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10:14 am | 24 November 2004 | the allegory of christmas

My children, come unto me, and I will tell you a holiday tale, for lo, I have experienced The Glory of Christmas. While ordinarily a staunch supporter of Anti-Pre-Christmas festivities, Pants had free tickets to the preview show (a $40 value!) and it seemed really imperative that we check it out. It's a legend in the Southland, and we felt hilarious even driving in.

Some background: the Crystal Cathedral is a freaky church complex, the main nave of which is made entirely of strut-supported glass panes, thousands of them, although their engineering lends less of a "crystalline" feel, and more of a "vaguely Star-trekkian industrial complex" one. Additionally, it's HUGE inside. I couldn't find any stats on the number of seats, but it was fully at least three football fields (and I was in marching band--I know this stuff).

So we go down there, and so great is the rush to get inside for good seats that I get totally plowed over by a pair of Asian aunties in spandex-cuffed two-pieces. Pants is all "come ON, people" and we make it inside. They have a basic stage with big semi-impressive set pieces, and then what looks like a runway or catwalk bisecting the main floor, with several sub-ramps up to those levels. The pageant is mostly just the whole birth-of-Jesus thing, although some severe revisionism is happening (um, Joseph and Mary's Jewish wedding? Joseph being totally stoked about Mary's pregnancy? The angel Gabriel looking like Barbie?), but that is totally secondary to the crazed garishness of the production.

First, and scariest: The angels. I tried to take surreptitious pictures of them, to share the terror among you, but it didn't work ('cause they're angels, duh). The angels are ladies in white diaphanous iridescent gowns that straight-up come swooping down across the inside of the cathedral on wires. The angels only face one direction and, after having made their decrees or whatever, get reeled back up and into the angel hidey-holes until they need next come terrify the masses. The angels are fucking scary and I did not like them. One was bad enough, but at some "joyous" point there were fully eight angels (one of them CAME OUT FROM BEHIND A TREE ambush-style) and they were bobbing up and down in wind and light like really creepy jellyfish, or something, and it honest-to-God gave me the total creeps.

Left: Angels?---------------------------- Right: Angels.

Second: Live animals. The phrase "animal acts," as used on the website, is misleading, since the animals are only acting like themselves. The camels look totally stoned. The donkeys and burros, arguably my favourite among the hoofed mammals, had that peculiar dear sweetness I so adore. The horses were plainly pissed off and the Roman soldiers riding them were pointless and weird. But the real cake-taker was the sheep.

I say "sheep" in the singular. Obviously there were several sheep and even goats, but one sheep was the show-stealingest prize of all. During the loooooooong away-in-a-manger scene, there are two sheep and a couple of shepherds--including one "junior shepherd" who is probably 8--huddled in semi-dimness near some rocks, to add flavour, I guess. Well, during one of the interminable songs, this one sheep starts baa-ing. And really letting loose, you know, brassy and bored and fantastic. "For he has come--" Baaaaaa! "--to save us--" BAAAaaaaaah! It was pure mint. Pants and I were giggling super-hard, getting stern looks from other viewers, but it was unstoppable. And then, just as it couldn't get better, Jesus got born, and Mr. Sheep was apparently like "One too many Lambs of God on this stage. I'm outtie. Later!" and busted down the ramp into the wings, dragging the junior shepherd behind him, flat on the floor, like a cape or train or rug or something. Baaaaaah.

We plumb lost it. Nothing was ever as good as that. They brought the sheep back (why? why?) but even through other hilarity--the Wise Men were apparently composed of a redneck, a closeted gay prepubescent, and a Canadian*--Caspar's camel TOTALLY pooed on stage, but one of Melchior's attendants produced a Disneyland broom and dustpan from his robes and took care of it--Mary sang TO THE BABY JESUS a song that was all "One day you will die," creepy-creeptasm--but through it all, Mr. Sheep baaaahed his little wool off. We love Mr. Sheep. Mr. Sheep, single-hoovedly, is the Glory of Christmas. Baaaaah! clm.

*Producing much driving-home hilarity, as so:
Canadian Melchior: "Oooh, yah. Yah. I broughtcha some gold. It was just lyin' around. Sooorry it's soo heavy. Thought tha baby might like it."
Redneck Balthazar: "I brung you fine myrrh frum the spices of thuh Or-i-ent! They's Oriennnal! I brung you a season packet from ramen noodles! Oriennal flavor!"
Gay Caspar: "I just brought thome inthenth, you know, you might like how it thmellth. That camel ith totally looking at me weird! You guyth wanna go to Berlin after thith? It'th eightieth night!"

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