Winter makes me homesick for stories. I read all year long. I hunt folktales throughout every season but there's something about Winter that suggests homecoming and it is a returning to hearth-side with cider, with fresh baked bread, hot stew and the sound of sleet hitting the windows. Here in the South, we don't get a lot of Winter but it does get cold and dreary. We do get frost, occasional freezing rain and, yes, we do see snow. Winter has always been a coming in time of year. Even as a child, after running around in the cold, I loved coming inside, shedding layers and sitting in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate stuffed with marshmallows.
Here's a few of my favorites:
The Snow Queen - Hans Christian Andersen's famous telling of a little boy named Kai who is enchanted by the Snow Queen and taken to her palace of ice. His friend, Gerda goes on a quest to find him and eventually succeeds in melting his heart. There is some speculation that C.S. Lewis modeled his famous White Witch of Narnia after the fairy tale of the Snow Queen. The similarities are definitely there: she offers Edmund cnchanted Turkish Delight and a ride in her sleigh and convinces him to betray his brother and sisters to her in order to thwart an age-old prophecy that would bring about the downfall of her icy kingdom. While Kai's heart was pierced with a splinter from a troll mirror (read the tale), Edmund was merely an angry, confused adolescent. Either way, both boys were easily seduced by the Snow Queen and ultimately imprisoned in her castle.
|The Snow Queen on her Throne by Edmund Dulac|
|Beira/Callieach - The Winter Goddess of Scotland|
From the Alps we get the creature Perchta who is very particular about how the home should be kept, especially the spinning wheel. Women took special care to make sure their flax was spun and their homes well kept or Perchta would disembowl them and stuff their stomachs full of rocks. There are also tales of Perchta riding with the Wild Hunt with a group of Perchten - a group of creatures that look a whole lot like our pal Krampus.
Now here's where it gets interesting and shows you how the ancients really understood the dual nature of, well, nature. Perchta is associated with Epiphany, January 06, the Twelfth Day of Christmas. On this night she is known as Holle which means "bright" or "shining". There are both "pretty" Perchten and "ugly" Perchten which you could meet during a typical Perchten run in Alpine regions.
|Holle, the bright and shining aspect of Perchta|
|Lovely old Perchta with her consort Krampus|
|This is one of my favorite images of Krampus <3|
|Hehe...here's a little Vintage Krampus for you. |
Me thinks the older boy wasn't the best son he could have been that year...and he knows it!
I bet he was better behaved the following year = )
Tonight, by the way, IS Krampus Night. I hope you were good this year :D
Speaking of Saint Nicholas, we'll end this post with Father Christmas. There are so many names for this jolly character so perhaps a little primer before we continue: St. Nicholas was an actual man from Asia Minor. Father Christmas is the traditional name for the personification of Christmas and is usually depicted as an old man of the forest bringing gifts accompanied by woodland creatures. Santa Claus comes to us from the Austrian gift giver "Christkind" which became "Kris Kringle" and then, thanks to the Dutch "Sinterklaas" Santa Claus.
Oh, and that old legend that Santa looks like he does in America thanks to Coca-Cola? That's not true. An artist by the name of Thomas Nast was commissioned to create illustrations for Harper's Weekly and in 1881, he created what was to become the famous image of the "jolly old elf".
We all know the round bellied, red suited man who travels via reindeer on Christmas Eve. He brings joy to children. He makes adults smile (or should). He symbolizes the spirit of giving and should never be villain-ized (yes, unfortunately, I know too many people who have done this. Makes me wonder about their own childhoods). But for me, I love the image of the Old World Father Christmas and that, my friends, is the image I'll leave you with.
|Father Christmas by Corinne Kenner|
|Woodland Animal Keeper by Peggy Abrams|
|Father Christmas by Rueben McHugh|
All of these images can be found on Pinterest