Flip the Otter searched: What would your twelve days of Christmas be? (include either things that people would think to give you or what you want to give yourself)
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Twelve books for reading
Eleven songs for singing
Ten plans for traveling
Nine paints for playing
Eight dice games rolling
Seven skirts for dancing
Six scarves for wrapping
Five fake tattoos
Four writing pens
Three new words
Two chiffon pies
And a puppy named Cerberus
Kate Kearney searched: What can you fit in a greeting card?
You can get fit your signature, and a simple holiday wish for happiness and health. And a thank you for that well-timed fruit package. And a promise to stay in touch better next year.
And a doodle of the moose that you saw on the last family vacation.
And the recipe for the Christmas pie that they’ve been begging for years.
And the story of how Grandpa caught a six-foot trout, in an ankle-deep stream, with his bare hands.
And the correct lyrics to that song that your friend laughs about never getting right.
And the entire text of War and Peace.
Flip the Otter searched: What are three somewhat disturbing Christmas traditions either from around the world or from your own experience?
1. Krampus – The name sounds like an awkward name for a grandfather, but it’s actually a Christmas devil known for beating naughty children with tree branches. In Germany, they celebrate with parades of young men dressed as Krampus. It’s customary to offer these Krampus’ schnapps, and I suppose that explains the appeal of dressing up as an evil spirit that maims children.
2. Pooping Man – I am one hundred percent certain that my mother would object if I tried to include a little pooping man in our nativity set, but it’s common practice in Catalonia. It’s called a Caganer, and no one has a definitive explanation for why it’s there.
3. The Ghost of Christmas Past – In South Africa, small children are told the story of Danny. Danny was a young boy who angered his grandmother by eating all the cookies intended for Santa. She killed him in her anger, and now he haunts homes at Christmas time.
Neekers searched: Red or Green?
Red. Green is gorgeous, but red makes me feel like kicking down a few doors and playing cards, because I just might get everything I want today.
Flip the Otter searched: What are five Christmas ornaments that hold meaning for you?
1. Penguin in the moon – We decorate our tree as a family, pulling ornaments out of boxes by the dozens. There are a handful of ornaments that have pairs, but for the most part, no two are alike. Our tree is always full, because honestly, we have too many. When it’s done, we look around the room and check with each person to make sure that the ornaments that they need on the tree have been found and hung. This is one of the ones that I need. I don’t know who gave him to me, or when. He’s just always been there.
2. Sheep in a sweater – This one was a gift from an old Sunday School teacher, and he always ends up on the tree as well. I don’t remember my teacher’s name, and I’m sure she didn’t pick it out with any particular care. I just see it, and it’s mine, the same way the old Dodger is my brother’s, and the Oliver cat is my sister’s. Each ornament belongs firmly to someone. When they’re all hung, the tree belongs to us too. And then it’s Christmas, not just that funny time of year we can’t leave the poor trees outside.
3. Mouse bell – When my parents got married, they bought two mice ornaments. A little white one riding a stick horse and a little brown one in a red hat. Every year, my mother hangs them both on the same hook, and puts the brown mouse on the stick horse behind the white one. They’re always the first thing on the tree, after the lights. I don’t know if I was ever told, or if I just figured out that the white one was Momma, and the brown one was Dad. But slowly, we’ve all been collecting our mice to hang next to each other on the tree. The penguin is mine. The sheep is mine. The mouse with its happy tinkling bell that I can recognize while it’s still wrapped in paper and hidden is me.
4. Little Angel – My mother collects angels. The tree is full of hers – glass, metal, or thread – and if you haven’t figured it out yet, I was the child who ran around the house yelling “ME TOO!” Whatever you did, I wanted to do too. I don’t collect angels, but for half a moment, I did. She’s my angel, and I like to hang her in the low branches like she’s playing hide-and-seek. She always knows if you catch sight of her, but she puts a finger to her lips, and giggles. She asks you to keep quiet, be her partner-in-crime. She’s obviously hiding from someone else.
5. Momma’s ladies – These are not mine. They’re my mothers, some of the pretty things that I associate with her, some of the pretty things that I learned the word careful on. I’ve never been very gentle on my own things, and it took a long time to figure out what I was supposed to do when someone handed me something of theirs. I broke a lot of my mother’s things. Including one or two of these ladies. But these, at least, my mother was able to fix.
