capriuni: Text: Glad Yule; Image: A sprig of holly (yule)

(Consider this journal entry properly bedecked).

This "Christmas season" is hard on everyone -- even those who enjoy & celebrate it can find it exhausting. And for those of us who don't -- or can't -- celebrate it (for whatever reason) it can be especially isolating -- particularly for those of us whose primary social connections happen through these here Interwebs.


I'm posting this entry as an open discussion/chat thread, so that we have a place to chat and commune through the comment threads.

Come sip a warm (or cool, depending on your season) spiced beverage of your choosing, and grab a plate full of virtual goodies.

I'll be checking back in frequently over the next 72 hours or so.

Welcome! Welcome!

Edited to add:

I also can't forget (or, rather, I can, but should not) that today is also the first day of Hanukkah. So have a video that [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith posted a couple of years ago:

Because I also know many are over saturated with Christmas songs, by now...
capriuni: "This calls for CAKE" with plate and fork (Cake!)
(Note: I actually focus my celebrating on the New Year/my birthday [the 12th-18th of January])

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved to make up recipes in my head -- even though I don't have the means to actually make any of them ... So would you? If I post my ideas here, would you try converting them to recipes and making them (and tell me how they turned out)? No need to send me the results; I'd just like to know they saw the light of day and the dark of someone's tummy.

I am an omnivore with no dietary restrictions -- but PLEASE feel free to adapt to vegan or gluten-free, or whatever...

The 1st real recipe I remember working -- Mom helped )

These are definitely not suitable for the mail )

Variations on Peanut Butter Cookies )
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
It had been ages since I'd truly written flash-fiction (though I used to write a-story-in-a-day fairly regularly when I was a teen), and then, at around 4 pm, Christmas afternoon, I got the idea for a "drabble" I could slip into [ profile] gordon_r_d's inbox; 100 words would take an hour, tops (right, if you include all the edit and polish?). And it kept growing, and growing, and growing... And eventually, I realized I was creeping dangerously close to the 10,000 character limit (and over five hours later). But in the end, I succeeded in writing a complete story in more-or-less one sitting (don't worry--I took breaks for biological needs).

I also realized, as I was finding a way to resolve it, that, at least when it comes to "What the Holidays [trademark] mean to me..." that it was damned autobiographical. So, with [ profile] gordon_r_d's kind permission, I present to you:

Crinkleminkle's crushmess... crunchmuss... SOMETHING-yacallit )
capriuni: A NASA photo of the planet Saturn in a "Santa cap" text: Io, Saturnalia (Io!)
Here is a story I've told before, on my personal journal. But Christmas-Yule-Saturnalia is a time for retelling tales:

Like most children, I eventually grew out of a belief in any literally existing "Santa" (though, actually, his name is Claus -- calling him Santa's like calling him "Mister"). But when I was grown up, I came to believe in him again:

I was twenty-three, and a junior in college -- one of two mobility-impaired students on campus. The dorms we lived in were converted apartment buildings from the 1920s: two storeys, with a flight of stairs leading to the second floor right inside the door. ... I never went up the stairs.

So "Secret Santa" week rolls around, and our socks got tacked up to a wall in the common room, with our names above each. We each pull a name out of a hat. The name I pull belongs to someone who always went right up the stairs when she came in from class, and hardly ever came into the common lounge to hang out -- I wasn't even sure what her face looked like.

As I use a wheelchair, and don't drive, the only access I had for presents was the campus bookstore -- and the cafeteria. Unsure of what to get my mysterious "santee," that first day, I snagged an orange from the fruit bar, because that's at least traditional for a stocking stuffer. But it wouldn't be in keeping with the spirit of the game if I left it at that. So I went into the bookstore and perused the shelves of cute, deliberately made, Christmas gifts, which were alongside the boxed convenience foods that could be made on a hot plate or microwave, in the dorm room...

My hand to the Powers, I swear I heard a voice whisper in my ear: "Get the chicken soup." So I do.

Then I hurry back and put my gifts in her stocking, and duck out of the common room before anyone can see me. I was putting the key in my dorm room door when I heard someone come in, and head for the "Stocking Wall." The next thing I hear:

"An Orange! And Chicken Soup! Just what I needed -- I'm coming down with a cold!"

