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Christmas Daywander

Ok, Christmas Day was yesterday. This is a Christmas Daywander, not a Christmas Day Wander. I’m an editor. Such distinctions can matter. Sometimes.

As far as the radio stations are concerned, Christmas is over. Seems to me that after pushing Christmas since Halloween, suddenly it goes poof! and vanishes at 5PM on Christmas Day. I’m a 4-nation mongrel (Polish, German, Irish and (maybe; i have no solid proof) French. My mother was a child of Polish immigrants, and our home culture growing up was Polish.

In Polish culture, Christmas isn’t merely a day but a season, and not one that starts right after Halloween. The season runs from Christmas Vigil (vigilia) on Christmas Eve until The Epiphany on January 6. The Epiphany is also known as the Feast of the Magi, and commemorates the visit of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem. All our decorations remained in place until Epiphany. This was sometimes problematic if we had a live tree, as some live trees die sooner than others. Carol and I often have both a live tree and a pop-up artificial one. This year we got sick in the runup to Christmas, so we stuck with artificial. We put up a few wreaths (one of them using real pine branches) plus Carol’s childhood Nativity scene, and the Plasticville farm (including animals) that Carol’s family put under the tree when she was a kid. We also put a stuffed Grinch and Max on the bookshelves along with a few other things. The trains did not go up around the tree this year due to the long tail of the worst colds we’ve had in years.

This year, we’re having one of our traditional a nerd parties on January 6, so some of the decorations will be going back into their boxes a little early. But I’m fully prepared to play Christmas CDs until January 6th.

Most of you know that I’m a filker; that is, I write song parodies like “The Zero-G Polka,” which you can find in my book Odd Lots. Some days ago, after imbibing Christmas music for a week or two, the following couplet entered my mind as I sat in front of my shaving mirror, Norelco Triple-Header in hand:

I’m shaving all my white whiskers,
Just like the brown I used to grow…

Fear not, gang. I don’t intend to finish it.

A quick reminder here: I have a short Christmas story on the Kindle store called “The Camel’s Question” for 99c. It’s about the three camels that carried the Magi to Bethlehem—and met the Christ Child, who grants each camel a wish, including an answer to one’s difficult question. If you’re not all Christmased out yet, consider it. Light reading, hopeful, affirming, and all that stuff that I favor. No starships, sorry.

I’ve always boggled a little at an obscure Christmas carol you don’t hear much: “The Boar’s Head Carol.”  It’s from the 15th Century, and food was sometimes hard to come by back then. On the flipside, in English tradition it’s brought into the great hall on a gold or silver platter, amidst fanfare by trumpeters—so I suspect it wasn’t the poor who ate the damned thing. I held off mentioning it here until today, because today is the feast of St. Stephen, and there is a Scandinavian tradition linking the boar’s head with St. Stephen. I also wonder if Good King Wenceslas had a boar’s head in the oven while he was wandering around on December 26th helping random peasants keep from starving and/or freezing.

The question does arise: What parts of a severed pig’s head can you actually eat? Wikipedia doesn’t take up that issue, so I had to sniff around a little, though I didn’t have to sniff far. Thrillist has a long-form explanation, which is probably a lot more than you’d want to know. TL,DR: Meat is muscle, and pigs have muscular jaws. So the jowls are the part mostly eaten, though the author cites his father, who ate pig’s brains for breakfast. I can’t scoff too hard: Our Fry’s supermarket sells jars of pickled pigs’ feet. Given what pigs walk around in, I think I’d prefer the head.

What surprised me most is that people are still eating pig heads now in the 21st Century, including the ears. Go ahead: You eat a pig’s head. I’ll watch.

Ummm, no, I won’t.

So Carol and I are stretching Christmas out a little. after—and not before—the day itself. It will be a mostly restful season. We still have a couple of Christmas movies to watch, and another couple of bottles of Van Der Haute spiked eggnog to sip. Again, Carol and I (and Dash too!) send our best wishes to all of you this Christmas season. The Christmas corollary to my deeply held principle that friendship is the cornerstone of the human spirit is simply this: At the bottom of it all, we are the gifts we give to one another!


  1. Tom Roderick says:

    Among some of my ancestors Hog Jowl was a staple, especially for New Years day.
    Southern Living has a pretty good article on line about it. Never tried it or even want to try it myself.

    As far as pigs and hogs back in the day the saying was that every part was either eaten or otherwise used except for the squeal!

    A belated Merry Christmas and for the New Year every blessing.

  2. Michael Abrash says:

    Jeff, I remember you and Carol gamely slogging through the mud in the Santa Cruz mountains, probably 1986 but could have been 1987 (not sure when you moved out there), helping us get a tree. A good memory.

    1. I remember it well. We moved to Scotts Valley in March 1987, and lived there until moving to Phoenix to start Coriolis and PC Techniques in February 1990.

      I also remember a walk we all took along the San Lorenzo River in one summer or another, where you gave me the idea for my story “STORMY Vs. the Tornadoes.”

  3. RH in CT says:

    The topic of consuming a boar’s head dredged up a very old memory, circa 1971 or so. It was part of a conversation around the break table at my first job, while attending night classes at a CC the first year after high school. One of the machinists was talking about his in-laws – Italian to a degree that outsiders might be challenged to appreciate. The point he made was about the question of who got to eat the prized eyeballs. Which seems strange enough I googled it before posting, and yes, it is a thing.

  4. Bob says:

    Off-topic, but IIRC you usually write about this on New Year’s Day. In 2024 the big kahuna Mickey Mouse/steamboat Willie goes out of copyright. This article makes no mention about legal maneuvering by Disney. See other works that go out of copyright next year in this article,

    1. Thanks for the reminder; I need to start researching that. Everybody’s talking about Mickey Mouse, but I’m more interested in books. I think a couple of old Tom Swift books go public domain this year, along with a lot of other things I’m not as interested in.

      Stay tuned.

  5. Jason B. says:

    First, a belated Merry Christmas…

    When you said that you weren’t going to complete your shave-mas carol, I was fully expecting the punchline to be that you were going to recruit your LLM of choice to write it for you! #mildDisappointment

    1. Well, I never thought of it that, but given the silliness AIs have produced in my tests, it might be worth a try. Much on my plate right now; when time permits I’ll see what happens.

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