Another holiday tradition, this one not even two hundred years old, is the song "Good King Wenceslas":
Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the Feast of Stephen,
The good reader will now ask, of course, who this King Wenceslas was. The particularly astute reader will wonder who St. Stephen was, that his Feast directly follows Christmas. Both questions are answered; follow the links, if you like.
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight,
Gathering winter fuel.
Hither, page, and stand by me,
If though know'st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he?"
Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes' fountain."
Bring me flesh, and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither;
Thou and I will see him dine,
When we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went,
Forth they went together;
Thro' the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather.
Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
Mark my footsteps, my good page;
Tread thou in them boldly;
Though shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possesing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourself find blessing.
Another holiday tradition, this one not even two hundred years old, is the song "Good King Wenceslas":
From The Ballad of the White Horse by G. K. Chesterton:
Then Alfred laughed out suddenly,
Like thunder in the spring,
Till shook aloud the lintel-beams,
And the squirrels stirred in dusty dreams,
And the startled birds went up in streams,
For the laughter of the King.
And the beasts of the earth and the birds looked down,
In a wild solemnity,
On a stranger sight than a sylph or elf,
On one man laughing at himself
Under the greenwood tree--
The giant laughter of Christian men
That roars through a thousand tales,
Where greed is an ape and pride is an ass,
And Jack's away with his master's lass,
And the miser is banged with all his brass,
The farmer with all his flails;
Tales that tumble and tales that trick,
Yet end not all in scorning--
Of kings and clowns in a merry plight,
And the clock gone wrong and the world gone right,
That the mummers sing upon Christmas night
And Christmas Day in the morning.
"The Knight Before Christmas"
by Robert L. Sheridan
(which I assume he won't mind me sharing, since he posted it on the internet)
'Twas the knight biforn Christmas, whan al thrugh the castle
Nat a creature was stirring, nat even a vassal;
The gauntlets were hung by the hearth with care,
In fear that the Saxons soon wouldst be ther;
The knights were nestled al snug in their bedst,
Whilst visions of battles dancest in their heeds;
And Guenevere in her silver wimple, and I in my helm,
Hadde joust settled adoun for a long winter's realm,
Whenst outen on the motte ther arose swich a clatter,
I sprang from the bedst to see what wast the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a turncoat,
Tore out the bars and threw them into the moat.
The moon on the breast of the fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to the serfs living below,
Whenst, what to my wandering eyes should appear - much to my chagrin,
But a battering ram, and eight mean lookyng Saxons,
With a leader, whose terror was so widespread,
I knew in a moment it must be King Alfred.
Moore rapid than boiling oil his soldiers they came,
And he yelled, and shouted, and called hem by nempne;
"Now Botolph! now, Clough!, now Fulke and Heaton!
Onst, Hurst! on Ockley! on Ramsden and Waldgrave!
To the edge of the moat! thurgh the moat!
Now bash away, bash away! bash away al!"
Ast Saxon's that er the winds fly,
Whan hem meetest with an obstacle, mounteth to the sly,
So up to the castle-gate the Saxon-mother's-sons they flewest,
With an assortment of weapons, and King Alfred tooest.
And tho, in a instant, I heard by the castle-gate, the horde
The chopping and hacking of each Saxon's sword.
As I drew my sword, and was trilling around,
Downed the castle-gate King Alfred came liketh a hound.
He was dressed all in chain mail, from his feete to his garrote,
And his chain mail was all rusted from coming thrugh the moat;
A sack of pilfered goodst he had flung on his back,
And he looketh lyk a smuggler joust closing his pack.
His eyes -- how they scowled! his warts how dreary!
His cheeks were lyk haymows, his nose lyk quiteth beery!
His troll lite mouth was drawn up like a crossbow,
And the beard of chin was the colour of soot on the snow;
The stump of a small tree he held tighteth in his teethe,
And the roots it hidde his face, it caused me to grief;
He had a rude face and a bigeth belly,
That shooketh, whenst he laughed atte me, lyk a bowlful of jelly,
He was grubby and quite a lump, a right grievous old elf,
And I laughed when I nicked him, in spite of myself;
In a blinketh of an eye, and a thwart of my deeds,
Anon gave me to knoweth I had been sullied;
He spoketh hou a word, but went bak to his thieving,
And took all the gauntlets; which caused me muche peeving,
And laying his sword aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, out the castle-gate he fled -- unopposed;
He sprang to his horse, to his soldiers gave a yell,
And soone they flew -- they covered the grounds well.
But I herde him calleth, ere he rode out of sight,
"Thonke you for the Yuletide Gifts -- you good-knight!"
