Family Christmas Traditions

6 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 13 – Christmas

Tasks for Christmas: Post a picture of your stockings hung from the chimney with care, –OR– a picture of Santa’s ‘treat’ waiting for him. –OR– Share with us your family Christmas traditions involving gift-giving, or Santa’s visit. Did you write letters to Santa as a kid (and if so, did he write back, as J.R.R. Tolkien did “as Santa Claus” to his kids)? If so, what did you wish for? A teddy bear or a doll? Other toys – or practical things? And did Santa always bring what you asked for?

I’m afraid I was disabused of the notion that there actually was a Santa Claus even before my mom “officially” did so when one year — I think I may have been four at the time — I found something she hadn’t yet gotten around to hiding really well that later showed up wrapped up under the Christmas tree.  (Of course I didn’t let on I had found it before, or at least I did my best not to.)  Also, I think it was even in kindergarten that I first learned about the historic St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, and where we were told that the “Christ child” (Christkind) who in Germany is said to bring all the presents in addition to / or in competition with Santa Claus is to be understood symbolically, with the gifts we receive “from him” as a tangible manifestation of the good brought into the world by the little boy in the manger some 2000 years ago.

So I didn’t write letters to Santa, but my mom had me write out a wish list nevertheless, and yes, some of the things from the list would usually be part of what I received.

Germans exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, not the morning of Christmas Day, and I think our family tradition is the same, or at least very similar to that of many other German families (with the only significant differences being whether you go to church or not — and if you do, whether it’s in the afternoon / early evening or at midnight — and whether you exchange gifts before or after dinner).  We go to church early in the evening, usually at 6:00 PM — while I was growing up and in the years until I moved away after I’d graduated from university, the church where I was confirmed, which was the closest Protestant church to where my grandparents lived (and where we used to live when I was a kid)

— whereas these days, we go to the Protestant church closest to where we now live, which is a 15-20 minute walk from our home.

In the years up until my graduation from university, our gathering on Christmas Eve consisted of either just my maternal grandparents, my mom and me, or in addition there would be the family of my mom’s sister, with whom we were particularly close, and who lived near Bonn for a few years while I was in elementary school, and then again after my uncle had retired.  “The kids” (actually, all the family except for either my mom or my aunt, depending in whose home we were celebrating) would be banned from the living room until all the lights on the Christmas tree were lit, then a little bell would call us in, and we’d exchange presents, and after that, we’d have dinner.

Ca. age 4, with my mom and my grandpa (I think I’ve shared this one before)

Christmas dinner table at my aunt and uncle’s house, ca. 1996 or 1997

These days, it’s just my mom and me on Christmas Eve (though we may get together with other parts of the family on Christmas Day or on Boxing Day), and we still follow essentially the same routine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Santa Claus / Saint Nick actually comes twice in Germany, once in his incarnation as St. Nicholas, on the evening of that saint’s official holiday (December 6), and then in his incarnation as Father Christmas / Santa on Christmas Eve.  While his Christmas visit is said to be a secret one, his visit on St. Nicholas”s Day is one equally dreaded and anticipated by children, because it’s then that they get to account for their misdeeds throughout the year … or get presents — nothing major, mostly chocolates, cookies, tangerines, nuts and the like — for being able to prove they’ve been good kids.  Of course they always end up being loaded with sweets, but if “St. Nick” is sufficiently convincing — or is actually accompanied by his scary servant, Knecht Ruprecht, whose job it is to administer the punishment to bad children –, there’s a moment of a certain frisson at the beginning, with St. Nick, typically a member of the family and thus excellently informed, going through their “record of behavior” for the year.  I have only vague memories of this (and no photos at all) from my own childhood, both at home and at my kindergarten, but here’s my uncle dressed up as St. Nicholas for my cousin’s kids:

 

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Mavis Doriel Hay: The Santa Klaus Murder

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 13 – Christmas

All the Right Feels


Of all of my Christmas reads this year to date, I can’t think of a more fitting candidate for the Christmas holiday book bonus joker.  This is a nicely plotted Golden Age country house holiday party mystery, with decidedly more likeable than non-likeable characters, a light enough touch to make the non-likeable characters gentle satires rather than gratingly annoying or rough-hewn bores, all the Christmas feels (which are maintained until the very end), decent enough writing … and, I mean, seriously, can you beat that title?  Call me sentimental, but I did enjoy this enormously.

