Ken Resting on a Snowshoe Trail at Home















Friday, December 6, 2019

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

When I was a child, I read about children in the Netherlands and Belgium leaving wooden shoes on the doorstep for St. Nicholas to come by and leave treats. (Actually on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th). I thought that this was a terrific idea and tried to convince my mother to go along with it. The idea got squelched immediately,  though I do think I deserved a treat for the knowledge of customs in other lands.

I like to have the time in December to enjoy preparing for the holiday season. I love playing holiday songs and Christmas carols on the piano, for one thing,  just as  I did when I was a kid.
With my new piano, I'm going gangbusters, finding songs and arrangements that work.
I find myself  reminiscing about my younger teenage years--how my gang of  neighborhood friends, on every Christmas Eve, would  practice our caroling, gathering around our family Steinway (inherited from a wealthy great aunt), and once sure of ourselves, we'd  go singing our lungs out into our  neighborhood where loads of treats awaited us at every door. Christmas cookies, cakes, eggnog, and at one very notable house, a Scandinavian  glogg was offered, though we were all underage as far as alcohol was concerned. It was tasty--cinnamon, cloves, apples, cider, red wine, and brandy. We sang uproariously after sampling glogg!
One Christmas Eve we endured a torrent of sleet and freezing rain hailing down on us. I questioned whether my pals would want to go and how long they would hold out. But those who I sensed might have bowed out, persisted, and we reaped huge rewards in candy and cookies for braving such a storm!  People fed us to the hilt, so glad were they that we made it again that year despite the storm.

Whither books? My reading has taken a huge hit in  November and into December, mostly due to my novel-writing course. But I am on the verge of picking up steam.  I have so many books available, my own and from the library, that it's so difficult to choose. I'll weigh in tomorrow or Sunday, with my end-of-year reading plans, but MOSTLY I want to hear about yours!

10 comments:

  1. Wow, your teenage years sound like something out of a movie. I went caroling once as a teenager. Someone in my church youth group organized it. But no one invited us in for cocoa or even glogg that I remember. But it was fun because as teenager, spending time with friends was almost always a good time. When I think about it, our youth group leaders were only in their early twenties themselves, but I thought them so much older than I.

    I am still reading Ducks, Newburyport. I wonder if I will still be reading it in 2020? I am not unhappy about the pace, but it is pretty slow going for me.

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    1. Hi Ruthiella,
      Are you enjoying Ducks, Newburyport? It sounds as though you are liking it despite the slow pace. I'll be interested to know what you think.
      We rehearsed and then always sang "Here We Come A-Wassailing, Among the Leaves so Green." The Wassailing song I decided we must sing to make sure that people realized we were there to sing for a repast of some sort, according to English tradition. Because this was New England in the mid-1960s, the older folks, for some reason, always got the hint. But I think on Christmas Eve, everyone in every house had goodies about. Splendid memories, for sure!

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  2. End of year reading has been a bit of a slog for me too - too much going on. I miss just relaxing for a few hours immersed without interruption in a good book. I can't see that changing soon and, haven't had a chance to think about 2020 either. Hope your Christmas lead up is peaceful.

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    1. Oh gosh, Diane, I hope this phase is only temporary, for both of us. If we both miss that couple of hours immersed in a book, I have a feeling that when things settle down, we'll return to that blessed free reading time. I do hope so!
      And I, too, hope you have a fun holiday. I was going to say relaxing, but I know you have young grandchildren, so I will say I hope you feel inspired with the spirit of Christmas this holiday time!

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  3. I agree with Ruthiella, your teenage years sound like a picture book scenario. All I remember doing with groups of friends and neighbors was trick or treating, and often in the teenage years we did it for charity (a church event, I am sure).

    I have been reading a lot of Christmassy books (some only set at Christmas, not even too cheerful). I just finished This Gun for Hire by Graham Greene (AKA A Gun for Sale) and it is set in the days leading up to Christmas.

    Good to hear that you are enjoying your piano.

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    1. Hi Tracy,
      I'm astonished! Greene's A Gun for Sale set before Christmas. How fascinating. Will jot it down on my list. And yes, I do so enjoy the piano, playing Christmas carols and popular songs. Happily, my piano tuner is coming on Monday next, because the Yamaha is just a bit out of tune. By the way, my golden Sandy adores the piano! She immediately lies down beside me whenever I play and goes into a snooze. Delightful company!

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  4. It's so surprising that you went out carol singing, it sounds almost Dickensian - in a good way. Christmas day wasn't even a holiday in Scotland until the mid 60s, we concentrated on Hogmanay/New Year, so we had no carol singing at all, it was all so low key compared with now. I've just finished an old book called Green Park Terrace by Isabel Cameron and haven't decided what to read next. You are so lucky with Sandy, it would have been awful if she howled as you played!

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    1. Hi Katrina,
      You always find a way to make me laugh! Sandy lies down beside me as I play the piano. (We've placed a dog bed for her in that spot.) She has loved the piano from the very first day she came to us. It does remind me of my childhood dog, Ritz Cracker, a yellow lab who slept beneath the Steinway while I played. HOWEVER! When my younger brother played the clarinet, with those reedy shrieks of beginners just learning, Ritz Cracker hid himself in a distant, faraway bedroom. Oh, he never got over his dislike of the clarinet!
      And oh, the caroling--we all loved it. Did I mention that I forced the group to sing "Here We Come A Wassailing" so that the listeners in each home we visited would realize we were after treats? They got it, all right. Those times are especially happy memories for me today.

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  5. What a fab name for a dog - Ritz Cracker, I'll think of him whenever I see that red box in the supermarket! I would probably have joined him in that faraway bedroom.

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    1. Ritz Cracker was a remarkable dog, I can tell you. Family stories about him abound. He got his name because he had loads of English bloodlines, and he had a very famous ancestor named Cream Cracker, who was an English champion and a Crufts winner (not best in show--Labradors never win best in show). When we picked up this puppy (RC), I said I had no idea what to name him. The breeder told me the name of his famous ancestor, and asked the name of my favorite cracker. Ritz Crackers! I shouted. And that's how it happened. I will add that we were scheduled to pick the puppy up on Saturday, November 23, 1963, the day after President Kennedy's death. We were living in Rhode Island at the time, briefly, and the breeder was in Vermont. That day it poured rain all day long as we drove the four hours to Vermont. The only thing on the radio was dirge classical music. Sad music. That's it. I was ten years old, and as distraught as I was over the death of a president that was so special to us (Irish Catholic like my dad), I was so incredibly happy and out of my mind with joy to be getting a dog, something I'd always longed for and asked for.

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