Kage Baker celebrated pretty much continuously for the last three months of the year. It was the season of lights and holidays, and she loved it. Halloween, All Saints’, Guy Fawkes, Thanksgiving – and then the long mania of Christmas and New Year’s!
We built bonfires on Guy Fawkes and Samhain, whenever we had the chance and the room. Backyards can accomomdate all sorts of ritual dancing and leaping over the flames, but we did have to learn not to try it when the bonfire was in a hibachi on the second-story porch … we scattered grain and salt and wine on our doorjambs, pinned fortunate herbs to the lintels, set out spirit meals for the honoured dead.
Our neighbors occasionally asked cautious questions. We had the most tolerant UPS and FedEx men in the whole wide world, though.
Now that it is Fall, the unending glittering whirl of the year-end festivities is well and truely begun. In most especial particular, the wonders of Dickens Fair and Extreme Christmas began their tumultuous birth this Saturday past.
I spent most of the time in Pacifica, for the first weekend of rehearsals for the Dickens Fair and Christmas Spectacular – a most unique and splendid celebration of the genial season, which I encourage all of you, Dear Readers, to attend if, under any circumstances whatsoever, you can. (Discount tickets are available through me.) Returning to Dickens is very like sitting down in a nice warm bath: one which gradually heats up until the water is boiling but you are somehow acclimatized.
I always find that within the first few hours of commingling once more with my friends and minions, I am sitting up straight as if corseted, and falling effortlessly into Victorian English. Even as the bubbles begin to form on the sides of the enormous cauldron in which we are all swimming … some of it may be our faux English sang froid, but most of it is because we are all addicted to Extreme Christmas.
It was wonderful this weekend. The first weekend is especially fervent, full of the twin joys of surprise (where did they put my stage this year?) and dear familiarity. It never matters at all that most of us are still in our 21st century clothes, costumed as IT technicians and tax accountants and college students and housespouses … getting into character is a lot more than putting on funny clothes; a Giants cap (of which there were a LOT) doffs as well as a topper, and one can curtsey just as well with the edges of a shawl or a hoodie as with a hooped skirt. At least, we can.
And then, of course, today is Guy Fawkes Day. It’s about a lot more than those silly masks now used by Anonymous. I’ve known the appropriate verse since I was 3 (thanks to an British granddad). I’ll circle round a candle and chant about Gunpowder Treason, and then sit down and mark my ballot for the American rituals tomorrow.
In between rehearsal and Guy Fawkes, there was the first night run of the season: running down I-5 for the comforts of my own bed, glugging coffee and snacking on Pop Tarts and Good and Plenties – all of us who make the 1000-miles-a-weekend commute have our favourite snack foods, and those are mine. I cheered the phantom cities by the road, I dodged the dragon-headed trucks along the long straightaways, I sang the sun down and stars up along the stretches of roads where there are no lights at all. Starlight lies like glitter on the dun hills, heralding the frost that will begin to form in weeks.
It was a grand beginning. I got from Pacifica to Griffith Park in 6 hours, which is quite a decent time. And I can hardly wait to do it again next week.