Now, I ask you: Who else but the Claus would know that?! So I am a believer forever: whether a spirit or corporeal being (or both, if the circumstances require), I believe Furry Nicholas is the Muse of Generosity -- the one who inspires us to find the perfect gift for the perfect moment, even if it is our name signed on the gift tag.

Io, Saturnalia! and Glad Yule!
capriuni: A NASA photo of the planet Saturn in a "Santa cap" text: Io, Saturnalia (Io!)
I haven't gotten around to writing a new holiday song, yet... but I did, just now, finish making a video of a song I wrote a while back, and recently tweaked.

Yes, I know that for the southern half of the planet New Year comes in the summer. I'm a northerner, and I originally wrote this as a Secret Santa present for another northerner back in '06. My antipodean friends are welcome to change those lines around to suit the circs.

Anyway, the image at 2:55 is of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm listening to a story from Dorothea Viehmann -- who was the actual source for a great many of the stories in their collection, and incidentally, the woman Wilhelm would eventually marry (he's the one leaning forward in his seat, hanging on her every word). ...I love the chickens wandering in and out... Anyway, I included that illustration specifically because this December is the 200th anniversary of the first edition of their first volume of "Children's and Household Tales," and figured they deserved a tip of the hat.

Here's a link to the Wikisource page that has the illustration and text of the article that went with it:

Also: Achievement unlocked! I managed to get the closed captioning track done right in the first try. \o/ (It really is a lot easier if you don't bother counting the fractions of seconds).
capriuni: A NASA photo of the planet Saturn in a "Santa cap" text: Io, Saturnalia (Io!)
Yesterday I wrote about how I kinda want to write a "Santa Claus"/Christmas story, because "The Big Winter-Gift-Giver" is one of my all time favorite para-mythical beings, but how I am put off by some of the fundamental tropes of the genre:

1) Naughty / Nice dichotomy. That's comforting, perhaps, to children who are privileged enough that they can expect to receive fun presents on a yearly basis. But if you're not privileged enough to have that expectation, it carries the subtext that both wealth and poverty are morally deserved.

2) The "You've got to Believe in "Santa" before he'll bring you any presents: I.E. skepticism/disbelief is "naughty."

So that's where I left off. There's a third peeve that I didn't get to before falling asleep at my keyboard:

3) That a Happy Ending = "Big Shiny (fancy-complex) Thing to own"

So, I got to thinking about how I would/could subvert some, or all, of those (at least one would be dandy:

1) Redefine the boundaries of "Naughty" vs. "Nice": Has nothing to do with whether you get good or bad grades in school, do or don't talk back to your parents, Shout, or cry, or pout, or scribble on the walls in purple crayon. Has everything to do with whether you bully others, or deliberately try to squelch their spirit and sense of fun.

2) Easy enough to have the skeptical kid get a present, anyway. Doesn't even matter if the kid comes to believe in Santa (elves) at the end. The Winter-Gift-Giver doesn't need to make that kind of demand.

3) This one is harder -- but what if the "Gift" that the underprivileged kid gets is a 'gift' in the sense of 'newly discovered talent or strength'?
capriuni: A NASA photo of the planet Saturn in a "Santa cap" text: Io, Saturnalia (Io!)
Of all the programming on Geek and Sundry's new YouTube channel, "Written by a Kid" was the one I was looking forward to the most, but, in the end, it's the one that made me squirm the most while watching it.

After a few episodes (of really trying hard to like it), I came to the conclusion that while I really like chatting with children myself, I really dislike watching children being interviewed as entertainment, which is the outlining format of "Written by a Kid."

Their latest episode supports my hypothesis: There's no interview here -- just a kid singing a song he's made up (or is making up, as he sings it), without any goofy adult prompting ("Oh, really? You sure about that?" *snicker*):
Micah's Holiday Song

And while it doesn't quite hold together as music, I think it's one of the best "Holiday Stories" of this genre I've encountered in a while.

I loved the nuanced interpretation of Naughty vs. Nice: The troll was really very nice, and deserved a present, because he didn't eat any humans for a whole day (which is really hard for a troll) -- that what it takes to be deserving is putting effort into goodness, and not taking the easy way out. I also like that, for the troll, Santa made his gifting delivery during the day: because that's when trolls sleep. There's no "One Size Fits All" for either niceness or gifting.

