Tree Tuesday

Today, we have something even better than a Christmas tree. Avalus has sent us an absolutely enchanting forest photo for this Christmas Day Tree Tuesday. Thanks so much, Avalus.

Zauberwald means magic forest.

Hiking an a misty morning last fall on a path in the Odenwald suddenly the sun appeared between the trees. I think the slight misfocus adds to the “magic forest” feel I had that moment.

Zauberwald, ©Avalus, all rights reserved

Tummy Monday Flowers, or something, on Tuesday.

I’m sorry for missing all the regular posts, but on top of the regular holiday business, my cold came back with a vengeance.

But the cold seems to be on the way out (I hope it cannot read this. Last time I said something like that, I wanted to die the next day…), Christmas Eve is over (the big day in Germany) and from now it’s visiting relatives and having them cook.

So, first, have yourself a tree:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Every year, people decorate trees ion the woods. We wanted to do so as well, I even bought ornaments, but sadly it was either always raining or I was sick. But we went for a short walk yesterday and brought birdseed and nuts to the birds in the woods.

As I said, the next days are for visiting relatives. A few years ago we decided that since we couldn’t visit anybody on Christmas Eve without other people being offended and feeling less loved and what have you not (because being 60+ does not mean handling your emotions like an adult), we wouldn’t leave the house and nobody was allowed to visit and that really, really improved our Christmas time dramatically.

On Christmas Day, Mr’s family visits each other. Each year, one of the siblings hosts the whole family. This year it’s my favourite aunt in law. I promised a cake.

cake

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

That’s espresso infused chocolate cake. The first filling is vanilla and espresso buttercream and caramelised walnuts.

The second filling is buttercream once more with oranges that have been marinated in spiced rum and white wine for about two weeks. I also used that syrup to moisten the cake. On top there#s more oranges, some fresh, some marinated, and a few pomegranate seeds. That took most of my time yesterday morning.

Now for gifts. Charly has lamented the obligatory nature on Christmas gifts, and I fully share that sentiment. I love making gifts and I enjoy giving just as much as receiving. I don’t need Christmas for that. Nevertheless, there’s going to be a lot of resin jewellery this year, which gets me to the fuck annoying things. I’m going to give jewellery to all the ladies present today. That includes my mum in law. Who will politely thank me, but never wear it, but who would be very upset and hurt if I didn’t give her something she doesn’t like anyway, because see above.

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

Anyway, here’s all the gifts for friends and family.

I hope I’ll have time and muse for some better shots of certain things between the years, I really need to post an update.

And last but not least, temperatures dropped to December levels over night and I was greeted with ice flowers at the window.

Ice flowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

Ice Flowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved.

I hope you all get some rest, a time to breathe, and good food and time with your friends and family.

 

Jack’s Walk

Cedar Creek, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Hooray, it’s snowing! It’s a light snow, but it seems to be sticking so we may get a white Christmas after all. I don’t know why that matters to me, but it does. I love waking up on Christmas morning and seeing a blanket of white outside my window.  Perhaps because it brings back so many happy memories of my childhood like slogging through the snow with my dad looking for the perfect tree to chop down and bring home. We’d struggle to tie the tree to the top of  the car and when we got home mom would have hot chocolate waiting with homemade cookies of all sorts that we’d been forbidden to eat until now. We’d decorate the tree and sing Christmas songs and mom would tell the story of each ornament as is went on the tree. Christmas snow meant getting all bundled up to go tobogganing or build a snowman or falling backwards again and again to make angels on the lawn. Snow meant the long drive to my grandparents house in a wee Volkswagon Beetle packed to the rafters with gifts was fraught with adventure and a few German curses along the way that always made me laugh. Snow was an essential part of this Canadian girl’s Christmas season and when I was young a green Christmas was almost unheard of. That’s changed now thanks to climate change, so much so that having snow on Christmas is exceptional. That’s why I’m hoping the snow will stick. Please.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 25 – Christmas

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Not only the Christians have realized that trying to ban solstice celebrations that have gone on for thousands of years is like pissing against a hurricane. Communists realized that too. To my knowledge, they did not even try to eradicate or co-opt it. They just went along with it as it was.

