Kage Baker never felt that a single day was sufficient for a holiday.
She stretched birthdays into celebratory weeks. The run up to Halloween lasted a whole month of steadily increasing lights and Beistle paper decorations and bowls of rehearsal candy. Christmas was the same, only more so – in both cases, lights began on the first of the month and just grew exponentially.
Even Thanksgiving got some respect. Kage loved those honeycomb paper pumpkins, and garlands of autumn leaves. I like festival lights shaped like turkeys. (Yes, they exist.) We tolerated one another’s favourites, and compromised on chocolate turkeys from See’s.
(My family is the same. Being in our living room is like being in the Time’s Square Ball right now.)
What Kage liked best, though, was stretching a holiday over two consecutive nights. This was easy for us, as most of the Celtic holidays stretched out like that – most of the Celts counted the years by nights, not gaudy, blabbing and remorseful days*: to quote what is probably Shakespeare’s worst ever line. Both of us thought that was a great idea, and tried to honour it as much as we could.
It helped that Kage grew up cooking in an enormous household, and never learned how to make food for just 2 people: we always had leftovers, usually an entire second feast. Remember the nursery rhyme about Good King Arthur?
When good king Arthur ruled this land,
He was a goodly king;
He stole three pecks of barley-meal,
To make a bag-pudding.
A bag-pudding the king did make,
And stuffed it well with plums:
And in it put great lumps of fat,
As big as my two thumbs.
The king and queen did eat thereof,
And noblemen beside;
And what they could not eat that night,
The queen next morning fried.
This pretty much describes Kage’s attitude toward holiday foods, although we usually bought the ingredients. But I can testify from personal experience, Dear Readers, that proper pudding of every sort (NOT Jello!) is delicious when fried next day, even by a lowly me. Yorkshire pudding gets leftover gravy, Christmas pudding gets leftover Bird’s Sauce, and even make-do’s like date nut bread and fruitcake benefit by a re-heating and a dose of butter. I once fried up fruit cake in bacon grease, and it was divine; especially on a cold morning. Don’t knock it unless you try it.
Anyway, we tried to celebrate most things over at least 2 evenings.
Now, last night was the Winter Solstice and I did not blog. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! (I’d beat my breast, but my shirt has buttons and it hurts.) In fact, what I mostly did last night – was sleep! Yes, I slept and slept, in double digit hours gratefully cast upon the bosom of Somnos; the best in weeks. I’m going to do my best to do so tonight, as well. I think two nights spent thoroughly asleep is maybe the best way to celebrate the Solstice that I have hit on in ages.
Last night, my family nibbled its drowsy way through very personal feasts of individual favourites. I personally had a merry meal of sausages and angel food cake. I recommend it as pre-hibernation fare – you can fall pretty deeply asleep while your stomach is in shock.
Tonight, I think we are having roast duck and noodles. There’s no special liturgical reason; just my brother-in-law was recalling some meals his German grandmother made, and Kimberly found a butcher with ducks to sell. If it works out well, it will become a tradition. If not, there will be another buffet of finger foods, cold cuts and cookies to celebrate the Solstice.
There’s no rule to it. When Kage couldn’t manage a full Solstice feast, after all, we used to have pizza. She always said it was a close as she could get, culinary-wise, to a burning wheel … although one year, she did paint scented lamp oil on our round barbecue grill and set it ablaze. Which is one of the reasons we used a pizza as a back up after that.
Anyway, Dear Readers, may you all be enjoying the new-born winter now. The world is turning slowly to the light, but the long nights are deep and restful. It’s almost Christmas. Most of the evacuation orders for the fires have been cancelled, and most of the fires are under control – even the burning Santa Ana River where it runs through the city of Riverside.
And for those who might miss my usual Solstice pedantry, here’s a link to an old sermon. Enjoy, Dear Readers, and Happy Solstice!
* “The gaudy, blabbing and remorseful day Is crept into the bosom of the sea; And now loud-howling wolves arouse the jades. That drag the tragic melancholy night; Who, with their drowsy, slow and flagging wings, Clip dead men’s graves and from their misty jaws. Breathe foul contagious darkness in the air.” Shakespeare, Henry the 5th, part 2; Act 4, Scene 1.
Spoken by the Duke of Suffolk, William de la Pole, who loved the Queen of England well if none too wisely, and shortly had his head cut off for his troubles.