So, anyway, that reawakened my two biggest pet peeves with the usual "Santa Claus at work" genre of stories:

1) The whole naughty vs. nice thing, right at the start. It's true that, eight years ago (yipes!), I wrote an essay about how Santa Claus is actually a "Father Nature Figure" -- Like Mother Nature, a being of Infinite Bounty as long as you show some humility, and don't go around bullying the biosphere. But he's also capable and more than willing to chew you up and spit you out if get too much with the hubris. So, there's some validity to the Naughty vs. Nice idea. But the way it's used in your standard "Holiday Special" fare, it has the (probably... maybe) unintended subtext that both poverty and privilege are somehow morally deserved... particularly if you're a poor kid who never gets the really nice, fun, presents, even when you try really really hard to be good.

2) The whole "You have to believe" trope, which follows peeve #1 like the left foot follows the right. Because if you're a poor kid, and you notice that the little privileged snots with rich parents get the presents (even if they knock you down in the playground at recess), you're naturally going to start doubting the fables about the North Pole and the elves a little sooner than your peers. So than, to blame the skepticism itself for the fact that Santa never comes to your house is just... plain... cruel. (It was the movie version of "The Polar Express" that really made me notice the dark side of this).

But on the other hand, "Santa"* is absolutely one of my favorite para-mythic beings,* and I'm sentimental enough that the "If we just don't give up hope, we'll be able to make the magic, Dammit!" story arcs jerk the tears from my eyes every time. One thing I noticed, way back in my teens, was that nearly every story dealt with the conflict of Saving Christmas Itself -- or, in other words, to keep the Wheel of Time, itself, from grinding to a halt.

So, there's the desire to tell my own "Santa's Magic" story, deeply rooted somewhere in the back of my mind... I just have to figure out how to subvert those two pet peeves.

...And, there are more thoughts, but I took my anti-allergy pills about 2 and a half hours ago, and the word-organizing part of my brain is shutting down for the night. So I will stop there.

*Though actually, since I think he is far older than the invention of any saint, I call him "Wild Nicholas" instead (Besides, calling him "Santa" is like yelling out "Hey, Mister!" -- it's his title -- not his name)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
As I said, in a recent, circle-locked post, Saturnalia is my favorite of the Publicly-celebrated Winter Bash festivals (or would be, if it were still publicly celebrated). So much so, I made a new icon to celebrate, just now :-)

I first learned about the holiday in high school Latin Class, and, one year, a combined Latin Class party (all the Latin students from fifth to twelfth grade -- 11-18 year-olds) was the one time in my life I got to actually celebrate it in an organized way.

This is what I learned way back in my personal Days of Yore:

Once upon a time, after Saturn was deposed from his kingship of the Gods, he came to Earth, and taught humans all about agriculture: how to plow the earth (pointing out how the wild boars did it, with their tusks... and it was based on that inspiration that humans figured out the plough).

During his reign on Earth, before civilization got too advanced, there were no social classes, and everyone lived as equals, and no one did any more work than was necessary (and since there was a God of Fertility on premises, very little work was needed to get things to grow). This was the Golden Age of Man, and there was peace, and no wars, etc. And then, as people acquired more wealth, they started to stratify into social classes, and develop slavery, and start coveting other clans' lands, and so forth, and they, too, banished Saturn, and began to worship Jove as the supreme god.

But for a week, around the winter solstice, Saturn was welcomed back to the world, and, to make him feel at home, we humans are asked to try our best to act like we did during the Golden Age, when social class is forgotten, and masters serve their slaves at dinner, and people spend more time playing than working, and official government bureaucracy stuff is put on hold... Basically:

"Grandpa is coming to stay for a week! Can we at least try to be extra nice to each other, to make him feel at home?"

Of course, it's make-believe. The slaves are not really free... and everything goes back to normal on the 24th, so even when they're given the "liberty" of voicing criticism of their masters, it can only go so far.

And yet, there's an acknowledged value in "acting as if" -- just to practice exercising those thought muscles.

