Kage Baker really liked 12th Night.
She never cared for the modern usage of Christmas, where it begins sometime after Halloween and ends on Christmas Day. It’s an enormous holiday (even without the religious component), and she felt it should be enjoyed more. So we celebrated the 12 classical Days of Christmas, which run from Christmas Day to January 6th: Twelfth Night.
This was a family tradition, too. And still is; our tree and lights have been up and lit for all this time, and will only come down tomorrow. The indoor deco all gets packed away; the lights get changed out. For the duration of winter, they will be blue and white outdoors, turning the now-leafless mulberry tree into a frost tree … much more fun than a porch light; although we’ll replace that with a blue bulb too.
You could be excused for mistaking our house for a DYI cryogenics lab.
Mind you, it’s been nearly that cold lately. But we are dealing with the furnace problems – it’s just slower to get it done this time of year, when ancient heating systems are failing all over the city. And my sister and brother-in-law are unwilling to spend more on the furnace replacement than is still owed on the mortgage … but space heaters and the fireplace have kept us comfortable.
Of course, to celebrate 12th Night, the weather has decided to warm up precipitously. It’s 84 degrees outside right now, and the front door is wide open to the warm air. It’ll get down into the 40’s come nightfall – the earth is still asleep, even if the air is confused – but for now it’s unseasonably delightful to let the Halcyon weather wander in.
Even the animals like it. Especially the Corgi – there is no under on a Corgi, and Dylan was very unhappy with the days of frozen grass we had. He can’t wade through anything and not freeze his tummy. The little black cat, who is older and wiser, is just sleeping in warm chairs and watching the day through the window. She knows not to trust the heat spell. The fluffy orange kitty, though, is sitting Spinxlike in the doorway, sniffing the warm air incredulously – we don’t let her out because she is appallingly short-sighted even for a cat, and naive to boot: she would be eaten in short order, or knock herself out running into something. So the show through the screen and windows is always amazing for her.
The coldest part of the winter may yet be in front of us. January is usually the coldest month of the year, and February is often one of the wettest. I think most Californians will happily accept a mini-Ice Age if it means snow in the mountains or rain in the valleys. We need the water, and absurdly huge numbers of us also expect to be able to ski. The forecast is still holding out hopes for more rain, and anything will be ecstatically received.
But I think we are not looking at an El Nino year. No major floods, no graveyards washed out. It’s true that portions of the Pacific Coast Highway are walking – part of Malibu fell off the sea cliffs just today – but not enough to constitute a disaster. It’s just that so much of the coastline is not proper stone or earth – just dehydrated mud – that even a few heavy dews will collapse them.
Kage and I were once in a simultaneous mudslide and wild fire, on a flooded-to-our-hubcaps Mulholland Drive. Seasons can get pretty eccentric here in Los Angeles.
But at least, with 12th Night, we come to the quiet part of the winter. Things will be cold or warm, wet or dry, foggy or crystalline clear – but quiet. The footballers, the Parade enthusiasts, the visiting relatives: they’ve all gone home. There are few tourists wandering Hollywood Boulevard. We’ve almost run out of superannuated Christmas trees to catch fire, and the last of the holiday leftovers probably went to work and school in lunch bags this week.
Time to relax, and wait to see what comes up where the lawn froze last week. Time to watch the hills go green with wild oats; time to watch the willows and cottonwoods in the LA River begin to bud out in a green haze. Time for millions of sea gulls to spend their winter days in the parking lots of malls and McDonalds and supermarkets, sheltering from the high winter tides.
It’s time to be grateful for windows, Kage always said. Because Winter is still out here, waiting to pounce, and it’s just better to sit quietly and watch.
Old Christmas is past,
12th Night is the last.
And we big you adieu,
Great Joy to the New!
So glad that you and your family still observe the 12 Days! My parents and grandparents always did, too, in the frozen north of Michigan, where houses were buried under snow like that mansion in “Dr. Zhivago”. Hope your nephews and nieces intend to keep up the custom.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As for my nieces and nephews – they give every evidence of continuing the custom. One my nephews, in fact, also works the Dickens Christmas Fair with me in San Francisco each year – it’s a Victorian event, and so between the family habits and running around in 1850’s “London” every winter, he’s a firm celebrator of old customs. 12th night is on his list.