Another offers Christmas greetings--an Iraqi:
You see, Jesus (Issa in our language), is not only important to Christians, he (PBU) is also very important to us. Faith is a mystic experience: First there was Feeling, then was the Word and then was the World. In the Bible somewhere it says that Jesus said to his disciples that if they had even an atom of real faith they could move a mountain (Please help in locating the exact quote). This is the mystic essence of faith; anybody with sufficient faith can accomplish miracles. And true faith is a kind of ecstasy, a kind of elation; getting drunk with the heavenly wine.
If you would like to read his homily, you can do so on the Vatican's official site. The closing verse includes this, which strikes me as magnificient:
O Holy Night, so long awaited, which has united God and man for ever! You rekindle our hope. You fill us with ecstatic wonder. You assure us of the triumph of love over hatred, of life over death.
For this reason we remain absorbed in prayer.
Reuters is a famously biased news service. Tonight's example is from the Pope's Midnight Mass at the Vatican:
"You come to bring us peace. You are our peace," he said in a homily that was mostly of religious content, recalling the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.Mostly religious content, you say. On Christmas. From the Pope. Honestly.
We have been enjoying the Yuletide, but for many of us, the only real days of rest are Christmas itself, and perhaps the day after. For some of us, there are no days of rest. This year that is especially true for those defenders of our country, who in a desperate time guard against those who would murder our weakest. I salute my brothers in arms.
This is a time to renew our devotion to old traditions, both Christian and Heathen, as they together make up the Order of the West. Here are some thoughts on Pagan Yule traditions:
For the Vikings, the yule log was an integral part of their celebration of the solstice, the julfest; on the log they would carve runes representing unwanted traits (such as ill fortune or poor honor) that they wanted the gods to take from them.Waes Hael! We know the phrase thanks to Geoffrey of Monmoth's Historia Regum Britanniae. Geoffrey attributed it to the Anglo-Saxons Hengst, Horsa, and Hengst's beautiful daughter Rowen, who caught the eye of Vortigern. That Vortigern is the same one you may have heard about, who according to Arthurian legend invited the Saxons to Britian, and then lost it to them.
Wassail comes from the Old English words waes hael, which means "be well," "be hale," or "good health." A strong, hot drink (usually a mixture of ale, honey, and spices) would be put in a large bowl, and the host would lift it and greet his companions with "waes hael," to which they would reply "drinc hael," which meant "drink and be well." Over the centuries some non-alcoholic versions of wassail evolved.
The connection of the phrase "Waes Hael!" to Arthur continued into the 19th century. This is odd in a way, as Arthur was the enemy of the Saxons, and spoke Cymric or Latin. Still, poets who had read Geoffrey of Monmouth in their education put "Waes Hael" with Arthur, and Arthur with England. Thus Robert S. Hawker's "KING ARTHUR'S WAES-HAEL" which begins:
Waes-hael for knight and dame!The proper answer to "Waes Hael!" was "Drinc Hael!" Sir Walter Scott knew that, and used the device in Ivanhoe in the encounter between Friar Tuck and a disguised King Richard Lionheart:
O! merry be their dole;
Drink-hael! in Jesu's name
We fill the tawny bowl;
But cover down the curving crest,
Mould of the orient lady's breast.
The hermit only replied by a grin; and returning to the hutch, he"Waes Hael" became "wassail!" in the Middle English, and there were a number of wassailing ceremonies practiced by the English. The word also became associated with several kinds of festive drinks, often mulled wine or hot, spiced ale. I myself recommend a touch of nutmeg and ginger in a good ale as a suitable wassail. You may heat it if you like--I prefer mine cold. Hot, spiced cider is a good alternative.
produced a leathern bottle, which might contain about four
quarts. He also brought forth two large drinking cups, made out
of the horn of the urus, and hooped with silver. Having made
this goodly provision for washing down the supper, he seemed to
think no farther ceremonious scruple necessary on his part; but
filling both cups, and saying, in the Saxon fashion, "'Waes
hael', Sir Sluggish Knight!" he emptied his own at a draught.
"'Drink hael', Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst!" answered the warrior,
and did his host reason in a similar brimmer.
Waes Hael! Drinc Hael! Merry Christmas, and a fine Yuletide to you all. Let us gather in our halls and drink like men, to celebrate love and kinship, warmth, and the company of the brave.
From The Command Post, which I finally got around to adding to my blogroll:
Part of discussion over Iraq between U.S. Ambassador in Egypt David Welch and some Al-Ahram Weekly journalists, as reported via FrontPage Magazine :Nevine Khalil: And what if there is democracy in the region and the people decide to elect governments that are not friendly to the US? What would you do about that?
Welch: You mean like France?
How does that go again? "Better Dead than Red?" Nothing says "I am too part of the mainstream!" like a few kind words from the World Socialist.