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text 2017-12-28 14:21
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 13 - Christmas

Tasks for Christmas: Post a picture of your stockings hung from the chimney with care, –OR– a picture of Santa’s ‘treat’ waiting for him. –OR– Share with us your family Christmas traditions involving gift-giving, or Santa’s visit. Did you write letters to Santa as a kid (and if so, did he write back, as J.R.R. Tolkien did “as Santa Claus” to his kids)? If so, what did you wish for? A teddy bear or a doll? Other toys – or practical things? And did Santa always bring what you asked for?

 

 

I'm afraid I was disabused of the notion that there actually was a Santa Claus even before my mom "officially" did so when one year -- I think I may have been four at the time -- I found something she hadn't yet gotten around to hiding really well that later showed up wrapped up under the Christmas tree.  (Of course I didn't let on I had found it before, or at least I did my best not to.)  Also, I think it was even in kindergarten that I first learned about the historic St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, and where we were told that the "Christ child" (Christkind) who in Germany is said to bring all the presents in addition to / or in competition with Santa Claus is to be understood symbolically, with the gifts we receive "from him" as a tangible manifestation of the good brought into the world by the little boy in the manger some 2000 years ago.

 

So I didn't write letters to Santa, but my mom had me write out a wish list nevertheless, and yes, some of the things from the list would usually be part of what I received.

 

Germans exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, not the morning of Christmas Day, and I think our family tradition is the same, or at least very similar to that of many other German families (with the only significant differences being whether you go to church or not -- and if you do, whether it's in the afternoon / early evening or at midnight -- and whether you exchange gifts before or after dinner).  We go to church early in the evening, usually at 6:00 PM -- while I was growing up and in the years until I moved away after I'd graduated from university, the church where I was confirmed, which was the closest Protestant church to where my grandparents lived (and where we used to live when I was a kid)

 

 

-- whereas these days, we go to the Protestant church closest to where we now live, which is a 15-20 minute walk from our home.

 

In the years up until my graduation from university, our gathering on Christmas Eve consisted of either just my maternal grandparents, my mom and me, or in addition there would be the family of my mom's sister, with whom we were particularly close, and who lived near Bonn for a few years while I was in elementary school, and then again after my uncle had retired.  "The kids" (actually, all the family except for either my mom or my aunt, depending in whose home we were celebrating) would be banned from the living room until all the lights on the Christmas tree were lit, then a little bell would call us in, and we'd exchange presents, and after that, we'd have dinner.

ca. age 4, with my mom and my grandpa (I think I've shared this one before)

Christmas dinner table at my aunt and uncle's house, ca. 1996 or 1997

 

These days, it's just my mom and me on Christmas Eve (though we may get together with other parts of the family on Christmas Day or on Boxing Day), and we still follow essentially the same routine.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Santa Claus / Saint Nick actually comes twice in Germany, once in his incarnation as St. Nicholas, on the evening of that saint's official holiday (December 6), and then in his incarnation as Father Christmas / Santa on Christmas Eve.  While his Christmas visit is said to be a secret one, his visit on St. Nicholas"s Day is one equally dreaded and anticipated by children, because it's then that they get to account for their misdeeds throughout the year ... or get presents -- nothing major, mostly chocolates, cookies, tangerines, nuts and the like -- for being able to prove they've been good kids.  Of course they always end up being loaded with sweets, but if "St. Nick" is sufficiently convincing -- or is actually accompanied by his scary servant, Knecht Ruprecht, whose job it is to administer the punishment to bad children --, there's a moment of a certain frisson at the beginning, with St. Nick, typically a member of the family and thus excellently informed, going through their "record of behavior" for the year.  I have only vague memories of this (and no photos at all) from my own childhood, both at home and at my kindergarten, but here's my uncle dressed up as St. Nicholas for my cousin's kids:

 

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text 2017-12-05 14:48
How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas ★★☆☆☆
How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas - Jeff Guinn

 

Jeff Guinn is a terrific writer of nonfiction historical events and biographies. I thoroughly enjoyed his books on Jim Jones and on Bonnie & Clyde. But it was painfully apparent to me, early on in this book, that this talent doesn’t translate well to the telling of fictional stories. At least not fictional stories about Santa and Mrs. Claus. I tried to soldier on through this book, because I needed it for Square 3 of The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season (Book themes for St. Martin’s Day: Read a story dealing with an act of selfless generosity (like St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar)), but I just can’t keep punching myself in the head like this. I had to stop. I can’t even work up the energy to detail the many ways in which this book continually failed me. Just take my word for it: Read the hell out of Mr. Guinn’s nonfiction books – I’m eyeballing the one on Charles Manson right now – but don’t spend your time or energy on this set of “fanciful” Christmas stories.

 

DNF. I gave it 2 stars only because I was able to make through 41% of the book (that’s 4 ½ hours of listening!) before giving up.

 

Audiobook, purchased via Audible. Susan Denaker’s smarmy & self-righteous tone certainly seemed to suit the character as written, but damn.  

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text 2017-07-26 11:27
Erster Satz | Claus Probst: Die Jagd (Am falschen Ort)
Die Jagd - Am falschen Ort: Thriller - Claus Probst

Seit der Sache mit Torrini hat an achtmal versucht, mich zu töten. 

 

Vermutlich gibt es nur wenige Menschen, die das von sich behaupten können. Mit Ausnahme einiger Diktatoren, Rebellenführer und Drogenbarone, die sich jedoch nicht mit mir vergleichen lassen, denn sie umgeben sich meist mit einer Armee von Leibwächtern. Ich dagegen bin völlig auf mich gestellt.

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text 2017-05-25 06:01
Part 3: What's On Your Library Wishlist?
Daughters of the Moon, Volume 2 - Lynne Ewing
The Countess - Lynsay Sands
The Blades of the Rose Bundle: Warrior, Scoundrel, Rebel, & Stranger - Zoe Archer
Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
Crazy Love - Candace Gold
Kissing Santa Claus - Donna Kauffman,HelenKay Dimon
1,000-Year Voyage - John Russell Fearn
Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored - Mary Gabriel
The Misenchanted Sword: A Legend of Ethshar - Lawrence Watt-Evans

Still updating my shelves to reflect and to work thru the wishlist.  Any recommendations to immediately read anything currently borrow-able?

 

(Backfiring as a way to clean up some reading lists because I stupidly keep glancing at the "also enjoyed" and adding more to the TBR but working to remind me I wanted to read something or continue some series.)

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review 2017-03-13 01:53
Book 5/100: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus - L. Frank Baum

When I was young, the toy-mation movie adaptation of this book was one of my favorite Christmas movies ever. It still is, although I don't watch it with the regularity of, say Muppet Christmas Carol. It was always a bit obscure -- it was not played every year like Rudolph or Frosty, and a lot of people had never seen it. I was thrilled to finally find it on VHS and later on DVD so that I can enjoy it for every Christmas and share it with my own kid(s) someday.

All of that preamble is to say that it was impossible for me to read this without my perception being clouded by nostalgia. Because the movie actually follows the book very well, reading the book was like seeing the movie in my mind once again -- and we've already established that I love the movie. Objectively speaking, if I read this without the context of my fondness for it, it may have felt a little like one of those books that was just one thing happening after the other without a really clear through-line. On the other hand, the prose was very often quite beautiful and it was easy to get swept away in the magic of the setting and the nostalgia of a Christmas origin story. I do think it's a pity that this is not as well known as Baum's Oz books, because I found it to be just as magical (although, like the Oz books, it did get a little clunky at the end.)

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