 

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ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1626075/16-tasks-of-the-festive-season-square-13-christmas-all-the-right-feels

Georgette Heyer: Envious Casca

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 13 – Christmas

Unseasonable Squabblers


This was a season- (and 16 Festive Tasks-) induced reread; Envious Casca actually is, however, my favorite among all the Georgette Heyer mysteries I’ve read so far.  Recently republished under the title A Christmas Party (shame on anybody hearing a cash register tinkling faintly in the background), it’s the seasonal entry in Heyer’s series of country house mysteries — investigated first by Inspector Hannasyde and later by his erstwhile sergeant-turned-Inspector Hemingway –, and thus fits nicely into the mold of the wave of Christmas house party mysteries that enjoyed a near-undying popularity in the first half of the 20th century, and which have recently seen a major renaissance.

I like this book considerably better than most of Heyer’s other mysteries, as most of her other books are populated by a crowd of just-too-nice-to-be-believed nice chaps and bright young things (one of whom, or their equally over-the-top nice elders, typically turns out to be the murderer, with someone else hiding a dose of poison under their oh-so-nice facade as well) … all of which had me exasperated after a while and deciding I was just about done with Heyer.  Not so here, however: the only over-the-top-nice person is an old fogey named Joseph Herriard, who is decidedly more of a parody than a straightforwardly-created character; everybody else, beginning with the victim-to-be, Joe’s curmudgeonly brother Nathaniel, and all the way down to the young’uns wished upon Nat by Joe for what has to be one of the Top 10 ill-assorted Christmas parties in the history of mystery writing, seems to feed on regular doses of pure acid, which makes for rather spirited exchanges — or, um, well, actually, anything from squabbles to all-out tongue-lashing fights — pretty much the whole way through.  (And the servants aren’t any better … I suppose a Golden Age reader might have asked, “how can they expected to be with the kind of example set for them Upstairs?”).  All of which, in the hands of a different writer, could easily be a recipe for disaster when it comes to synching that sort of characters with the proper Christmas spirit, but Heyer pulls it off beautifully, essentially by taking neither Christmas nor her characters excessively seriously, while however never talking down to them, either — or to the reader.

The narration by Ulli Birvé (who narrates all of Heyer’s books) is OK, but just a bit too contrived and unnatural at times for my liking — besides, she gives Inspector Hemingway the audiobok narrator’s standard “country copper” accent, which he decidedly doesn’t have in my ears — all of which is why I subtracted a half star for the audio version. Heyer’s actual book is a 4 1/2 star read for me.

I revisited this for the “Christmas” square of the 16 Festive Tasks: Read a book whose protagonist is called Mary, Joseph (or Jesus, if that’s a commonly used name in your culture) or any variations of those names (e.g., Maria or Pepe).  (It’s impossible to pin down one single protagonist in this book — in cinematic awards terms, this one, like many country house mysteries, would be a sure-fire candidate for a “best ensemble” award — but Joe Herriard is definitely one of the stand-out characters in an overall deliciously acrimonious cast.)

 

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ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1626044/16-tasks-of-the-festive-season-square-13-christmas-unseasonal-squabblers

Terry Pratchet: Hogfather — FTB Enabled

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 13 – Hogswatch Night

Ponder and his fellow students watched Hex carefully.

“It can’t just, you know, stop,” said Adrian ‘Mad Drongo’ Turnipseed.

“The ants are just standing still,” said Ponder.  He sighed.  “All right, put the wretched thing back.”

Adrian carefully replaced the small fluffy teddy bear above Hex’s keyboard.  Things immediately began to whirr.  The ants started to trot again.  The mouse squeaked.

They’d tried this three times.

Ponder looked again at the single sentence Hex had written.

+++ Mine!  Waaaah! +++

“I don’t actually think,” he said gloomily, “that I want to tell the Archchancellor that this machine stops working if we take its fluffy teddy bear away.  I just don’t think I want to live in that kind of world.”

“Er,” said Mad Drongo, “you could always, you know, sort of say it needs to work with the FTB enabled …?”

“You think that’s better?” said Ponder, reluctantly.  It wasn’t as if it was even a very realistic interpretation of a bear.

“You mean, better than ‘fluffy teddy bear’?”

Ponder nodded.  “It’s better,” he said.

Finished — and there will have to be an instant reread.  My life needs this right now.  Urgently.

 

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ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1622016/16-tasks-of-the-festive-season-square-13-hogswatch-night

16 Tasks of the Festive Season – Hogfather Buddy Read

Reblogged from: BrokenTune

 

Hear ye! Hear ye!

