Thursday, December 17, 2009


i love the romance of the winter season.

its many and varied traditions.

i treasure
the chance to know
once more
the associations i have
with the warmth
of family
and friends
both here and gone.

i love the incidental immersion in
the wealth of colours
the decorations,
the lights,
and of course the candles.

then there is the food.

all rich
in my imagining.

richer in my remembering.

but it's the small joys
like sugared figs,
mandarin oranges in a wooden box,
and chocolate covered ginger
that dance across
my most treasured experiences of christmas treats.

strangely the most powerful
symbolic connection i make to christmas
is through holly.

i have no explanation for this
as holly is not a part of my family tradition
but it sits in the centre of my associations.

the holly.

deep green leaves.
rich red berries,
blood red
and ripe.

in olden times,
holly was gathered on carts
and brought to the village or town market.

holly has a natural history,
and most especially,
it holds a place
in between worlds:

"the holly king reigns over the dark half of the year when the days grow shorter.
he ascends the throne after the ritual sacrifice of the oak king on the midsummer fires.
in a neverending cycle of life, death, and rebirth, the holly king is himself sacrificed at the winter solstice, to make way once more for the king of the light half of the year.
the oak and holly kings are dual aspects of the guardian god of nature,
who in some traditions is also known as the corn god.
their combined role is to protect, court, and make love with the earth goddess,
thus ensuring the fruitfulness of the land.
together they are responsible for carrying the green life force of nature through the year."

from "the wisdom of trees: mysteries, magic, and medicine" by jane gifford


Moira said...

I really like that line "richer in my remembering". I suddenly have a craving for chocolate covered ginger, how absolutely yummy!

Alaine said...

Adore holly, it's so colourful and cheery. Little bits of 'fake' are here and there at my place.

I notice that you're reading a Barbara Kingsolver book; I just read a review of her Prodigal Summer yesterday. The reviewer said she didn't get out of bed for three days she was so engrossed!

Golden West said...

It's hard to pick a favorite thing about Christmas... The lights, the trees, the decorations, the music, the food, the holiday smells... It truly is the most magical time of year around here.

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

Beautiful, magical post. ♥

Wanda said...

Wonderful post...glad I came here from Delwyn's Hazy Moon!

ellen abbott said...

ooooo, chocolate covered ginger.

I enjoyed this very much. Really, the oak king and the holly king make way more sense that what replaced them.

Reya Mellicker said...

Holly is the warrior tree, always magnificent. This is so beautiful, Steven! Thank you.

Linda Sue said...

Holly abundantly grows here- at this time of year it is pruned and the brances rest on every in door surface- they get more dangerous as the season wears itself out- the barbs are no nonsense, the berries dry and drop, and skitter all over the floor. Beautiful but better left ouside on the door. Now the chocolate ginger and oranges- that is christmas that I can really sink my teeth into! MMMM the food at this time of year is indeed memorable and special- it's all about the FOOD and brandy-

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love holly too, the other day i saw and heard a robin singing from deep in a holly hedge.... a perfect seasonal image....

staceyjwarner said...

This time of year is filled with so much magic, even the snow falling on everyone's blogs makes me happy!

Beautiful post and love the bit of magic that travelled with holly.

much love

Liza said...

"i love the incidental immersion in
the wealth of colours
the decorations,
the lights,
and of course the candles.
then there is the food."
Ditto! So well put Steven.
Holly is beautiful, and I love the history you have provided.
PS..I was just admiring the cover sleeve artwork for your current "listens". Those are FABULOUS.

Jenny Stevning said...

Holly. Hmmmmm...I want to join in the holiday cheer of holly, but holly is what kept me from gleefully running out the back door and down to the steps of my grandma's pool. Two HUGE holly shrubs on either side of the stairs...when the leaves dried and fell they always would land prong side up. Very painful to step on barefooted.
I, too, love the romance of the winter/holiday season. But this year I am having a hard time feeling it. That makes me a wee bit sad. Okay...I will take my glumness elsewhere. :)
Oh, and your latest's my mama!

Bee said...

I've just come from our closest market town, where bunches of holly and other winter greenery add to the festive atmosphere. We even have a little bit of snow! My Christmas joy is really starting to kick in now . . . (and it helps to drink hot coffee and eat cardamom cookies with my parents as we open up the Xmas cards). Sending you best wishes for the season -- Bee

steven said...

moira welcome!! it is so yummy - the sweetness side-by-side with the hot tartness and then the textures of sugary crunch and gingery fibre all melted over with chocolate on your tongue!!! ohhhhhh it's amazing to be sure! steven

steven said...

hello alaine - i've not read kingsolver before and i just finished this one. other's in my book group have read her work before and say that this one is denser, more convoluted and not quite as approachable as her other work. however, it's well-written, includes lots of writing about frida kahlo, diego rivera, and trotsky so it's very very cool. it's also long - 500 + pages so set in a good stock of grog or whateve floats your boat!! steven

steven said...

hello boomer - thankyou for visiting and for your nice comment. steven

steven said...

hello wanda and welcome. delwyn is a mgical and special person. i miss her posts but she's working through a major lifechange and so her priorities are understandably adjusted! thankyou for your thoughtful comment. steven

steven said...

hey ellen - there's something of all sorts that works to make this time of year more magical, meaningful, beautiful and relevant. i can't darken words so in your mind's eye darken the word "relevant" please!!! have a lovely evening. steven

steven said...

hey reya - it's a tree that has spoken to me without my having seen one for many years. i would love to have one on my property and perhaps that's something of why it calls to me. there's one out there just waiting for me to get it together and let it's current incarnation evolve nearby! the warrior tree. i love that. steven

steven said...

linda sue - you'd better talk to me about brandy because all of what you said made deep sense to me but i don't think i've really had brandy before - on it's own i mean. i stay away from strong drinks - red wine and dark ales are my chosen place - but i'm open to information!!! have a peaceful evening. steven

steven said...

crafty green - i have that emblazoned in my mind's eye - the image you presented. thankyou so much!!! steven

steven said...

stacey j. - it's a beautiful, nostalgic, warm, real time of year for me. i love the energy, the rituals, the surprises, the food, the drink, the people, the crazy places. i really do. but not the commercialis so much. so i choose where i am and how i am. it's not hard!!! have a lovely evening. steven

steven said...

liza thanks for the great comment. also thanks for noticing the artwork on the music i'm listening to. the music is mindblowingly good. truly. honestly. the covers are indications, signposts. have a lovely evening. steven

steven said...

jenny stevning - here's what i know about christmas - there's expectations about tone, behaviour, attitude and presence. toss 'em! be who you are and let your process roll as it is. easy words in an environment that demands cheer. so often the juxtaposition of ones feelings and the feelings of "the world" make people feel unworthy, out of place, a downer.
not so.
feel yourself. be glum. then look and listen to chloe. the whole "secret" of all of this is wrapped up in her. i am sure of this.
by the way, i love that your mum is also visiting here. she's almost certainly closer to my age!!!! hugs to you jenny stevning. steven

steven said...

hello bee. i so envy you your home in england at this time of year. christmas in england has very deep resonant memories for me. i'm more canadian than english in terms of my years spent in each place, but i am more english - and very olllllllld english as in nineteenth century english - in terms of the christmas i envision in my mind's heart. have a lovely day bee. steven