I mentioned already that the regime was in fact actively anti-religion and anti-theism in general. This had little to no effect on the general population though. Czechs were heathens before, during and after the Iron Curtain, Slovaks and Poles were strongly catholic before, during and after the Iron Curtain. And since I live in one of the most heathen parts of Czech Republic, my childhood Christmas had nothing to do with any religious mumbo-jumbo whatsoever.

So how did we actually approach the Christmas? As a family holiday, a time for spending time together and gift-giving. The TV run mostly light entertainment (and still does) for three days straight, with emphasis on fairy-tales, whose airing on TV literally became a new christmas tradition in itself. There are fairy-tales that are expected to be aired for generations, and when they ceased to be aired after the fall of Iron Curtain, because they do contain some propaganda stuff hidden in them, they were nevertheless demanded by the public and thus got aired again.

My parents tried, not very enthusiastically and therefore with little success to bring some “magic” to the gifts appearing under the christmas tree by being brought by Ježíšek (Baby Jesus), whom they never defined to me. However it did not last long and I in fact remember nearly nothing about it. By the time I started to go to school one girl in our class got mercilessly mocked by most of the class for openly saying she believes in Baby Jesus bringing gifts. Most of the kids by that time already knew how gift giving really works.

First time I have learned what Ježíšek is actually supposed to be that I remember was when reading the book by Josef Lada “Kocour Mikeš” (Mikes the (male) cat). The book contains the whole biblical story of how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, sanitized for children audience into a fairy-tale form. Which is how I got exposed to most of religious ideas – as fairy tales. Which is what they are.

As soon as I gained some skills, I was trying to make christmas presents for my parents and siblings. The first succesful attempt that I remember was making simple paper models of a church (for my Mum) a castle (for my father) and a fort (for my brother). Blast it, I completely forgot what I have given to my sister that year. Nevermind, this was and remained for me the true meaning of christmas, but I grew up to resent the mandatory gift giving because life obligations are not so kind as to align with arbitrary date in the calendar, so nowadays if I come across something that would be suitable as a christmas gift, I give it on christmas, but I do not fuss about it. I give gifts to family and friends when opportunity and/or need arises, Christmas or no.

The one tradition that endured all political changes in our country, and which even our heathen family still observes, is eating of fish – specifically carp – for dinner on 24. of December. The fish are generally sold alive a few days prior. And since my mom was the boss at local food store, she was in charge of these yearly fish sales. So as a child I have spent a few adventurous days from 4:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. with my dad and a few other people outside, near the huge vats in which the carp swam. I learned to kill, gut and dismember fish before I finished school. I learned to recognize a few fish species that way too, because other fish got occasionally caught with the carp. I had a lot of fun there and I looked forward to that part of Christmas the most – when I was healthy enough to actually participate that is.

I like the fish soup and less so the fish steaks, but what I do not like at all is the killing and dismembering the poor animal. I am not opposed to eating meat and killing animals for that purpose, but I do not enjoy it either. However since my father has a really bad eyesight now, it is nowadays my duty to do these chores. I usually let the fish being killed at the stall however, so the poor animal’s suffering is over quickly

A tangent – how Chuck Norris was unable to kill christmas carp. The man at the end says “Everyone can be tough on TV”. I know Chuck Norris is a bit whacko and a Republican, but there is no denying he does have a sense of humor:

 

Happy whatever, everyone.

Homeward Bound

This is a travel day, and what with Gatwick and German airports and any number of random occurrences, I just want to get home. Sometime very early Sunday morning, I will be.

The quiet version of my feelings is here, but quite honestly, I’m still playing my angry music. So here’s Blue October, expressing a lot of frustration on my behalf:

(I confess, I have always had a weakness for rock musicians. Something about the way they express themselves without reserve. Especially when it’s traditionally masculine men expressing emotions. And previous post, it’s what I love most about the video – the tough, rockstar performance images placed beside the caring father images. Heart.)