I’m just re-posting this as a reminder that our Hogfather Buddy Read is starting this Friday, 1st December. 

I set up a Discussion Group here

Looking forward to it!

———————————————————

Is anyone interested in a Buddy Read of Hogfather in December??

Square # 13 has a Book themes for Hogswatch Night: Of course – read Hogfather!  Or any Discworld book (or anything by Terry Pratchett)

I couldn’t remember if there already was an official buddy read for this, so thought I’d ask as a couple of others have noted interest in reading the book earlier today.

I’ll set up a discussion group in the next few days.

To anyone interested, would a start date of 1st December suit?

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1620934/16-tasks-of-the-festive-season-hogfather-buddy-read

The Festive Tasks in Calendar Form – December

Reblogged from: Murder by Death

 

Posting this just in case anyone else finds it useful. November is here.

 

 

Square 5: 

Book themes for Advent: Read a book with a wreath or with pines or fir trees on the cover –OR– Read the 4th book from a favorite series, or a book featuring 4 siblings.

Tasks for Advent: Post a pic of your advent calendar. (Festive cat, dog, hamster or other suitable pet background expressly encouraged.) –OR– “Advent” means “he is coming.”  Tell us: What in the immediate or near future are you most looking forward to?  (This can be a book release, or a tech gadget, or an event … whatever you next expect to make you really happy.)

Bonus task:  make your own advent calendar and post it.

 

Square 6:

Book themes for Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas’ Day / Krampusnacht:
A Story involving children or a young adult book, –OR–
A book with oranges on the cover, or whose cover is primarily orange (for the Dutch House of Orange) or with tangerines, walnuts, chocolates, or cookies on the cover.

Tasks for Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas’ Day / Krampusnacht: Write a witty or humorous poem to St. Nicholas –OR–
If you have kids, leave coins or treats, like tangerines, walnuts, chocolate(s) and cookies [more common in Germany] in their shoes to find the next morning and then post about their reactions/bewilderment.  😉  If you don’t have kids, do the same for another family member / loved one or a friend.

Book themes for Bodhi Day:
Read a book set in Nepal, India or Tibet, –OR–
Read a book which involves animal rescue.  (Buddhism calls for a vegetarian lifestyle.)

Tasks for Bodhi Day:  Perform a random act of kindness.  Feed the birds, adopt a pet, hold the door open for someone with a smile, or stop to pet a dog (that you know to be friendly); cull your books and donate them to a charity, etc. (And, in a complete break with the Buddha’s teachings, tell us about it.)  –OR–
Post a picture of your pet, your garden, or your favourite, most peaceful place in the world.

 

Square 7:

Book themes for International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR–
Read a book written by anyone not anglo-saxon, –OR–
Read any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused. –OR–
Read a book set in New York City, or The Netherlands (home of the UN and UN World Court respectively).

Tasks for International Human Rights Day: Post a picture of yourself next to a war memorial or other memorial to an event pertaining to Human Rights.  (Pictures of just the memorial are ok too.) –OR–
Cook a dish from a foreign culture or something involving apples (NYC = Big Apple) or oranges (The Netherlands); post recipe and pics.

Book themes for Saint Lucia’s Day: Read a book set in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden – and Finland for the purposes of this game) or a book where ice and snow are an important feature.

Tasks for Saint Lucia’s Day: Get your Hygge on -light a few candles if you’ve got them, pour yourself a glass of wine or hot chocolate/toddy, roast a marshmallow or toast a crumpet, and take a picture of your cosiest reading place.

Bonus task:  Make the Danish paper hearts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jur29ViLEhk

 

Square 8: 

Book themes for Hanukkah: Any book whose main character is Jewish, any story about the Jewish people –OR–
Where the miracle of light plays a significant part in the stories plot.

Tasks for Hanukkah: Light nine candles around the room (SAFELY) and post a picture. –OR–
Play the Dreidel game to pick the next book you read.
Assign a book from your TBR to each of the four sides of the dreidel:

  • נ (Nun)
  • ג (Gimel)
  • ה (He)
  • ש (Shin)

Spin a virtual dreidel: http://www.torahtots.com/holidays/chanuka/dreidel.htm
– then tell us which book the dreidel picked.

–OR–
Make your own dreidel: https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/make-a-dreidel, –OR–
Play the game at home, or play online: http://www.jewfaq.org/dreidel/play.htm and tell us about the experience.–OR–
Give some Gelt: Continue a Hanukkah tradition and purchase some chocolate coins, or gelt. Post a picture of your chocolate coins, and then pass them out amongst friends and family!