In my high school Latin party, that one year, it started with the Seniors (or at least those who'd been studying Latin for the full seven years) reenacted the liberation of Saturn from bondage: one played the role of the God, himself, in a long yellow, robe/toga, and wearing a fake cotton wool beard. He came in wearing paper chain-and-shackles, which the the student acting as priest tore asunder. Then, "Saturn" gave a speech in Latin all about the values of human equality and peace, and freedom. And then, he went around and handed out (what would have been, in "Roman times") little cakes that were shaped like the god Saturn (only, those being unavailable, our Latin teacher went out and bought a couple dozen Santa-shaped, red-sugar-dusted, butter cookies from a local bakery).

Then, since we were excused from our other afternoon classes, we shared a meal of Italian food, and honey-glazed cakes for dessert, while each of the different aged students put on short skit parodies of Roman mythology.

Then, right before we left to get on our buses home, we sang Christmas carols in Latin.
Anyway, it's always kind of baffled me why Saturnalia, out of all the old Holy Days, is the one that has become the most demonized as Teh Evol by the Christian Evangelical types, while Lupercalia, was allowed to survive, be sanitized and prettified (That is: transformed into Valentine's Day), and pushed onto schoolchildren as a series of mandatory class activities (though my aide, who has been working for a young school boy at nursery school, kindergarten, and now first grade, tells me that Valentine's Day is no longer pushed in school... which I think is a healthy trend).

Valentine's Day origins (content warning: discussion of animal sacrifice and D/s sex) )

So, on Monday and Tuesday, I was browsing through YouTube to see if I could find anyone reading excerpts from Martial's (Roman Poet) Saturnalia Epigrams (little comic verses about -- or sometimes in the voice of -- different Saturnalia presents). Sadly, I could not. I did, however, come across many Christian Evangelical videos espousing their hatred of the holiday, and by extension, all the jolly, fun, parts of Christmas.

And then it occurred to me (the proverbial light bulb, or considering the context, Saturnalia candle): Lupercalia may have been filled with sex and violence, while Saturnalia at least gave lip service to peace, equality, and freedom. But Lupercalia was turned into lovey-dovey day, and Saturnalia became equated with evil because it :::Drum Roll::: CELEBRATES ANARCHY!!!!


Now, a note on the shadow / dark side of the ancient worship of Saturn: it was acknowledged, in the ancient Roman myths, that while he ruled over the Earth, Saturn did demand human sacrifice as part of his cult, and to be presented with the heads of his victims as offerings. Over the course of several centuries of observing Saturnalia, contemporary Romans came up with varying ways to acknowledge this practice without actually performing it, including making offerings of masks of human faces or offering and burning candles shaped like people. For modern folks who want to observe Saturnalia, may I suggest offering the heads off a few of your gingerbread people? Just a thought.
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
A wee bit more sincere/sentimental than the last one:

I gotta say: I prefer this cover to the Pogues' original... Less... snarly?

Lyrics )
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
Another clip from Old School Electric Company, this time, showing the influence of adult sketch comedy, like The Carol Burnett Show:

And really, I think: If this had been first released through some other (aka commercial) venue, rather than PBS children's programming, it would have been as popular a novelty song as "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas," or "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus." For one thing, it tells the truth about Christmas that's rarely acknowledged in kids' music, especially.

I also really like the ending (how much do you want to bet he was hoping for a shot of bourbon?).
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
Lyrics from sheet music in the Library of Congress )

There are lots of videos of this song on YouTube, but this is the one with most clearly enunciated lyrics that actually match the lyrics on record in the Library of Congress; the point of greatest variation among the versions seems to be the excuse Gilhooly gives when he's pressed to take seconds. I think asking for the recipe (receipt) is the most credible as, a) it passes for enthusiasm, and b) it gives you the info you need when you call the poison control center, later. >;-)

(Video is just a repeating slide show of generic Christmassy images)

Since Christmas traditions had nearly fallen out of favor and/or living memory by the time Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, and this song was published a mere 40 years later, I can't help but wonder if this is one of the oldest in the tradition of Christmas Novelty songs, that mock the sentimentality and sacredness of the season...
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
As I said the other day, I'm a Born-Again Atheist who believes in "Santa Claus"*

In my own imagination, this figure is the personification of Father Nature in the form of a Wind Spirit.

And that's what I've tried to draw, here:

And since I'm getting ready to divest myself of LiveJournal, I decided to take this oportunity to start a flick'r account. My account name there is "Capriuni_Still," because I needed to create a new Yahoo account years ago for reasons I can't remember, now...

