‘Tis The Season To Be Groovy
“Hey, Santa… You’re just the man I need. You see a cat in funky vines waltz by here?” – Luke Cage.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and the writer lay slumped in his armchair in the Study @ Brad Manor. The latest addition to his SF Library gradually slipped off his lap as he dozed off into a dreamscape blessed with marshmallow trees and golden honey seas; gateau mountains and caramel fountains…
Suddenly! He jolted awake as the astounding realization struck him – it does not seem a YEAR since yesteryule…
This year, dear friends, I thought it best to make an effort and produce a special Festive Post just for you. In keeping with the nostalgic tone of my blog, let’s begin with reminiscences of Christmas Past.
Every morning during school assembly, especially in the run-up to Christmas, we had to sing hymns. To get us in festive mood – ho ho, and if you will, ho. It’s not that none of us munchkins believed any of this religious gubbins, but, strangely enough, none of the teachers ever – as far as one can recall – made attempts to explain what any of the words meant.
Remember one pleasant tune:
“Good King Wenceslas last looked out on the feast of Stephen,”
So far, so groovy.
But WHO was this King Wenceslas fella? What did he he become famous for? Incidentally, who the chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire blazes was Stephen?! What fab finger-licking-good grub did they have at this feast?
Was there – ever – an(y) explanation for all this?
Was there fairy cakes…
Ho ho, and if you will, ARSE…
Never mind. No scrooge in this gaff.
‘Tis the season to be merry!
To spread joy.
“May the longest night and the shortest day,
Bring rest to your mind and soul, I pray.
May you find guidance and may you find peace,
As the cycle of light will slowly increase” – Pagan Prayer.
The Pagan custom of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule, or Yuletide, from the Olde English: “geol,”) is a festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples, and long predates the Jesus story.
Beginning on 21 December, this original celebration honoured the Return of the Sun: the days start to get longer! Warmer weather is on the way! To ensure that new harvests would be plentiful, offerings were made to the pagan gods. In Roman times, the festival of Saturnalia, held in honour of Saturn, father of the gods became very popular.
Meanwhile, in Scandinavia – more pertinent to the modern manifestation of what we celebrate – Baldur, the Norse god of the sun, was honoured. The evergreen tree became his symbol – this is where we get the tradition of putting a tree in our living rooms every December. Just like Halloween, the Christians felt disgruntled enough to try and quash these Yuletide traditions. And yet they held a soft spot for the gift-giving and tree-decorating, mixing them into the jolly jamboree we all recognise today as “Christmas.”
Thankfully, my childhood turned out to be the happiest, and most productive, chapter in my life, with just about every Christmas (just me and my parents) being exceedingly enjoyable, with many magnificent and memorable presents most heartily received.
Having grown up, and dear ol’ Dad becoming one with the Force over a decade ago, it is difficult to feel much festive cheer these days…
Hold the sleigh – gotta keep that melancholia at bay.
How does Brad spend his Christmas Day?
Apart from watching classic epic movies in the comfort of my own Disney Plus, Netflix, Amazon AND the BBC iPlayer, ’tis tne season to get stuck into some top nosh:
Behold! The feast of Brad:
Pigs in blankets! Turkey sarnies, mince pies, smoked ham an’ cheese, mince pies, yule logs, angel slices. And mince pies.
“Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know” – Lucy Van Pelt.
You know, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) is probably the best Yule-themed animation ever created. It is scandalous how it is NEVER shown on the telly on this side of the Pond; thankfully, it can be enjoyed online.
Listening to the OST by The Vince Guaraldi Trio – Schroeder on piano; Pigpen on bass; and (of course) Snoopy on guitar 😉 – helped me compile this Post.
Had the option of loading either the Charlie Brown Christmas Dance or the 1st part of this CBS classic, but – yay! – it’s the time of giving, so more prezzies the better! 😉
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer
is singing loud for all to hear” – Buddy The Elf.
