Winston Churchill’s 1941 Christmas Eve Address

On December 24, 1941, Winston Churchill joined Franklin Roosevelt in Washington D.C. to plan for war. For England the blitz was on and the island nation stood alone. For the United States Pearl Harbor was three weeks prior and the war was joined.

That night Franklin Roosevelt lit the nation’s Christmas tree for the ninth time. He also briefly addressed the allied world, considering how we could celebrate in time so stern and under circumstances so dire. Churchill then took the podium, and answered that same question.

I first found Churchill’s address seven or eight years ago. Few people I’ve met know it exists, even those who consider themselves Churchillians. It is very much a speech not only of its time (1941), but also of its people and place (Christian politicians talking to a primarily Christian audience). There are things in it that a political leader in England or the U.S. likely could not say today, at least not in this voice, or in terms so direct. That’s for good reasons, and reflects the growing plurality of the free world. Nonetheless, it’s something a hearer of the speech 75 years on should understand, and I think, tolerate.

With that said, not a Christmas eve has passed since I found the speech that I’ve failed to think of it. Many times I’ve read it. 75 years past its delivery, I find it true, meaningful, and powerful. We still fight evil people who wish to visit harm and tyranny on others. We still face times stern and circumstances dire. We have much work to do. But even so, we should “let the children have their night of fun and laughter” and “let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures.” For soon enough we we must “turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.”

Today I found a video of both speeches, and here it is. I’ve also pasted in the next of Churchill’s address below. Happy holidays to you, wherever you may be.

I spend this anniversary and festival far from my country, far from my family, yet I cannot truthfully say that I feel far from home.  Whether it be the ties of blood on my mother’s side, or the friendships I have developed here over many years of active life, or the commanding sentiment of comradeship in the common cause of great peoples who speak the same language, who kneel at the same altars and, to a very large extent, pursue the same ideals, I cannot feel myself a stranger here in the centre and at the summit of the United States.  I feel a sense of unity and fraternal association which, added to the kindliness of your welcome,  convinces me that I have a right to sit at your fireside and share your Christmas joys.

This is a strange Christmas Eve.  Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle, and, with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other.  Ill would it be for us this Christmastide if we were not sure that no greed for the land or wealth of any other people, no vulgar ambition, no morbid lust for material gain at the expense of others, had led us to the field.  Here, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart.  Therefore we may cast aside for this night at least the cares and dangers which beset us, and make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm.  Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.

Let the children have their night of fun and laughter.  Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play.  Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.

And so, in God’s mercy, a happy Christmas to you all.

20 Great Winter Photographs

If it’s not very white outside where you are this holiday season, check out these 20 great winter photographs at 500px. It certainly got me in the winter mood (which is good because it’s raining where I am).

What I Mean When I Say Chinook Salmon

This poem by Geffrey Davis appears in this week’s New York Times Magazine.

My father held the unspoken version of this story
along the bridge of his shoulders: This is how
we face and cast to the river — at angles.
This is how we court uncertainty. Here, he taught
patience before violence — to hold, and then
to strike. My fingers carry the stiff

memory of knots we tied to keep a 40-lb. King
from panicking into the deep current
of the stream. Back home, kneeling
at the edge of the tub with our kills, he showed
the way to fillet a King: slice into the soft
alabaster of the pectoral, study the pink-rose notes

from the Pacific, parse waste and bone from flesh. Then,
half asleep, he’d put us to bed, sometimes with kisses.

Fed Goldbeg

If you’ve wondered precisely how tighter monetary policy by the Fed will slow the economy and ease inflation, this should make it all perfectly clear.

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Reading the novels of David Mitchell51-qQ2TbIPL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_ can ruin you for his genre, which I can only and insufficiently describe as scifi-fantasy-thriller-postmoderism (but not really any of those). In fact, The Bone Clocks might ruin you for just about any contemporary fiction genre, and if it doesn’t, the remarkable and astonishing Cloud Atlas certainly will.

That being said, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel deserves its place on this shelf, and the many awards it has won. Her story is not as long as Clocks or Atlas, nor the writing quite as gripping or the characters quite as entrapping, yet each chapter in the book is a delight and the thing in its whole, at least for me, was a great read and well worth the time. This is sophisticated stuff, entertaining, vivid, frightening, provocative, and hopeful. I look forward to her next.

The blurb from the jacket:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, from the author of three highly-acclaimed previous novels.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Direction From The Chairman Of The Board

A very cool 1990 letter to George Michael from Frank Sinatra on dealing with the challenges of stardom. Via Michael Beschloss.

Talent must not be wasted … those who have talent must hug it, embrace it, nurture it and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you. 

Trust me. I’ve been there.


NFL Playoff Simulator

The New York Times Upshot sports blog has a N.F.L. playoff simulator up. With 109 games left in the season, the Times reports that there remain roughly 9 quintillion ways the season could end. Pour a large cup of coffee and begin exploring them all.


As for my home team, the simulator predicts a 41 percent chance of making the playoffs based on 189,000 simulations. After they lose today (as I predict they will) those odds will drop to 28 percent. But the simulator also tells me that the next two games of the season are essentially meaningless – if they win the last two games of the season, they’re nearly certainly in.

So I can relax today, which is nice.


For the past several days I’ve been reading NextDraft, the news blog written by Dave Pell. Each weekday morning he visits some 75 news sites, and from them curates 10 stories for the day. The content is good, the blurbs smart, and the design beautiful. See the most recent edition here, and there are RSS feeds and an iOS app, too.


White Elephant Strategy

FiveThirtyEight gives a game theory strategy for winning your white elephant gift swap. There’s a clear advantage in going late in the order, or best, last. But order aside, strategy matters. (If you want to see the nitty gritty, check out the analysis and notes at Github.)

How To Fold A Dress Shirt

Beginning a new category of posts here, “Hacks,” with how to fold a dress shirt for packing (courtesy Antonia Centeno). Personally I use Method 1.3-ways-to-fold-a-shirt-infographic-800