Anyway, happy-happy Yule (third day after the Solstice, nine days before 2011, and if you don't celebrate any of that, a "Very happy Thursday" [/Pooh and Piglet]).

*Though, personally, I prefer the name "Belsnickle" because it's descriptive without the religious honorific (and because it's silly-sounding). From the German for "Furry Nicholas"
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Yule Father)
(Yes -- "More." I suppose "Zat You, Santa Claus?" is not properly a carol, in most peoples' eyes, but it is to me [but "Santa Claus is coming to town" is sacreligious ;P])

I'm so happy I found this song on YouTube. I admit, I get teary-eyed whenever I hear it, and lumpy-throated, too. Because it spells out what I think of as the "reason for the season": Forgiving old wrongs and grudges, and creating a little bit of Peace on Earth, and thus, doing your best to start the new year off right.

According to the folks at Mudcat, the lyrics for this tune date back to somewhere around 1620. And the music is from about a century later.

capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
This time, it's full of holiday cheer!

(Coulton's lyrics, with a gloss for the ASL translation [useful for showing that ASL is, in fact, a different language, with its own sentence structure and grammar] can be found here, in his info section)

capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
I love "Santa's" grin around 1:10-1:15. It clearly shows his family ties to the Pelznickels of the Pennylvania Dutch.

capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
So, I've started writing my first Blogger post.

For (what feels like) a long time, I couldn't decide what I should put down there. Then I woke up today and decided it should be an introduction: to myself (basically, that I love my subject, and it makes me squee), and my approach to the whole idea of "authentic folktales" (basically, that I used to cling to the idea that there is such a thing, and I was a bit dogmatic about it, but I've now relaxed a bit, in my middle age).

I've been working at it for a couple hours, and I've got two and a half paragraphs written. And it feels like my eyes are crossing. So I'm taking a break (most of the time & mental strain is finding sources to link to / quote from, for the claims I make -- once an academic, always an academic).

Once I have a first post up, I'll change my settings, so the blog will appear in Google searches, etc.. And I'll put a link here.

In the meantime, Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer was on my TV, night before last; I caught it just as they got to the Island of Misfit Toys. And I got to wondering:

There's been a lot of tie-in merchandizing and spin-off stories around Rudolf himself. But has there ever been any tie-in (in the form of actual toys, or Christmas tree ornaments, or greeting card images) with the misfits themselves? 'Cause I think an Ostrich-Riding Cowboy would be lots of fun... same with a pink-spotted elephant. Not to mention the Winged Lion who's king of the island.

You know?

I mean, the whole point and moral of the TV story was: respect the misfits, dammit! And yet, the misfits are still totally forgotten.

...It's almost enough to make one almost cynical about the whole Christmas culture...
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
(I don't remember which one, but when I get my record player set up, and the records [finally] sorted, it will be one of the first records to be played.

Lines from this popped into my head, this morning, after hearing more bad news from Gaza/Isreal; it's my way of fighting back:

From In Memoriam A.H.H. By Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light :
The year is dying in the night ;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow ;
The year is going, let him go ;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more ;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife ;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times ;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite ;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease ;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold ;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand ;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
Tis ill for a mind to anger inclined
To think of small injuries now,
If wrath be to seek, do not lend her your cheek,
Nor let her inhabit thy brow.
Cross out of thy books malevolent looks,
Both beauty and youth's decay,
And wholly consort with mirth and with sport
To drive the cold winter away.

(Second verse of a 17th Century English Christmas Carol)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
I sometimes use Windows' Solitare to answer a Yes/No question.

If there are four or more red cards showing, the answer is "Yes" (It's like flipping a coin, except I don't have to worry about the answer falling off the table and rolling to the other side of the room).

When I asked the Solitaire Oracle if I should post about how I learned to celebrate the Winter Holiday as I was growing up, it showed me: Black, Red, Red, Red, Red, Red, Black. That looks like a pretty emphatic "yes" to me, so:

My dad was an airline pilot; when he was working, he was gone for 3-4 days at a stretch. When he was home, he was fully home, and had time to spend with mother and me, so I probably had a stronger relationship with my father than other kids did, whose dads spent their time commuting to an office every day. But when he was gone, he was gone. So most of my cultural learning I got from Mom, since it was just her and I in the house, doing our thing.

