Working My Way toward Christmas

On Sunday Carpe Diem Arts* (in conjuction with the St. Michaels Community Center) presented A Winter’s Eve of Revelry at the St. Michaels High School auditorium and my younger brother, Ross, and his wife, Linda, performed a Scandinavian dance.

I’d made Ross and Linda a batch of Mala’s Crack Pecans and Walnuts but forgot to take them to the school. My husband went back to get them while Ross told me this story when I asked him about the vest he was wearing.

The Stewart tartan made it’s way into Norwegian history this way. Apparently some Scots were hired as mercenaries to attack the Norwegians — probably by those dastardly Swedes. The wiley Norwegians caught them in a valley and rolled huge logs down the hills mowing them as flat as scythed wheat. The local women collected the fabric from the fallen and the Stewart tartan made it’s way into Norwegian history. Sounds like a plot line from The Vikings! (Ross, this is quite possibly a totally wrong version of what you told me. If so, correct the tale in a comment.)

Family lore on our mother’s side is that we are descended from Harald Fairhair, the king who unified Norway. He was also a total badass. He’s the one who brought his enemies to a peace confab, locked them in a log long house and set it on fire. The Fairhair dynasty includes Eric Bloodaxe, Halfdan the Black (father of Harald Fairhair) and Haakon the Good.  I’d like to think that I have more genes from Haakon the Good. The tv show, The Vikings mashes different historical events into the same time period. There is now a Harald in the cast of characters. I wonder when he will lock up his enemies and set them on fire.

Also performing at Sunday’s event were Grammy nominated Andrea Hoag who played the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle and Meliss Running, one of a very few masters of the incredible nyckelharpa from Sweden. I had never seen this instrument before. There were Ukrainian and Balkan singers and dancers, all in traditional costume. People who keep these traditions alive are saving history in a very personal way. It was another step on our way toward Christmas.

We are staying home this year. It was our year to go to Montana, but our granddaughters are young adults with complicated lives. We decided to see them last May and not in December. Last year I sent them kransekakke form pans so they can carry on the tradition even if I’m not there.

The local shops and our small-town main street are festive with decorations. Attending Sunday’s concert got me humming the Carol of the Bells which originated as a Ukranian carol. My only attempt at decorating this year was putting lights on a potted tree on the deck and redoing arrangements on the mantelpiece. The photo was taken when we had snow the day of the St. Michaels Christmas parade. The tree is small, but we can see it outside while we sit by a warming fire.

Merry Christmas to all. May you connect with friends and family and be grateful for all your blessings. God Jul.

 

*Carpe Diem Arts is a non-profit organization founded by an Eastern Shore treasure, Busy Graham who lives just down the road in Royal Oak.Here’s what their website says about their mission.  “Carpe Diem Arts presents multi-generational and multi-cultural community events, concerts, summer arts camps, after-school programs, workshops and residencies, creating opportunities for all ages to participate in the visual, literary and performing arts, while also partnering with other arts and social service organizations to facilitate outreach to under-served audiences, positive youth development programs, and arts integration in education.  In addition to benefiting thousands of children and teachers, at-risk youth, special needs populations, families and seniors, Carpe Diem Arts supports the livelihood of master teaching and performing artists by providing meaningful and impactful work in our schools and communities.”

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberries and Community

Monday morning I went to the St. Michaels Community Center where I was picking up a projector to use in a presentation Laura Ambler and I are giving to the St. Michaels Woman’s Club. We’ve been asked to speak about how our Christmas memory Book, The Santa Diaries: Memories of a Small-town Christmas became a play.

Santa Diaries Cover JPEG

Director Trish Payne was kind enough to spend time showing me how to work the projector and get it synced with my laptop. I wrote everything down and will practice at home before we take it on the road.

The Community Center was a busy place that morning. Trish and her helpers were getting ready for the annual Thanksgiving dinner they organize. It’s held at one of the local churches. Trish mentioned that she had to get to the store to buy cranberry sauce. My hand shot up. “I have ten bags of cranberries in my fridge,” I said. “I’ll make a big pot of cranberry sauce for the dinner.” I was going to make cranberry sauce and can it, but I can always get more cranberries.

cranberries

Tuesday morning I delivered the cranberry sauce to the Community Center. The large, covered pot had cooled overnight on my deck, the lid weighted with a brick. I didn’t want any curious neighborhood cat getting into it. On Wednesday it won’t be enough to serve the 125 -150 people who will come to the dinner, but it will be a contribution. I was glad I’d been in the right place at the right time.

During this season of gratitude, I’m thankful that St. Michaels has a Community Center with programs for our youth and seniors. The center is one of the important threads that, woven together, makes up the fabric of our little town.And  I’m grateful that indefatigable Trish Payne keeps it all running.