Saturday, December 24, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is a Goat

It is interesting to me that these days the main actors in Christmas traditions are human or at least as human-like as angels and elves can be. Perhaps this anthromorphing has something to with the Age of Reason,  the Industrial Age, or man's supposed mastery over  the planet. Who knows? In contrast, old Scandinavian traditions designated a goat as the driving force of Christmas. This animal, the Julebukk, was the mythic descendent of Thor's companion. In rowdy Viking ceremonies, the divine and fearsome goat was portrayed by a man who would customarily die and be born again.

The early Nordic Christians raised the stakes and viewed the goat as a sort of welcome devil who would appear in times of wild celebration. The Church was not pleased, thank you very much, and forbade the Christmas Goat which, when not acting out, had turned to supervising Christmas preparations and giving gifts.  Eventually the active role of the Julebukk faded, to be replaced by the Julenissen, the Christmas Troll.

You had to watch out for the Julenissen as well. If  you did not provide it with a Christmas Eve bowl of rømmegrøt, a porridge made of sour cream, whole milk, wheat flour, butter and salt, it would retaliate by killing all your cattle. Norwegians take things very seriously.

When I spent a Christmas in Norway, we set a straw Julebukk next to the chimney to guard the rømmegrøt, and -- sure enough -- everything turned out fine. So tonight, as Christmas Evening comes to us, I wish you friendly visitations and much joy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lille Julaften

I love this evening. In Scandinavian traditions, December 23rd is Lille Julaften -- Little Christmas Eve. Taking note of this night spreads the pleasure of Christmas forward and  intensifies anticipation. When I lived in Norway as a teenager, preparations for Christmas did not really begin until Lille Julaften. That was the day when people shopped for gifts and put up a tree which was decorated solely and purely with white lights, Norwegian flags, and small balls of white cotton snow. 

Lille Julaften became part of my life as a young mother, wife, and artist in Cleveland as we threw a big party that drew together people from all parts of our lives -- neighbors, friends, family, work colleagues, and eventually friends of friends and friends of family. The preparations were daunting -- huge quantities of eggnog and strong punch, buckets of 1/2 inch round Swedish meatballs. I accomplished Herculean feats of lefse-making and fragile cookie cakes. And it was all wonderful as everyone I loved gathered together.

So tonight, even if you are far too busy and your list of tasks is still too long, even if the Christmas music that has played in your ears since Halloween has grown tedious, even if you are sad, even if you miss someone, perhaps there will be a moment of quiet joy and sweet anticipation of better times as Lille Julaften works its small magic.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanks for the Ride

I have used this loyal hip for a long time -- learning to walk, chasing my sister, climbing, dancing, running, skating, skiing, accelerating, and generally having a fine time. It is now time to give it a rest and get a substitute joint. How about something that looks like it was machined at Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, as sleek and expensive as a new car?

So off I will go on Pearl Harbor Day to have my hip replaced, interested in the whole process, eager to move again without discomfort & this annoying limp, and grateful.