I was raised, culturally, Christain (Quaker), but, in practical terms, my upbringing was secular. I was taught, by my parents, the story of Jesus' birth, and that the star on top of the tree represented the Star of Bethleham.* The music in our Christmas collection was all Traditional as in Folk or Classical-based (a lot of albums by Pete Seeger and Joan Collins and Leadbelly -- the Leadbelly album was one of our favorites). Never any Chimpmunks, or Bing Crosby. Many of the carols on those albums told the story from the human side of things: the social justice angle, focusing on the parents' poverty, and the generousity of strangers, rather than glorifying God and redemption from sin. My mother was about as tone deaf as anyone I've met, but we all, always, sang along with the records-- or danced; passive listening was not an option.

But mother also told me, from the time I was seven or so, that Jesus was not really born in December. That we celebrate Christmas when we do because of the ancient pagans who celebrated the winter solstice, that they would light candles and fires to entice the sun to come back, and bring greenery into the house to encourage life to keep going. And that the main reasons why we give gifts to each other, and have feasts and sing songs because we've got a long, cold winter ahead of us, and things would get very depressing, otherwise.

(I was five when she told me that "Pagan" meant country-dweller, and "Heathan" meant people who lived on the heath-- and that she admired pagan women for being strong; this was in 1969)

In my teens, she started a brief tradition of holding a Winter Solstice potluck party at our house, inviting all the neighbors over. When the sun set, she would try to encourage people to join in a collective cheer, to say good bye to the old sun, and get ready for the new one to come... mostly, people just looked at her like she was weird. But she cheered enthusiastically, anyway.

We always bought a live ball-and-burlap tree; we took off the decorations and moved it to the basement on Twelfth Night (I was also told it was bad luck to keep it up any longer), where it could stay cool-yet-protected until the ground thawed in the spring. Then it would get planted somewhere on the property.

She also told me that it was good luck to have a bird ornament somewhere on the tree, because it represented the continuation of life in the coming new year -- I really do not know which culture she got that from. Our ornaments were always eclectic and folk-arty /homemade -- none of this Martha-Stewart style "Theme" stuff. But nearly every year, we'd buy one new bird ornament to hang in the tree (And it was considered especially auspicious if we found a real bird's nest somewhere in the branches of our tree. I remember that happening a couple of times).

Anyway, that's what I remember. So it's hard for me to really get my head around the apparent conflict some see between celebrating Christmas and celebrating the winter solstice, because I've known all my life that the two are linked, and that both halves are important to people, though each half is more or less important to different people, and that's okay.

For the record, I never really talked to my mother about how she was raised, religiously. I think they went to an Episcipalian church in New York City when they were kids, though I think she and her siblings spent more time running around the church towers, getting into mischief, than actually listening to any of the sermons. She once told me, near the end of her life, that she considered Mathematics to be her religion, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were useful metaphors for the Past, Present and Future, respectively-- and that when we die, she thought it could be that we're reincarnated into the daisies that we push up, and that our souls, if souls we have, just become part of the pattern of energy in the universe as a whole. So I guess most "normal" people would call her an atheist. But she was a very spiritual, maybe-believing-in-magic-along-with-science, atheist. She specifically asked to be cremated, and for her ashes to be periodically spread on our compost heap.

I miss her. And I miss having someone else in the house to sing carols with. I have been singing them out loud, myself, but it's not the same.

*It was thin wood, a geometric design, and painted barn-red. My mother bought it at a Danish design store, iirc, for my parents' first Christmas as a married couple. I think we used it every year, at least, until Mom died.

She also bought, at the same time, a wooden Danish "Santa" decoration. It was a nearly two dimensional wooden sculpture of the Winter Gift-Giver, except for a wooden "button" nose, cotton wool beard, and a red wool tassle on the top of his red hat. He was painted with a blue coat, and white mittens, that had an abstract holly design on them, black shoes with buckles, and red-white-striped socks. He stood a little over 18 inches tall, irrc, and his wooden stand was about three inches wide. I miss him. There were also thumb-sized little wooden gnome/troll figures that managed to show up around the start of the season, placed in random spots around the house, on shelves and in odd corners.

Tomorrow is the start of Saturnalia!!


capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)

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