Tag Archives: Yule

Yule and the Wild Hunt

Odin’s Wild Hunt by PN Arbo 1872

Yule is one of the most important celebrations in the Heathen calendar and is usually celebrated on or around the 21st of December. The date of Yule/Winter Solstice can vary by a day or so each year, this year the Solstice actually falls on Tuesday, 21st December at 11.38pm.

For this month’s article, I’ve invited Vaygar Yngvi Elmersson, the Godi/spiritual leader of Rheinwood Hearth Kindred, to give his comments on Yule and the Wild Hunt.

Thoughts on Yule
By Vaygar Yngvi Elmersson

The concept of Christmas has often been a source of disappointment for me even after a life-long experience in Christianity. Coming into Heathenry twelve years ago, it was such an easy and enjoyable transition to observe Yule instead of the Christ-mass. Yule is possibly a Heathen’s most highly celebrated holiday. As a matter of fact, many of the traditions used in Christmas have their origin in the pre-Christian expression of Yule; the most immediately notable is that of the bringing of a tree inside the home and decorating it. So the idea of honestly celebrating something more aligned to my Germanic heritage excited me beyond measure, minus any guilt that might be levied against me via the Church hierarchy.

Heathen Yule actually has two stories prevailing within it. My initial exposure to Yule was that which surrounds the Winter Solstice. The second story is that of The Wild Hunt.

The Wild Hunt is a story involving Odin and his cohorts riding through the skies during the dark nights of Winter snatching up souls who venture outside their homes. As horrid as this spectacle might seem, to me, it makes perfect sense considering the land and the origin of this Myth. Coming from the Northern European Tradition such as this story does, in my opinion, it has been told, retold and embellished in an effort to discourage anyone from leaving the confines of their home during the dark and snowy nights of winter. Realistically speaking, it was simply dangerous to go outside one’s home for anything after dark for fear of getting lost or misguided in the night. It was easier for adults to tell children horror stories to scare them into submission rather than fill their heads with fanciful ideas. Connected to the Wild Hunt are even more realistically scary ideas of Berserkers and wild animals. Superstitions can play a vital role in controlling group behavior. I can see those of the Warrior/Viking aspects of Heathenry preferring to adhere to the stories of the Wild Hunt as it makes for much better story telling around the hearth-fire through Winter. This continues to be played out in today’s society with Heathen groups focused more on masculine deities like Odin, Thor and Tyr.

The Yuletide Celebration that I encourage with Rheinwood Hearth Kindred is that which surrounds the more agrarian nature of the Winter Solstice; that being, the shortest day and the longest night of the year with the encouraging of the return of the sun and warmth to the land. I have replaced “The Twelve Traits to Remember” previously offered by Swain Wodening; often connected to the Twelve Days of Yule (predecessor to the Twelve Days of Christmas), with our commonly held Nine Noble Virtues plus three very important dates of Mother‘s Night, the Winter Solstice and 12th Night which in my opinion were overlooked by Swain‘s effort. Rheinwood’s Twelve Days of Yule, starting roughly around December 20th, are patterned thus:

1st day of Yule – Mother’s Night-honoring the feminine
2nd Day of Yule – The Winter Solstice-encouraging the return of the sun
3rd Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Courage
4th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Truth
5th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Honor
6th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Fidelity
7th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Hospitality
8th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Discipline
9th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Industriousness
10th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Self-Reliance
11th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Perseverance
12th night-oaths, boasts and toasts

Any time during these Twelve Days of Yule, Rheinwood Hearth Kindred can meet for feasting and celebration! We also don period garb in an effort to connect with our culture, ancestors and gods. We celebrate our relationships with each other as Kindred by speaking words and sharing mead over our Kindred drinking horn.

The Rheinwood Hearth Kindred is located in Wichita, Kansas. We invite you to check us out.

For many Heathens the Wild Hunt is a strong tradition, which they still uphold even in this modern age. If you would like to find out more about the Wild Hunt, please go to each of the following links as they all have different points of view:

The Wild Hunt – Wikipedia page

The Wild Hunt – Orkneyjar page

The Wild Hunt – Hlidskjalf page

However you celebrate Yule, whether it’s by raising a horn to the ancestors or quietly sharing time with your loved ones, I wish you and yours a very Happy Solstice.

Blessings to your Hearth,

Edain
Edain Duguay.com
Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, Best Selling eBook Author and Award Winning Blog Writer.



Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

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Winter Solstice/Christmas

Winter Solstice (December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 20 in the Southern Hemisphere) is the shortest day of the year and was also celebrated as Midwinter, Yule and later as Christmas.

I cannot help but wonder how the ancient people felt when the days grew shorter, the nights longer. They looked up in the sky, wondering at the sun’s great power to bring life to the earth and related it to a god. Without the scientific knowledge of how the earth rotates around the sun, it must have been frightening to think the sun might never reappear. It’s no wonder they created rituals on the shortest day of the year to bring back the Sun god.

Some of the earlier rituals involved animal, and possibly, human sacrifices. They also celebrated with holly, ivy, pine boughs, lighted trees (candles), warm beer and spiced wine drinks (wassail), roasted pigs, large Yule logs and large bonfires, songs and gifts in the hope that the sun would rise earlier and banish the cold, harsh winter. The traditions are still celebrated all over the world.

Later, Christianity incorporated the birth of Jesus into the celebration, naming him the new Sun god even though according to some historians, Jesus was most likely born in March or April. Here in the United States most people celebrate Christmas using some of the traditions of Winter Solstice.

In my house, we celebrate a combination of Winter Solstice and Christmas. I put up a Christmas tree and my Pagan Santa with his green cloak, staff and antlers. For me, this is a time to spend with family and friends, a time for sharing and a time for reflection. Each December I look forward to the end of winter and the beginning of a new season. Every ending is a beginning.

My latest release is a short, sweet, contemporary/paranormal romance called A Winter Solstice Kiss, which is part of the Winter Kisses anthology from Noble Romance.
Noble Romance Publishing http://www.nobleromance.com

Blurb: When Brianna decides to attend the Winter Solstice masquerade ball, she never thought she would end up kissing a handsome knight beneath the mistletoe, but they part without exchanging names and phone numbers–how will they find each other again?

Excerpt: She followed his gaze to mistletoe hanging from the low ceiling, glimmering with a tempting glow. Her breath caught in her throat. Captivated by his nearness, she imagined those masculine lips touching her. “I . . . .” Her feet froze to the floor. He had the most amazing blue eyes.
“It’s tradition,” he said, dipping his head and pressing a kiss to her trembling lips.
She couldn’t move her mouth at first, allowing his lips to capture her mouth in a thrilling crush. His forceful yet tender kiss awakened something inside her. She forgot who she was or that she was allowing a stranger’s lips to caress her. Her head spinning, she surrendered to him.
His hand cradled the back of her head and she was aware of the slight scratch of stubble tickling her face. The kiss grew more passionate and she almost dropped her cup, the only thing keeping their bodies from touching.
The heat from his skin sent a flush to every part of her body. Her breasts heaved and tingled. Excitement spread through the rest of her body, quickening her pulse. She wanted to stay there in his embrace, feeling a man’s lips giving her so much pleasure again.
“Okay guys, get a room already.” A reveler laughed and ducked into the bathroom.
She stepped away from the stranger, the magical moment broken. Blushing, she avoided eye contact with him.

Happy Yule, Winter Solstice, Midwinter and Christmas!

Kelley Heckart
‘Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic’
http://www.kelleyheckart.com
http://kelleysrealm.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/CelticChick
http://www.goodreads.com/kheckart
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelley-Heckart/111838455604
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My book page at Awe-Struck
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Pagan Holiday for December 21, 2009

Pagan Day for Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday (moon day) is the day of the Moon Goddess, Selene, Luna, & Mani.

~

Mondays are an awesome day to take care of matters or magical rituals and spells concerning:

Traveling, memory, one’s instinct, sharpening or increasing Psychic abilities, dreams, healing, home, ancestors and of course, family.

~

Monday belongs to the Moon and the Element of Water

3 More days until Christmas…but hold onto your hats Pagans because there is ALOT to celebrate today…

Today we celebrate:

Winter Solstice which is the shortest day of the year.

The Norse gave us Yule, so many will be celebrating that. Yule marks the turning point of Winter. It also brings an end to the past year. Have you ever heard of a Yule log? Well today, its lighted but from the fire from this year’s past. Its symbolic and very important. It means that Winter’s darkness is making its journey towards the light of Spring.

Now, listen close because we learned how the Norse gave us Santa and we learned about how they gave us the whole tradition of decorating the Christmas or Yule Tree…now listen to how they gave us mistletoe and that whole ‘kissing thing’.

