…this is the author speaking. Because winter break + visiting family + wonky internet + nearly-burnt-out brain I will be incomunicado until my uni semester starts. Thanks to all of you who liked my posts/ left comments/ followed my blog so far, you guys are AWESOME! I will return to regular posting schedule on the 12th of January with, hopefully, fresh material, better editing skills and reinforced snarkiness. Until then, I hope you have a lovely festive season, with laughs, gifts, good company and anything and everything else that makes a Good Time.
Hungover. Head is shore.
Last night was too much fun.
Coffee please? Now?
Oh the terror! Oh the stress!
Oh the indescribable tragedy!
There was a mishap in the invites,
Now the guests are early.
The food’s not done,
I am not dressed,
The place is still a mess!
I’m going to kill him,
He had ONE job,
Somehow he botched it.
Time to bring the bottles out,
Hope this will distract them.
Where did my other shoe go?
Is that the doorbell again?
Being a hostess is such fun.
Tiring and panicky, but fun.
It’s only once a year anyhow,
I can handle that!
Merry Christmas everyone!
When I was little my school used to drag us to church before Christmas (probably in the vain hope that we’d be enlightened and therefore more serious in class). The priest there had this annoying habit of preaching the exact same sermon Every. Freaking. Year. The subject? That X-mas is an entirely inappropriate word and we should use the full version when referring to Christmas. Never mind that most people I know only use X-mas as shorthand in shopping lists… I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately (what with vising the parents and so), so I’m going to write not for X-mas but for the inevitable, obnoxious, seasonal requirement of gracefully receiving kisses.
I don’t mind physical attention. I’m as cuddly as a cat in fact. But having to trade hugs and kisses (even the social, kiss-the-air kind) with people I only see once or twice a year and maybe I’m not even that fond of, then Huston, we have a problem. I understand behind the action, I accept it as a social obligation, but it still makes me want to crawl away and hit the alcohol. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a little, but come on! You wouldn’t hug someone on first meeting! Seeing someone only in the context of a Christmas dinner is a bit like that. Seven kinds of awkward.
Maybe I’m being hyper-sensitive because I’m visiting the family for the holidays and after a semester of Skype talks it takes some getting used to. Never mind all-nighters in the library, this is emotionally exhausting. Part of me is glad to be out of England and not having to care about keeping together a house and a degree at the same time. Another part of me is half-way done with her escape plan. If you have a large family you know the feeling. It’s not what’s spoken that’s the problem. It’s the unspoken expectations…
….This turned pretty gloomy for a Christmas Eve post. I hope you have more fun than I do this festive season.
A wish is a brief thought; delicate and ephemeral,
Like wisps of clouds against a burning sunset.
Beautiful fractals of frost on a window,
Turned rainbow crystals by the golden-grey dawn.
Here for a moment and then gone,
Trailing soundlessly the ether.
Uttered and then forgot; children of a moment,
None thinks that they come true.
And yet, under the blinking lights of a tree,
Surrounded by the sparks of fireworks,
Pressed up in hugs by familiar strangers,
We cannot help it. The words form,
They slip unheard, unseen, unfelt,
And perhaps, just once,
The magic of the days is enough
And we believe.
Visitations are a seasonal requirement,
Inevitable like a runny nose before a cold.
Sounds like not much excitement,
In fact it is a most awkward tradition to uphold.
The crux of the matter is you can’t avoid it.
Or else you might just not get to
Realising that you missed your family a bit.
So don’t be a Grinch, they also missed you.
There are words that relate to the festive season and start with “u”. Unfortunately for them, they aren’t words that I particularly like or find interesting. So I’m going to cheat and go with the day’s celebration instead. A very merry Solstice then to all, whether you celebrate it or not! Yeah for the sun returning! Never mind New Year’s resolutions, for me this is the time to make plans and decisions. What with my mood being scarily attuned to the sun (you don’t want to meet me when the skies have been cloudy for more than three days, I might bite your head off), it makes sense that I’d pick the Winter Solstice for my resolution. It makes sense, right? Not that I’m more stringent with keeping them than most…
I have been doing a lot of research on seasonal myths (especially the Celtic ones) as part of my dissertation. There is something alluring about adding a supernatural gloss (again, whether you believe in the tales or just see them as charming fables) to something as mundane as an astronomical, annual phenomenon. That you have to love a tradition that sees a reason to celebrate lavishly right in the middle of winter… What can I say? Any excuse to eat, drink and be merry is a very good excuse.
My favourite seasonal-changes story (right now at least) is Bricriu’s Feast. It’s an old Irish tale full of fair heroes, shape-shifting mystery-men, beautiful maidens, impossible settings and most importantly the god Curoi for whom I have a particular fondness. You’ve got to love a mythological figure with a penchant for shape-shifting and magic and a curious habit of challenging people to cut his head off. Plus he was a surprisingly good sport (in this particularly story anyway) with his wife flirting with the main character. I’m not going to write exactly what’s going on, Google it, it’s worth a read.
What I set of trying to say is that there is something…just something…about this day. It’s like the world takes a deep breath before getting to work again to wake everything up. The earth prepares for one last cold before spring, the sun starts to clock in more time, the animals wake up, we wake up without as much trouble as usual (hopefully)… What I’m trying to say is, what the first day of school is to six-year-olds, all exhilaration and possibilities, that’s Yule for me.
Tucked under patchwork blankets in the past
Or feather-filled duvets right now,
Young and old ones everywhere
Shut their eyes excitedly, stifle the laughs,
Yearn for the long night to be
Over at last and Christmas day
To dawn with toys and gifts under the tree.
Since not everyone has a good PR department, I thought I’d make a list of the other Santa-figures that hand out gifts around this time of the year:
- Santa Claus
- Saint Nicholas
- Father Christmas
- Kris Kringle
- Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet
- Odin (no, I’m not kidding)
- Père Noël
- Şaxta Baba (“Froze Dad”)
- Christkind (“Christ child”)
- Grandpa Christmas
- Grandpa Frost
- The Christmas Man
- Old Man of Christmas
- Yule Goat
- Saint Basil
- Jólasveinar (In Icelandic folktales, there are 13 Santa Clauses)
- La Befana
- Los Reyes Magos
- Jultomten (“The Yule/Christmas Gnome”)
- Bom Velhinho (“Good Old Man”)
- Pelznickel (“Nick in Fur” or “Jungle’s Santa Claus”).
There are others of course, but time constraints and me going through research-detox are limiting this list.
Oh red! My favourite colour. And apparently one of the “traditional” Christmas colours. I wonder why…. No, I’m not being sarcastic, I honestly wonder why. I get why they use it on Valentine’s Day (even if the association is incredibly morbid, if you think about it) but the only naturally Christmas-season thing (and just to be clear, I’m using “Christmas” as an umbrella term here because December-religious-celebrations sounds awful)…What was I saying? Oh, yes! The only seasonal thing that’s naturally red is the holly plant’s berries. And Santa’s outfit doesn’t count, sorry, that’s Coca Cola branding all over that image. Sorry if I just ruined somebody’s childhood.
If I had to rationalise it (bad idea) I’d say it’s because of the gloomy weather outside. Let’s be honest, in most of the Northern Hemisphere the weather right now is cold/snowy/rainy/freeze-your-toes-off/not pleasant. So what best way to stave off the blues caused by severe Vitamin D deficiency but make the inside of your house as bright and colourful as possible? Or that could be just me. It still doesn’t explain the horror that is those multi-coloured Christmas trees I saw (purple and bubble-gum pink, seriously?) but you have to admit, with as warm a colour as red, you’re bound to feel a bit better.