Book themes for Las Posadas:  Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends, or set in Mexico, with a poinsettia on the cover. –OR–
Read a story where the main character is stranded without a place to stay, or find themselves in a ‘no room at the Inn’ situation.

Tasks for Las Posadas: Which was your favorite / worst / most memorable hotel / inn / vacation home stay ever?  Tell us all about it! –OR– If you went caroling as a kid: Which are your best / worst / most unfortettable caroling memories?

Bonus task: Make a piñata (https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pi%C3%B1ata), hang it from a tree, post, basketball hoop, clothesline or similarly suitable holder and let your neighborhood kids have a go at breaking it.

 

Square 9:

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night:
Read a book of poetry, or a book where the events all take place during the course of one night, or where the cover is a night-time scene.

Tasks for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book in one night – in the S. Hemisphere, read a book in a day. –OR–
Grab one of your thickest books off the shelf.  Ask a question and then turn to page 40 and read the 9th line of text on that page.  Post your results.  –OR–
Eat a watermelon or pomegranate for good luck and health in the coming year, but post a pic first!.

Bonus task:  Read a book in one night.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter, –OR–

Read a book set in the Arctic or Antartica.

Tasks for Yuletide: Make a Yule log cake – post a pic and the recipe for us to drool over.

Book themes for Mōdraniht: Read any book where the MC is actively raising young children or teens.

Tasks for Mōdraniht: Tell us your favourite memory about your mom, grandma, or the woman who had the greatest impact on your childhood.  –OR– Post a picture of you and your mom, or if comfortable, you and your kids.

Bonus task:  Post 3 things you love about your mother-in-law (if you have one), otherwise your grandma.

 

Square 10:

Book themes for World Peace Day: Read a book by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker.

Tasks for World Peace Day: Cook something involving olives or olive oil. Share the results and/or recipe with us. –OR–
Tell us: If you had wings (like a dove), where would you want to fly?

Book themes for Pancha Ganapati: Read anything involving a need for forgiveness in the story line; a story about redemption –OR–
Read a book whose cover has one of the 5 colors of the holiday: red, blue, green, orange, or yellow –OR–
Read a book involving elephants.

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. –OR–
Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!)

 

Square 11:

Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR–
Read a book that has a Native American protagonist.

Tasks for Soyal:  Like many Native American festivities, Soyal involves rituals such as dances.  What local / religious / folk traditions or customs exist where you live? Tell us about one of them. (If you can, post pictures for illustration.) –OR– Share a picture you’ve taken of a harvest setting or autumnal leaf color.

Book themes for Dōngzhì Festival: Read a book set in China or written by a Chinese author / an author of Chinese origin; or read a book that has a pink or white cover.

Tasks for Dōngzhì Festival: If you like Chinese food, tell us your favorite dish – otherwise, tell us your favorite desert. (Recipes, as always, welcome.)

 

Square 12:

Book themes for Festivus: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc.  Books with hilariously dysfunctional families (must be funny dysfunctional, not tragic dysfunctional).  Anything that makes you laugh (or hope it does).

Tasks for Festivus: Post your personal list of 3 Festivus Miracles –OR–
Post a picture of your Festivus pole (NOTHING pornographic, please!), –OR–
Perform the Airing of Grievances:  name 5 books you’ve read this year that have disappointed you – tell us in tongue-lashing detail why and how they failed to live up to expectations.

Book themes for Saturnalia:  The god Saturn has a planet named after him; read any work of science fiction that takes place in space.  –OR–
Read a book celebrating free speech. –OR–
Read a book revolving around a very large party, or ball, or festival, –OR–
Read a book with a mask or masks on the cover.  –OR–
Read a story where roles are reversed.

Tasks for Saturnalia: Wear a mask, take a picture and post it.  Leave a small gift for someone you know anonymously – a small bit of chocolate or apple, a funny poem or joke.  Tell us about it in a post.  –OR–
Tell us: If you could time-travel back to ancient Rome, where would you want to go and whom (both fictional and / or nonfictional persons) would you like to meet?

 

Square 13:

Book themes for Christmas:  Read a book whose protagonist is called Mary, Joseph (or Jesus, if that’s a commonly used name in your culture) or any variations of those names (e.g., Maria or Pepe).

