Friday, December 25, 2020

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

Letters from Father Christmas is a collection of letters Tolkien wrote to his children as Father Christmas aka Santa Claus in replies to their letters to Santa.

I decided to reread it this advent about a letter or 8 pages a day and, although I missed some days due to real life calamities, I did slowly make my way through it by and by just in the perfect time to finish it on Christmas day.

The letters are such a delight to read, showing Tolkien's craftsmanship not only through the stories he comes up about Father Christmas and his friends and the exciting fortunate and less fortunate events in the North Pole, but also in the intricate handwriting he invents for each of the characters he emulates and even lovely drawings he includes with the letters. 

From 1920 to 1943, the letters grow in number along with his growing family and diminish as the children grow up, all along hinting here at there at Tolkien's interests in his literary work as well as at the concerns of the real world, but most of all they give a testimony of his love for his children, thus making me admire him even more as a person rather than just an author. 

Letters from Father Christmas are a wonderful read for December and if you haven't read it yet, there is always next year.  

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Virtual Advent Tour 2020: Favourite Holiday Songs Vol. 2

Virtual Advent Tour is hosted by Sprite Writes. Drop by her blog to see other stops on the tour with many interesting titbits about advent traditions. 

Music is an essential part of many if not most celebrations and that particularly holds true for Christmas time. 

In 2016, I shared my favourite English holiday songs

This year, however, as the only non-native English speaking country participant, I want to provide some 'exoticism' 😉 and share with you what we call folk church songs, that is, songs for church/Christian holidays (in this case, Christmas) that are widely known and sung among people.

We have a long, centuries-old tradition of folk church songs, many originating from unknown authors and spreading among the people, others being written for choir but becoming widely popular among everyone, and some imported and translated from other languages and being loved so much they are now considered our own. 

I will start with one of the latter, perhaps the most popular and most frequently translated Christmas song of all times across the world, Sveta noč, or, as you may have already guessed, Silent Night

Poslušajte, vsi ljudje (Listen, all people) is a personal favourite because it mentions St. Joseph; it talks about how Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem where after looking for a place to stay they finally found it outside the town in a barn where Jesus was born.

Another few of my favourites are Glej, zvezdice božje (Look, heavenly stars), Rajske strune (Heavenly  Chords), and Kaj se vam zdi, pastirci vi (What do you think, o, shepherds ye').

As I said, these are all very popular and sung by everyone en masse at church, but of course the above examples are choir and bands recordings, because unsynchronised people's singing would have been unintelligible. Then again, all of these are probably unintelligible to you, but I hope you at least enjoyed the catchy melodies. The music of the last one is played on European zither, which has an especially apt sound for Christmas songs.

I will end with another version of Silent Night in honour of my uncle, because I learned halfway through writing this post (on Friday, and TBH continuing writing it in the breaks between crying kept me sane) that he had died. Lojze Slak, also deceased, is one of our most renowned musicians and my parents' favourite, he was from one of the neighbouring villages to that of my father and uncle's home village and my father – and, I think, also my uncle – knew him personally, so this is for him. At least they are all together now, I believe. 

I apologise for ending on a morose note. I wish you all happy holidays, even if you don't get to spend them with your loved ones due to Covid-19, I hope you are able to spend them at least with the knowledge that they are alive and well and that all of you stay that way!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Virtual Advent Tour 2020: St. Lucy

The Earth keeps making its way around the Sun even in 2020 and the time has come again for Virtual Advent Tour, organised by Sprite Writes.

Today is the name day of St. Lucy of Syracuse (283 – 304 AD). She is associated with light and brightness as her name comes from lux, the Latin word for light.

According to a legend, one of her suitors fell in love with her beautiful eyes, so she gouged them out and send them to him, but an angel came to her and restored them; therefore, she is a patron saint of the blind and a protector of sight.

A picture of a woman in mediaeval clothes with a pair of eyes on a brass platter.
Due to various legends telling of St. Lucy losing her eyes either by torture or her own hand, she is often depicted with a pair of eyes on a platter. (Image source.)

Before the Gregorian calendar reform, December 13th was considered the shortest day of the year, symbolising the return of light into long winter nights and thus rebirth and new life, similarly to the winter solstice.

We have a folk custom, especially in the countryside, of planting Christmas wheat on this day – it is believed that if it sprouts by Christmas, it will ensure a good harvest the following year. 

Christmas wheat in a small pot is a nice decorative element in a nativity scene or on its own. (Image source.)

Do you have any special traditions or celebrations on this day? If so, I would love to hear about them.