It’s over the past fortnight that the greening of the Estate took place and that means I’ve been very busy gathering such things as holly, winter berry, pine boughs, pine cones, and setting up the Several Annies and some of the lads to construct wreaths and garlands in the courtyard they make use of every year.
Mrs. Ware and her staff make a big deal of it by preparing a good lunch for them as they do what admittedly is a filthy job with the pine gum coating everything, small cuts on the hands as you really can’t use gloves in this work, and the occasional twisted ankle that occurs in the woods while gathering the source material. So she makes sure they have lots of mulled cider, hearty sandwiches, and winter ale for those of age. Whether there is any correlation between the amount of winter ale consumed and the number of twisted ankles has yet to be determined.
We do a Christmas tree as well, though I doubt there’s a hard and fast Christian to be found on the Estate, which is appropriate as a Christmas tree is anything but a true Christian ritual. As far as I can tell, the first trees associated with Christmas Day are trees in Guild halls decorated with sweets to be enjoyed by the apprentices and children in what’s now Latvia and Estonia around the early 1400s. They came here with the marriage into German line by the Royals.
Our tree is not topped by an angel but rather has a candle firmly placed on it. The decorations are mostly handmade and some are centuries old, but there are also some exceedingly rare and equally old glass ornaments as well. The Tree, as it’s simply called here, is set up in a corner of the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room, which I think is rather appropriate.
Small gifts are placed under it — books, sheet music, clothing, various rare spirits including, rumour has it, a century-old brandy, Hungarian chocolates, and even I see what is a Max Trader violin for one lucky Several Annie whom Béla has been teaching lovely Hungarian waltzes.
All in all, it’s shaping up to be another excellent Winter Holiday season with celebrations of Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Twelfth Night!
Glögg is now being made available by Mrs. Ware on an ongoing basis. Did you know her deceased husband, may his soul rest peacefully, was a fellow Swede? I didn’t, as she keeps her history to her breast very well, but two of the Several Annies were gossiping about her as girls are wont to do while they crafted wreaths of spruce boughs, pine cones, coloured ribbons, and winter berry. It certainly explains her fondness for all things Swedish!
Until next time, Gus