Tasks for Christmas:  So. many. options.  Post a picture of your stockings hung from the chimney with care, –OR–
Post a picture of Santa’s ‘treat’ waiting for him.  –OR–
Share with us your family Christmas traditions involving gift-giving, or Santa’s visit. Did you write letters to Santa as a kid (and if so, did he write back, as J.R.R. Tolkien did “as Santa Claus” to his kids)?  If so, what did you wish for?  A teddy bear or a doll? Other toys – or practical things? And did Santa always bring what you asked for?

Book themes for Hogswatch Night: Of course – read Hogfather!  Or any Discworld book (or anything by Terry Pratchett)

Tasks for Hogswatch Night:  Make your favourite sausage dish (if you’re vegan or vegetarian, use your favorite sausage or meat substitute), post and share recipe.

 

Square 14:

Book themes for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Celebrate the sun and read a book that has a beach or seaside setting.  –OR–
Read a book set during summertime set in the Southern Hemisphere.

Tasks for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Find the sunniest spot in your home, that’s warm and comfy and read your book. –OR–
Take a picture of your garden, or a local garden/green space in the sun (even if the ground is under snow).  If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, take a picture of your local scenic spot, park, or beach, on a sunny day.  –OR–
The Romans believed that the sun god rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds.  Have you ever been horseback riding, or did you otherwise have significant encounters with horses?  As a child, which were your favorite books involving horses?

Book themes for Quaid-e-Azam:  Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today (regardless in what part of the world).

Tasks for Quaid-e-Azam: Pakistan’s first leader – Muhammad Ali Jinnah – was a man, but both Pakistan and neighboring India were governed by women (Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi respectively) before many of the major Western countries.  Tell us: Who are the present-day or historic women that you most respect, and why?  (These can be any women of great achievement, not just political leaders.)

 

Square 15:

Book themes for Newtonmas:  Any science book.  Any book about alchemy.  Any book where science, astronomy, or chemistry play a significant part in the plot. (For members of the Flat Book Society: The “Forensics” November group read counts.)

Tasks for Newtonmas: Take a moment to appreciate gravity and the laws of motion. If there’s snow outside, have a snowball fight with a friend or a member of your family.  –OR– Take some time out to enjoy the alchemical goodness of a hot toddy or chocolate or any drink that relies on basic chemistry/alchemy (coffee with cream or sugar / tea with milk or sugar or lemon, etc.).  Post a picture of your libations and the recipe if it’s unique and you’re ok with sharing it.

Book themes for Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day: Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself.

Tasks for St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day: Show us your boxes of books!  –OR–  If you have a cat, post a picture of your cat in a box.  (your dog in a box works too, if your dog likes boxes – I’m looking at you WhiskeyintheJar) – or any pet good-natured enough to pose in a box long enough for you to snap a picture.

BONUS task:  box up all the Christmas detritus, decorations, or box up that stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of, or donate, etc. and take a picture and post it. 

 

Square 16: 

Book themes for Kwanzaa: Read a book written by an author of African descent or a book set in Africa, or whose cover is primarily red, green or black.

Tasks for Kwanzaa: Create a stack of books in the Kwanzaa color scheme using red, black and green and post your creation and post a photo (or post a photo of a shelfie where black, red and green predominate).

BONUS task: Create something with your stack of books:  a christmas tree or other easily identifiable object.

Book themes for Hogmanay / New year’s eve / Watch night / St. Sylvester’s Day: a book about starting over, rebuilding, new beginnings, etc. –OR–
Read anything set in medieval times. –OR–
Read a book about the papacy –OR–
Read a book where miracles of any sort are performed (the unexplainable – but good – kind).

Tasks for Hogmanay / New year’s eve / Watch night / St. Sylvester’s Day:  Make a batch of shortbread for yourself, family or friends.  Post pics and recipe. –OR–
Light some sparklers (if legal) and take a picture – or have a friend take a picture of your “writing” in the sky with the sparkler. –OR–
Get yourself a steak pie (any veggie/vegan substitutions are fine) and read yourself a story – but take a pic of both before you start, and post it.–OR–
Make whatever New Year’s Eve / Day good luck dish there is in your family or in the area where you live or where you grew up; tell us about it, and if it’s not a secret recipe, we hope you’ll share it with us.

MASSIVE HUGE BONUS POINTS if you post a picture of yourself walking a pig on a leash.  (Done to ensure good fortune of the coming year.)

 

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ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1613712/the-festive-tasks-in-calendar-form-december