On this day, a Norse woman could proudly and loudly speak her intensions…her hearts desire…telling all the name of the lover she wanted. She would do this by standing under the mistletoe by calling him forth.  It is my guess that her words would be sealed with a kiss. *winks*

Now don’t run off yet because we have more CELEBRATIONS!!!!

On this day the Druids would celebrate their festival Alban Arthuan

Also known as Arthur’s Light, we see the birth of the spirit of giving. Yes, on this day Druids would give gifts to the less fortunate— (recognize that one?) While this was also believed to be Arthur’s birthday, it was also a beautiful day filled with traditions that we see or hope to see during our own present time.

Today is also the Fourth Station of the Year which means—a time of enlightenments, when the light is born in the darkness of the womb.

I hope everyone is noticing the pattern this month with all of our Ancestors celebrations and can connect that with the world known beliefs and myths adopted by Christianity, etc? If you didn’t catch this one…think the birth of Jesus who was believed to be the light of the world…a light from the darkness (womb). it also falls back to the whole Geneses thing when the Christian God takes the light from the darkness etc.

And last but certainly NOT least, Egyptians will hold a celebration for Isis & Osiris. Why?

Because on this day, Osiris returns to the world…resurrecting…Osiris—light—death—darkness—resurrection—reincarnation—birth of Jesus—soon to be the birth of Horus—Osiris’s son given to the world—in some minds—the reincarnation of Osiris himself– will come about on December 25th. Oh I could connect this stuff forever lol.

Despite that, may I wish you ALL (Pagan or non-Pagan) a Blessed Yule, & a wonderful Winter Solstice!!!!!!!

From all of us here at The Pagan & the Pen!!!!

C.H. Scarlett

My Favorite Yule Treats

bloodiedquill

In years past, my mother, grandmother and I would do vast amounts of dainties; from miniature butter tarts to easy as a breeze no-bake cookies, at least 1200 treats graced the tables between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Nothing like homemade butter tarts, trust me! 😉

I promised my girls I wouldn’t do the crazy cooking that the rest of the family does, and would stick to a few of our most favorite. I imagine everyone has these in their cookbooks, but today’s my day to blog, so you’re getting them again. LOL

Peanut Butterscotch Slice

Ingredients:

½ c margarine
1 c peanut butter (smooth or chunky, your choice)
1 pkg Chipits butterscotch baking chips
125g mini colored marshmallows

Directions:

In a large microwave safe container, melt margarine and peanut butter together. Stir in butterscotch chips, returning to microwave for a few seconds if need be. Stir until smooth, then add the marshmallows. Turn out into 5×9 baking dish, cool and slice.

A wonderful variation on this, is switching the butterscotch chips with chocolate chips, and colored marshmallows with plain. We always make a double batch of each!

Cheater Fudge

Ingredients:

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 pkg. chocolate chips

Directions:

Melt milk and chocolate chips together, pour into 5×9 baking dish, cool and cut into small squares.

Brown Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

2 c flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/c butter
½ c br. Sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp cream

Directions:

Blend 1 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Beat sugar, butter and egg together, slowly blend in cream. Stir in flour mixture, slowly add remaining flour. Chill several hours.

Roll out to ¼” thick, cut with cookie cutters, and back at 375° for approximately 8 minutes. These can be decorated with colored sugar before baking, or iced with royal icing after they’ve cooled.

Traditional Rolled Shortbread

We’ve used these as ‘cakes’ during cakes & ale at our Yule circles.

Ingredients:

1 c butter
1 ¼ brown sugar
2 ½ c flour

Directions:

Mix ingredients together until well blended. Chill for 1 hour, or overnight. Roll out to ¼” thick, cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 300° for 30-35 minutes. These can be decorated with colored sugar, red or green maraschino cherries or pecan halves pre-baking, or iced with royal icing after cooling. We just eat ’em plain!

No-bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

½ c margarine
2 c sugar
½ c milk
3-4 tbsp cocoa
2 ½ c oatmeal
½ c shredded coconut

Directions:

Bring first four ingredients to a boil, and maintain boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in oatmeal and coconut. Immediately spoon onto wax paper using a teaspoon, allow to cool. They should harden while the cool, but if they don’t, carefully place them in the fridge for a half hour.

Woodticks aka Nut n Noodle Drops

See, I always knew these no-bake cookies as Woodticks (actually, these or the oatmeal ones described above were often referred to as Woodticks). It wasn’t until I was much older and asked about Nut n Noodle Drops at a friend’s that I found out most people aren’t so morbid as to name their cookies after a bloodsucking parasite. Oh well, they’re tasty, and the kids’ll love to make ’em!

