out of print). This collection of carols, songs and monologues from the original vintage recordings capture the essence of the Christmas spirit as it was in the opening two decades of the 20th Century. So gather up the family, wind up the phonograph and take a trip back in time to the early 1900′s and celebrate the holidays with the “Voices of Christmas Past”.

The full CD, featuring 22 other tracks from 1898 to 1922 is available on the Internet Archive.

Batman: Noël


It’s Christmas Eve in Gotham, and a joyless miser is working late.

Batman: Noël puts a unique spin on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In this retelling of the story, the ostensible good guy plays the role of Scrooge. A hapless and desperate Bob Cratchit has taken a job as a bagman for The Joker in order to make ends meet for Christmas. After a run-in with the Dark Knight in an alley, Cratchit flees without The Joker’s money. Batman, knowing his arch-nemesis will certainly come to collect what’s his, plans to surveil Cratchit’s apartment until the Joker arrives.

Before Batman sets out to wait for The Joker, a vision of his dead partner signals the coming of three “spirits” during the night.

It’s hardly possible to spoil a retelling of A Christmas Carol, but without getting too deep into the details, it’s safe to say that writer/illustrator Lee Bermejo makes great use of the DC Universe characters to tell this story of Christmas redemption.

Bermejo’s illustrations are beautiful, and the book itself is actually a very nice hardcover with a dust jacket. As a bonus to fans of the Batman movies, The Dark Knight’s suit in Noël is rumored to serve as the basis for the suit that will be worn by Ben Affleck in Batman vs. Superman.

For under $20 on Amazon, Batman: Noël makes a great gift for Bat-fans.

Australian home sets new world record for Christmas light display

Clark Griswold, eat your heart out.

Janean and David Richards of Canberra, Australia, have claimed the world record for most lights on a residential property, with a display of 502,165 Christmas lights. This is second time the Richards family has claimed the title. They previously held it in 2011 with 331,038 lights before it was taken away by the Gay family of Lagrangeville, N.Y. in 2012.

You may recall that the famous fictional light display from Christmas Vacation featured a mere 25,000 lights, or roughly one twentieth, the number of lights of the current. record-setting display.

500,000 Lights: Family's Christmas Display Sets World Record (Via NPR)

Photos of abandoned Santa theme parks

Keeping Christmas all through the year is a pretty common sentiment at the holidays. And who could argue with a little more peace on earth and goodwill toward men? Santa Claus, on the other hand, does best when he shows up at the tail end of the Macy’s Parade and high tails it back north before the end of the year.

Perhaps Santa’s limited welcome is what makes  the gallery of abandoned Santa parks at Atlas Obscura so creepy. Nothing could be further from the joy that we associate with Santa than desert sands and decaying shacks.

Rudolph and Ruins: Photographs of Abandoned Santa Parks (Via Neatorama)

German Christmas markets face backlash

“Christmas is just a commercial holiday” is a refrain we hear all too often these days, and while there’s clearly some degree of truth to it, it’s a phenomenon that’s not limited to the United States. In Germany, where outdoor Christmas markets have long been a holiday shopping destination, there is a growing backlash against the commercialization of these traditional markets.

… a number of purists are complaining that German Christmas markets are no longer what they used to be. Supposedly handmade gifts such as wooden stars, nutcrackers and incense-smoking Räuchermännchen are increasingly mass-produced, wholesome produce is being edged out by fatty foods and tacky fairground rides are becoming more prevalent.

German-style Christmas markets aren’t terribly common in the United States, although there are a few notable ones, such as New York’s Union Square Holiday Market. It’ll probably take a few more years before the novelty of traditional customs wears off and they start to become commercialized as they have in Germany.

Too many funfairs, not enough toys: Germany's Christmas markets backlash