The Heart of Caine

Yesterday on his blog Stderr, Marcus wrote about the creation of a very special heart in a post titled  Un-Achable, Un-breakable. This is the rest of the story, told by kestrel who used her artistry to create a unique and meaningful braiding for the heart.

 

Marcus sent me this amazing Damascus steel heart that he had made as a gift for Someone Special, and he asked me to put some leather braiding on it. I was happy to comply and decided a key fob would be good to braid on there. 

©kestrel, all rights reserved

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Slavic Saturday

Lets put Christ back in Christmas, shall we? Christ is the reason for the season, after all! That’s why it’s called Christmas!

Whenever I hear this nonsense from American Christians, I am reminded how shallow and uninformed their view of the world is. They actually really think that English language is prescriptive of how reality works and that Christians invented solstice celebrations.

So lets today just briefly look at the Czech term Vánoce. It is not actually slavic word in origin. It comes from German word “Weihnachten”, which probably just means “holy nights”. We borrowed quite a few words from our neighbors over the centuries. The original Slavic word was possibly “god” or “gody”, which has nothing whatsoever to do with any deity, it is a word for a celebration, holiday and/or feast.

Like I mentioned, there are no written records from old Slavic cultures, but something can be ascertained from what others wrote about them, especially christians before and when they started converting Slavic pagans to Christianity around 800 A.D. From this it seems that on the night of solstice Slavs celebrated the death and rebirth of a god Dažbog (Daž – give, bog – god), who was the sun-god. The celebrations consisted of having a huge bonfire lasting from sunset to dawn and feasting (without meat foods) around it. The feasting has lasted for a few days, cookies ornated with crosses and swastikas were a part of it, as well as going around singing carols and receiving/giving gifts. Note that these were de-facto celebrations of a new year – old man Dažbog has died on the evening, and he was re-born in the morning to grow (spring), gain strength (summer) age (fall) and die again next solstice. Whilst Dažbog was alive, world was safe. But during the night he was dead the chaos and evil could enter the world – thus the bonfires to keep his strength in the world and people safe from chaos through the night.

I won’t go into details, because I do not know them – I am not an expert, just a guy who read something about these things now and then throughout his life. And even experts must rely a lot on extrapolations from linguistic and still living traditions. There might be mistakes in what I wrote and it by no mean is comprehensive. Whole books are written about it. However one thing is sure – these traditions were old, predated christianity (at least here) and many of them never died.

Similar traditions at this time of year were also held by Germanic (hence christmas trees) and Celtic (mistletoes) pagans.

Christian missionaries were fully aware that trying to eradicate such traditions is akin to pissing against a hurricane, so they co-opted them. Instead of re-birth of the sun-god, it was told Baby Jesus was born. You can keep your crosses and your feasts, but instead of holding a wake at a bonfire, go to a mass at midnight etc. etc. at bleeding nauseam.

Christ was never the “reason for the season”. The sun was.

Gingerbread Season – Part 2

Happy Solstice everyone. As far as I am concerned, Christmas can get stuffed, but I like the fact that from now on days will again be slowly getting longer. It will still take a month or so before it is really noticeable, but it is going there!

Anyroad, here are another two gingerbread houses my mom made this year. She made a lot.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

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Flowers for Friday

It’s going to be crazy busy this weekend with all those stressed and delirious Christmas shoppers clogging up the roads and the stores. I hope all of you are prepared for whatever your holiday season involves, but in case you’re among the stressed and delirious I thought I’d give you a moment of calm with some wonderful flowers sent in by Nightjar. These are all flowers that have survived in her garden until December and I am amazed at the variety. I’m also a bit envious, but not too much because we do get to share the life-affirming beauty of flowers in winter. Thanks, Nightjar.

Fire Rose, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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