Ingredients:

1 pkg chocolate chips
½ c peanut butter
2 c chow mein noodles
1 c spanish peanuts

Directions:

Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in microwave safe bowl (about 2 minutes, but watch it closely!), and stir in noodles and nuts. Drop on wax paper-covered cookie sheet, and allow to cool overnight in the fridge.


Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

Interested in some horror for the holidays? Pre-order Courting Morpheus, the anthology set in New Bedlam! Featuring the works of MR Sellars, Camille Alexa and more, the stories explore the insanity that builds as Morpheus is busy elsewhere…

Tell us you read about us here, and we’ll refund your shipping costs!
(Offer only valid until December 21st, 2009)

Christmas Past, Yule Present

bloodiedquill

It was less than a week following Samhain, in 2000. My girls were clamoring for the Christmas tree to be put up, and presents to be put under it. Amazingly enough, once told that it was still seven weeks before Christmas and that was a long time to wait and not open those presents, they relented. Just a little…

I didn’t want to think about Christmas yet – I have a huge extended family, and we try to get everyone together at Christmas. That year, it was mine and my mom’s turn to coordinate the festivities, and I frankly hadn’t wanted to think about it since the year before (don’t ask-long story). It was always somewhat difficult explaining my differing beliefs to some of the cousins and their spouses…and pointing out pagan practices in modern Christmas traditions just doesn’t go over. So, we three say our blessing, and those that understand do, those that don’t…well, they are a tolerant bunch. That’s maybe why I love em so much.

I also didn’t want to think about Yule, which also meant trying to work in celebrating our wedding anniversary, as well. Little piece of advice for people considering marrying at Yule. Don’t. Just…don’t. It’s insanity, I tell you! (It may sound cynical, but I’m really glad most times, that I no longer have to work in an anniversary around Yule circle and Christmas preparations, LOL)

The second week of November was chillingly cold here. That Monday, both girls woke feeling a little under weather, and Rhia didn’t have a fever, her sister had a slight one and some mysterious marks on her face. I had been up all night getting some articles done and working on formatting a novel for editing. I was tired, my eyes were terribly sore from staring at the computer for six hours, and I was just slightly grouchy, too. Care ended up in tears as her temperature rose and her tolerance for anyone dropped. Rhia had (and still has) little patience for anything in the morning, and decided she was going to school to get away from her sister. Sibling rivalry overcomes the blahs of winter.

We got her off to school, and waited to hear from the nurse’s office as to whether or not we should take Care in to be checked out. When 10 AM rolled around and they hadn’t phoned I figured I’d go to bed, and Care and her father could fend for themselves. I wasn’t too worried about her – she’d had two mild cases of Chicken Pox before that, and that’s what this looked to be as well. But why did I leave Daddy in charge of a little girl who knows how to pull the sympathy strings? Lack of foresight perhaps. Or exhaustion. I claim holiday insanity!

My alarm rang at 2:30 PM, and I stumbled from the bedroom rubbing the sleep from my eyes and mumbling something about coffee. A further lack of foresight kept my eyes closed – after all, I could navigate the room in pitch darkness, why not with my eyes closed? Something prickly hit first my legs, then my face as I made intimate acquaintance with our tree. The two Yuletide culprits were sitting silent on the chair, hoping I wouldn’t notice them or the slightly guilty looks on their oh-I’m-so-innocent faces.

Goddess knows where I summoned the smile from, but I managed.

While the two of them washed the ornaments and garland (they’d met with a nasty accident involving a hot water tank, a broken pipe, and a wrench thrown in frustration against the low table they were stored on), I made myself extra-super-strong coffee, sat down with Yule – A Celebration of Light and Warmth by Dorothy Morrison. I hoped that would inspire some warmth and holiday spirit within my own spirit, and it did. After dinner that night, as the girls decorated the tree with the shiny clean ornaments, and lamented the loss of the musical lights (note: water and musical lights don’t mix; no, I was not disappointed in the least LOL), I sat writing an entire gift list for my family, with ideas from said book. The crafts and activities in the book are wonderful, and I highly recommend them for those celebrating Yule with families that generally celebrate Christmas…

* * *

What a difference almost a decade makes! My grandparents are both gone now, and our family has scattered to the four winds, it seems. The girls have grown up and as of today (December 16th) we still do not have a single decoration up to indicate it is approaching Yule, let alone less than a week away.

