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ISSUE 121 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/30/2007

Simulcast will suffice

By Paul Christiansen
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 30, 2007

In six months, I will graduate from St. Olaf College without ever having attended Christmas Fest. Will my diploma even count? At our 10 year reunion, after we've exhausted discussing how we were cheated out of the new science center, what will I talk about with other alumni?

Unlike the hundreds of people who spend the exchanged equivalent of thousands of Norwegian Krones on Christmas Fest tickets and travel arrangements, students are offered free admission. I should have no excuse for not attending. Unfortunately, I procrastinated myself out of picking up my ticket again.

Now, the only way I'll be able to witness the event that garners more national attention for the school than any other Olaf production or organization (sorry StoGrow, orchestras and choirs trump organic crops) is to take advantage of this year's newly introduced simulcast feature. I can hop in my car, drive to any of the hundreds of participating movie theaters across the country, throw down 20 bucks and get a high definition live broadcast. This is good, because PBS, with their annual free airing in its drab standard definition format combined with standard television speakers, would surely rob the show of all significance.

I'll get to see the production that puts our school in the running for the most wholesome institution, but how will I get the whole experience? The day is about more than angelic voices and overt Christian overtones. It's about culture and tradition.

I don't think I can accompany my viewing with a stomach full of popcorn kernels and Kit-Kat bars. I will need to first stop off at the Caf and fill my pockets with the weekend's standard cuisine to sneak into the theatre. While paying the inflated prices to enter the cafeteria, I'll finally avoid overhearing students exclaim, "Not hamburgers again! Where is the medisterkaker with brown sauce and lingonberries? Could they at least hook us up with some fømmegrøt and fruit soup?"

During Christmas Fest, these dining desires are met. I will discreetly stuff my pants with the foods I remember so fondly from the days of my distant ancestor's immigration. I just hope the rotting, lye-soaked lutefisk concealed in my pants' pocket doesn't attract suspicion at the multiplex entrance.

Judging by attendance in past years, "In Thee is Gladness," as sung by the St. Olaf Cantorei choir, will sound like the discord of demons if I am improperly attired. On Christmas Fest day, I must dress appropriately. I will cast off my hoodie and jeans and don a Norwegian sweater. However, to make up for my failure to actually view the event in person, I will have to take it a step further. I have been scouring the Internet for socks, pants, underwear and a hat with the same knit pattern to match. Then, I will truly be dressed for the occasion.

So far, it seems like it will be easy to fully experience Christmas Fest even without a ticket, and thus graduate a complete Ole. The most difficult part may in fact be the music. I imagine I give gospel and Christmas music as much iPod playtime as the average 21-year old American male. It therefore came as a bit of an unwelcome surprise to find out that the event features three hours of those genres. It helps that we have one of the best choirs in the entire country, but still, three hours? Thankfully, large lecture hall classes have taught me how to secretly slide in my earbuds and still appear attentive. This way, I'll be able to take a break and listen to a few songs of my own choosing. It will be amusing to hear boom-bap bravado in my headphones while watching crooning blondes in flowing robes.

The lengths I'm prepared to go to properly experience Christmas Fest might seem a bit ridiculous. Does that mean the entire celebration is ridiculous? Before you answer that question, think about your financial aid. Nothing opens the pockets of donors and fills the endowment like nostalgia and Scandinavian entertainment. So from the bottom of my tuition, on my way to the theater, I will be belting out "Fram Fram." Long live Christmas Fest!

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