Even heard in modern synthesizer arrangements, the melody of the carol "Good King Wenceslas" brings the words and images of the story into my head: "Good King Wenceslas looked out / on the Feast of Stephen / When the snow lay 'round about / deep and crisp and even.
Wenceslas was a real person: the Duke of Bohemia, a 10th-century Christian prince in a land where many practiced a more ancient religion. In one version of his legend, Wenceslas was murdered in a plot by his brother, who was under the sway of their so-called pagan mother.
Ah, 'tis the season to be indulgent. Another glass of champagne? Please, have some homemade cookies. Does anyone want to go to the movies instead of the gym? As far as I'm concerned, December is Guilty Pleasures Time.
Ken Harbaugh is a former Navy pilot and an NPR commentator.
Our Christmas tree gets uglier every year. It's not the tree's fault. This year we sprung for a Frasier Fir, cut fresh at a local farm. It has soft needles, that ideal pinecone shape, and a pointy top perfect for holding a star. But when we got home, I felt like apologizing. This tree did not deserve what we were about to do. We re-cut the bottom, mounted it in its holder, and gave it water. For about five minutes, our tree looked beautiful. Then came the decorations.
After being force-fed a steady diet of Oscar hopefuls for almost a month, I may just be ready for empty-calorie time at the cineplex. But I have to confess a sense of relief this week, as I watched entertainments that didn't seem to want to do anything other than show an audience a good time.
The body of Kim Jong Il, the deceased leader of North Korea, now lies in state in the capital, Pyongyang. His sudden death has raised concerns about possible power struggles. But so far, all outward signs suggest that the North Korean leadership is lining up behind his son, Kim Jong Un.
Eric Weiner's most recent book is Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine.
Surveys show religious people are happier than the secular? Why is this? Is it — as an atheist friend quipped — that "ignorance is bliss?" Not long ago, that's what I would have concluded. Like many people of my ilk — cerebral East Coaster, highly skeptical, and, yes, latte drinking — I reflexively viewed the religious as less sophisticated. And, if I'm brutally honest here, somehow less intelligent, or at least more narrow-minded. I don't feel that way anymore.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the Egyptian army's use of force against protesters, especially women. Clinton's remarks, in a speech at Georgetown University Monday night, were the strongest criticism yet of the Egyptian military, which has been ruling the country since ousted president Hosni Mubarak stepped down last February.