In our defense, we are awaiting arrival of a particular tree – The Nightmare Before Christmas Tree – featuring Jack Skellington and all his little friends. Still, we could have at least made a start on the decorating with lights and other ornaments. It seems as though the girls have, for the most part, lost interest in the holiday. They are at that age, you know the one. Mid-teens. Everything is just ‘too much work’ or ‘stupid’ and Goddess forbid they spend time with their family! How uncool!

I think we’ve finally hit on a mutual agreement. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this time of year since I was a mid-teenager, too. I love seeing some of my family, but I hate crowds; I love shopping for gifts, but hate crowds; I love seeing the Christmas lights in town, but hate crowds – I think you’re getting the picture. This time of year has been filled with guilt and uneasiness for me since I was a teenager, due to maternal influences I still to this day, am trying to shed. For the years of my relationship with my now-ex-husband, it was a battle between choosing between he and my family. They rarely extended an invitation for him to join us, and even though I took it upon myself to do so every year, he refused to go more often than not, because they made him feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. I dreaded the yearly fight, and it wasn’t fair – our wedding anniversary was also Yule, and not once was it acknowledged by my family. Christmas, Yule and the anniversary, marred yearly by an immature family unable to release control of anyone else’s life.

This year, my daughters have the opportunity to meet their paternal grandmother, aunt and uncles for the first time. They are both looking forward to celebrating the season with a family that is hopefully less dysfunctional than the one they’ve known all their lives. Honestly, I’m hoping that will be the case, despite and regardless of my mother’s reaction to the news that she may have to share her granddaughters at Christmas. She was livid. Too bad. For the second time in 16 years, she does not get to dictate when and where, and I will not allow her to guilt the girls into changing their minds about spending time with their other family. It should be a happy time for them, not made uncomfortable by a guilt trip from grandma.

My one respite from this has always been Yule with my grove. Glas Celli was formed at Litha in 2001, but we knew each other for a year prior. This will be our ninth Yule as friends, and eighth as a grove. It’s always been a happy celebration for us, just a sense of togetherness, celebrating the rebirth of the God, the battle between Oak and Holly kings. A warm and happy time.

Home and heart. That has always been our focus with Glas Celli at Yule, and I think it should be the focus of this holiday season universally. As long as there is food on the table, love in our hearts and friendship to share, who needs baubles, bangles and bobs?

Exactly.

Happy Yule, everyone!


Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

Interested in some horror for the holidays? Pre-order Courting Morpheus, the anthology set in New Bedlam! Featuring the works of MR Sellars, Camille Alexa and more, the stories explore the insanity that builds as Morpheus is busy elsewhere…

Tell us you read about us here, and we’ll refund your shipping costs!
(Offer only valid until December 21st, 2009)

Book Review: Yule by Dorothy Morrison

bloodiedquill

Note: Review originally published in 2000. Personal notations are from that period, and not current. I just had to include this today!

Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth
By Dorothy Morrison

Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Number of Pages: 198
ISBN: 1-56718-496-0
Copyright: Dorothy Morrison 2000
Release: Fall 2000

I literally itched to get this book from the moment it was offered to me. Dorothy Morrison has made a large impact on the pagan community with her warmth and heart, and I feel honored to recommend this book.

And that I do, highly! Particularly at this time of year – a season to prepare and give gifts, to celebrate the birth of the Sun, to celebrate our families, our friends, our lives. I think I gained five pounds just reading and imagining the recipes – I envisioned Ms. Morrison’s “Ambrosia” (pg 128) melting in my mouth; “Gingerbread Cookies” (pg 127) and “Wassail” (pg 144) for all at my family gathering this holiday season.

This of course leads to thoughts of presents for various family members. Almost all of my family is unbearably difficult to buy for – so I simplify and give them all pictures of the girls. For those who invariably require something a little more (like my much younger brothers, who aren’t much older than my girls) I try to find something to suit their personalities.

This year, each of them is getting gifts made by my little family, following directions in “Yule.” My mother (again, the most difficult person to buy for) will get a Potpourri Lamp as described on page 101, with slight modifications. This will be from myself, as the girls have laid claim on decorating other candle-holders. My brothers will receive the “Coffee Spoons” found on page 149. My grandparents will be getting a modified version of the Stocking Identifiers on page 64, to be used as ornaments on their little tree.