Come December, The Nativity is a constant part of junior schools up and down the country, so it became an inevitable event at my school. Yep, just like those hymns, we were NEVER taught the significance of it. To this day, one cannot fathom how/why they selected ME to “play” one of the Three Wise Men. Kept badgering Miss Crummy to explain:
Just who were Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar?
From whence did they hail?
And WHY did they travel goodness knows how far to present gifts to a baby not directly related to them?
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Cobblers…
But the teacher’s response did little to appease my tiny mind. Outrage, frustration and sheer bewilderment – she simply could not believe how this achingly-adorable blond moppet, as sweet as a ray of sunshine (and yet as cocky as a Tatooine farmboy) had NOT heard of this particular episode of the Wholly Fable.
I was only 8, fer cake’s sake…
Of course, upon remarking something to the effect that it was “her job” to educate me on such matters, well – Blimey Charley! – she launched into a vociferous fit of seething and snarling – caterwauling against my perceived “impudence.”
Or something like that.
‘Cos by that point, I had given up listening, becoming, instead, bewitched by the peculiar colour her face was rapidly turning.
Before you could say:
“We three kings of Orient are,
Two in a bus and one in a car”
she had confiscated my paper crown and gold foil-wrapped tissue box and banished me to the choir…
Well, honestly! An innocent, curious juve, asking QUESTIONS?! AT SCHOOL?!?!
Jumping Jakoombas!! What is the (western) world coming to…?
Well, ding-dong-merrily-on-high, this is really groovy:
“Jump back and do the boogaloo. Go on, do your thang. HIT IT”
“Be a jolly, happy soul. Spend time outdoors. Avoid meltdowns. Be well-rounded. Live well. Life is short!” – Advice From a Snowman.
“Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees…”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
And lo, he cried, if ya wanna learn something yerself, go research it yerself! Thus, my quest to discover more about those Three Wise Men set me on my fascinating life-long pursuit of Near (and Far) Eastern history.
“People think they were magi,” wrote John of Hildesheim in his mid-14th century compendium: “Historia Trium Regum.”
The original premise cited them as Persian – more specifically: Zoroastrian – scholars, keepers of the holy fire of Ormuzd, and skilled in astronomy, medicine, magic and astrology. The sixth-century mosaic at Ravenna (above) is the last artistic evidence to emphasize their Persian heritage – gotta dig those snazzy pants and Phrygian caps. However, the term: “magi,” held too many pagan connotations for the early Christian church to tolerate. This mysterious trio “followed the teachings of Balaam, and dealt in demons,” ran the common belief of those times.
“It was not good to introduce devilry into the Christmas scene,” wrote one modern commentator, “even if the Christ-child could defeat it with one wave of his tiny hand.”
Thus, they became rebranded as Oriental kings, respectively of Arabia and Nubia, Godolia and Tarsus. Of their gifts – significantly more symbolic than practical – medieval travellers wrote:
“Gold lay so thick in Arabia’s red earth that you kicked it up as you walked, incense dripped from the trees of Godolia, and you could not wander in parts of Tarsus without myrrh, “moist as wax”, clinging to your clothes.”
Most importantly, they represented the main areas of Christendom, with Balthazar’s dark features, in particular, depicting that rarest of artistic treasures: an African face in Medieval Europe.
Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior also signified all the ages of man: 20, 40 and 60. And yet, even when I was only that high, I knew that real kings would never ponse about all by their lonesome, or, in this case, as The Three Amigos. No, a single king would have to be accompanied by a considerable entourage. Three kings together? Each sizable retinue would amount to an enormous army traipsing across the desert! So their royal credentials also languish on flimsy grounds.
Nice story, but too far-fetched.
Jesus’ mum, Mary, summed up the absurdity of the whole bally thing:
“Uff, three “wise” men, and no one brought chocolate?!”
Let me close by wishing you all
A Very Merry Gingerbread Latte
A Happy New Cranberry Muffin
“Once more the ancient feast returns,
And the bright hearth domestic burns
With Yuletide’s added blaze;
So, too, may all your joys increase
Midst floods of mem’ry, love, and peace,
And dreams of Halcyon days” – H.P. Lovecraft.