Kate Kearney searched: Why is that tiger yawning?
He’s a lovely chap, but he gets bored easily, bless his heart. It’s best we move on to a new subject.
Flip the Otter searched: If you had the choice to spend Christmas on a beach or in a snow covered, cut off winter cabin, which would you choose?
It depends on exactly one thing: am I alone on the beach, and does the snow keep family and friends from showing up to keep me company? Because while I think of Christmas as being a crisp, cold, snowy day, I also think of it as the day when there is someone I love within reach from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. I’ll take whichever one keeps me close to friendly faces.
Neekers searched: Peanut Butter or Jelly?
I have to say peanut butter, if only for the fact that it’s the only one of the two I would be willing to eat on its own. I love scooping peanut butter straight from the jar, and licking it off a big spoon like an overly-nutty ice cream cone.
Flip the Otter searched: Did you ever have one gift that you really really really wanted and what was it?
A few years back, I asked for a netbook, because I was beginning to feel the constriction of my desktop in my busy college life. I’m not sure that I would place that many really‘s on it, but I do remember being thrilled to unwrap it.
I don’t remember wanting anything that badly when I was a kid, though I got a lot of things I loved.
Neekers searched: What was the Christmas present that surprised you the most? (this year, or all of them)
A lot of my presents are surprises. I’m the sort of unhelpful person who just shrugs and practices a cartoony smile of ignorance when the people who love her ask what she’d like for Christmas. The fact that they get me presents at all, is a lovely miracle, because they would be well within their rights to just throw their hands in the air and chuck gift cards at my face. An argument could be made that they could chuck other things as well.
But this year, there were three gifts that I had absolutely no expectation of something of that sort being under the tree: My mother hand-knit me a purple flopsy hat, my brother bought me a season and some parts of Doctor Who, and my little sister painted me a scene from one of the stories that I posted on this blog.
Oddly, they were all things that I had actually said that I wanted, and all things that I had forgotten entirely about. Silly me. Lovely mother, brother, sister.
Flip the Otter searched: What year and under what conditions was the tree used to celebrate yuletide in Germany?
Scandinavia and Germany originally held the oak tree sacred in a number of their celebrations, as it was sacred to the thunder-god, Thor. In the eighth century, Saint Boniface arrived with his belief in Christianity, and replaced their oak tree with a fir-tree, which referenced the holy trinity with this triangular profile.
When exactly that tree gained its popularity in Germany is unclear, but by the beginning of the 18th century, it was common to find fir trees in towns on the upper Rhineland. It took longer to reach more rural areas, and was largely regarded as a Protestant traditions, so it tended also to stay out of the Catholic dominated Lower Rhine.
In 1815, the fir trees finally started to spread, by way of Prussian officials who emigrated into the Lower Rhine for the Congress of Vienna. The tree’s general popularity was solidified when the German army decided to place trees in barracks and hospitals during the Franco-Prussian war. It wasn’t until the 20th century that German churches brought them inside and added the bright lights that make up the modern image of the tree.
Kate Kearney searched: What is the moral of this story?
That memories are short and I am young and everything changes.
The things that have been around my whole life, things that seem like they must be older than the ages and steady as stone, sometimes turn out to be traditions that arrived in my country shortly before my parents were born. Relatively speaking, next to thoughts and ideas and the patterns of the world, my parents are young, too.
Flip the Otter searched: What is the oldest Christmas Carol?
Giving a clear answer to that would require an exact definition of “carol.” The exact definition is… disputed.
So, for the sake of not getting knee-deep in academic arguments, I’ll say this: The first Christmas hymn written for Christian singers was written in the 4th century in Rome. The oldest of the Carols that we would recognize come into their modern forms in the mid-18th century, though it’s likely that some of them had lyrics that were centuries older than that. “Adeste Fideles” (or “O Come All Ye Faithful”) is a likely candidate for being the oldest carol that is still widely known today.
Flip the Otter searched: What is your favorite Christmas Carol?
I have a fondness for “O Holy Night.”
Have a question for Gwendoogle? Leave it in comments below and I’ll be back next week to answer it.
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