Here’s a sample of Ms. Morrison’s work, from page 51:

The Dawning of Solstice
T’was the dawning of Solstice
The shortest day of the year
And we cheered on the Mother
For Her delivery was near
And as we watched the pink streaks
That flashed bright in the sky
We knew he was coming
In the flash of an eye
Then the Mother groaned once
And an orange streak appeared
Then yellow, then white
And we all laughed and cheered
Then the first ray of sunshine
Bathed us all with its light
And we knew that the Sun
Had been born of the Night
And He rose in the sky – Just a tiny bright ball –
To warm our hearts and our planet…
Happy Solstice to all!
~ Adapted by Dorothy Morrison from the 1823 poem “A Visit From St.Nicholas” By Clement C. Moore

Y’all have a little time before it’s too late for this year’s Yule celebrations. If you are at a creative loss for ideas, or just wish to try something new – I cannot stress enough – THIS BOOK COVERS IT! From the origins of the multitude of celebrations, to crafts and activities, to a countdown calendar – Ms.Morrison’s Yule is a perfect resource to help you welcome the Sun!

I bet it would make a great gift, too. 😉


Jodi Lee is publisher and editor in chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. Having shelved her first novel for the time being, she is currently working on two (or three) novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

Interested in some horror for the holidays? Pre-order Courting Morpheus, the anthology set in New Bedlam! Featuring the works of MR Sellars, Camille Alexa and more, the stories explore the insanity that builds as Morpheus is busy elsewhere…

Tell us you read about us here, and we’ll refund your shipping costs!
(Offer only valid until December 21st, 2009)

Holiday Memories.

‘Tis the season… for thinking back to those exciting days of yesteryear.  It’s funny as I get older (heading inevitably towards both my dotage and grumpy-old-man syndrome) I think back upon childhood.  Christmas, with all its frantic and heart-pounding anticipation is often brought to mind.

I am wierd, no seriously.  I never get excited about something like Christmas until the day before and then it’s multiplied by 1,000,000.  I would be the first one up waiting the “go” signal. 

 You see our Christmas tree was downstairs in the rec room, not upstairs.  We, the Newman children, were forbidden to go downstairs until our parents got up.  My father, the eternal jokester would have to have his coffee and cigarette before we could plunge into the ripping, tearing and shrieking of joy.   So like runners awaiting the starting gun, we were perched upon the top of the stairs with trembling nerves and quivering legs.  There was a lot to plan, for that mad dash.  Our steps lead down to the front door, curved around a foyer and went back down to the basement.  Then there was the narrow hallway that lead into the rec room.  You had to watch cutting the corner of the foyer lest you slam into the banister on the right or make your turn too wide and smack into the banister on the left.  Aside from all that you were in slippers, an aptly named set of footwear, which made rounding a bend as dangerous as telling Donald Trump his hairstyle sucks.  Once onto the carpeted second set of stairs the basement floor had a door on the left (to the garage) and then two more in the hall facing one another (the laundry room and the closet).  Doorknobs are useful things.  But slamming into one with an unprotected elbow or hip wasn’t pleasant.  Plus it would put you in last place in the Christmas Race.  Also you had to prepare for the basement floor’s icy linoleum, treacherous and slick.  Once into the rec room the frenzy could take place in earnest.

But back to my Father.  Smirking and sitting in the kitchen, puffing slowly on a cigarette and sipping daintily on his coffee we would glance over our shoulders at him in desperate anticipation.  He would chuckle and tell us to be patient, he was almost done.  Then he’d go back to smirking, smoking and sipping.  I swear he could make those two things last all day!  They were the slowest, most leisurely cup of coffee and nicotine stick of the ENTIRE year.  Often I would accuse him of lighting a second one or refilling his mug—he didn’t it just FELT that way!  Then he’d crush out the cigarette, down the last dregs of his java and say….”Go ahead”.  The race was on!

My poor sister, the youngest and smallest of us would be buffeted by her two older brothers as we leaped into action!  Being the eldest (and for the longest time the biggest) I would easily shove past my brother and take the lead.  It didn’t last since he was faster than me and due to my clumsiness I always managed to bash my arms, hips and elbows into the banister and doorknobs slowing my frantic progress.  In the end somebody always fell on the foyer or the basement floor but all pain and agony was forgotten when we burst into the rec room to find Santa’s booty (presents that is, get your mind out of the gutter this is a Christmas or if you like Yule story). 

To this day when I see a staircase I wonder how to best dash down it and beat all comers to the ground floor…

Ciao!

Chris