Mistletoe Madness Blog Event featuring Clay & Susan Griffith
It’s is a two week event where authors with 2015 winter releases (November 2015 — January 2016) will take over our blogs with guest posts written from one of their character’s POV with a holiday theme (Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, New Years, etc.). There will be exclusive bonus scenes, recipes, top 10 lists… all manor of shenanigan is possible. Some authors are including giveaways, too, so be sure to check out each days’ posts! You can check out the full schedule on the Kickoff Post.
Today we get a lesson, of sorts. A presentation of “Christmas Traditions”, given in a near future that is quite a bit different from what we’re used to. Check out the end of the post for info about this world in Clay and Susan Griffith‘s The Geomancer!
Christmas Traditions as viewed from Equatoria
In the world of VAMPIRE EMPIRE, the northern hemisphere fell under the dreadful rule of vampire hordes in 1870s. Now, many years later, those lands have long been cut off from the new human societies of the tropics, including the great empire of Equatoria, ruled by Empress Adele. The following is a brief (and imperfect) outline of the holiday of Christmas presented to the learned body of the Imperial Academy of Sciences by Sir Godfrey Randolph, a man of extraordinary eclectic knowledge. Viewed from a distance, Christmas may not look quite the same.
(This transcript is an excerpt from a presentation by Sir Godfrey Randolph (FIA, FICS) before the Imperial Academy in general assembly at Alhazen Hall, Alexandria, December 22, 2022.)
“Ladies and gentlemen, good evening and welcome. I rise by way of a few introductory remarks to tonight’s session. I should care to call your willing attention to a holiday that we here in Equatoria are perhaps less familiar than we should be in these days of war and strife. Over the last few trying years, the war to liberate the humans of the north launched by Empress Adele has brought great attention to those bleak lands. Tonight I would like to speak briefly about an ancient northern tradition. It has never played an important role here in Equatoria and indeed it has been largely forgotten by the descendants of those who fled to the tropics when the vampires drew their shroud around the north after the Great Killing of 1870. The traditions of which I speak have been called many things but are most often referred to under the broad term of Christmas.
Life in the dreadful north is driven by the four seasons of their temperate year in a way we do not experience here in the tropics. Christmas came about as a conglomeration of traditions commemorating winter solstice, the deepest night of the winter. This is a time of great dread among the people of the north who wisely fear the cold and dark, associating it with danger and death. We know now they had good reason for those fears because vampires are most active in the nights of the longest dark. The traditions of Christmas that have come down to us all speak of those superstitious northerner’s tremendous terror of midwinter.
Our understanding of Christmas is imperfect now with the loss of most historical documents from the north, but we have a great deal of surviving documentation and images so that we can make educated suppositions on the nature of the holiday. In the most ancient of days, this midwinter festival was called Yule. It was celebrated in the frozen wastelands of Germany and Scandinavia with wild revelries to forget the despair, and blood sacrifices in hopes of staving off the hungry spirits of malice. Also associated with the Yuletide was the frightful appearance of the old god Odin driving his Wild Hunt, a terrible conclave of supernatural creatures streaking from cloud to cloud across the sky. Dark winter nights have always been a time of ghosts and occult terrors.
One of the peculiar and constant features of Christmas is the nocturnal visits from uncanny beings. One tradition features the midnight appearance of a mystical man called, among other names, Sinter Klaas. This being comes into homes without proper invitation and stands in judgment of people’s behavior, leaving rewards or punishments behind. Here are two illustrations from before the Great Killing that appear to show the unwelcome nature of this frightful visitor to an average home.
Over the centuries, the holiday acquired distinct religious coloring among advocates of the Christian churches. Many of these spiritual rituals persist even today among the surviving Christian congregations here in Equatoria. But many of those have been altered beyond recognition in the years since the Great Killing due to the repression of religious bodies here in the human south.
The debate on the value of metaphysical knowledge aside, I would reiterate that the traditions of Christmas are built upon the natural and widespread dread of the dark and cold, and of the vampires that stalk the midwinter nights. This is yet another lesson that our uncivilized brethren of the north can teach our learned selves here amongst our many books and deafening machines and glaring chemicals lights and ornate clocks forever ticking and driving us onward in our well-scheduled lives. The central premise of the many myths of Christmas is that in the darkest and coldest times you should pause and huddle closest to the fire, drawing near those you love and cherish. Protect them and be protected by them. Forget everything else except the need to warm yourself by that fire and the urge to laugh at the dark and cold that surrounds you always.
I thank you.”
The first Gareth and Adele Novel, The Geomancer is the start of an ongoing, character-based, urban fantasy series set in the same Vampire Empire universe as the previous trilogy!
The uneasy stalemate between vampires and humans is over. Adele and Gareth are bringing order to a free Britain, but bloody murders in London raise the specter that Adele’s geomancy is failing and the vampires might return. A new power could tilt the balance back to the vampire clans. A deranged human called the Witchfinder has surfaced on the Continent, serving new vampire lords. This geomancer has found a way to make vampires immune to geomancy and intends to give his masters the ability to kill humans on a massive scale.
From a Britain struggling to rebuild to the vampire capital of Paris, from the heart of the Equatorian Empire to a vampire monastery in far-away Tibet, old friends and past enemies return. Unexpected allies and terrible new villains arise. Adele and Gareth fight side-by-side as always, but they can never be the same if they hope to survive
Not quite the same version of the holiday, eh? My favorite part is “One tradition features the midnight appearance of a mystical man called, among other names, Sinter Klaas. This being comes into homes without proper invitation and stands in judgment of people’s behavior, leaving rewards or punishments behind.” This sentence is true, but not at all what we generally think of when it comes to our merry, midnight(ish) visitor. So… let’s talk about holiday traditions that really need context to appreciate, shall we? What do you, or your family, do during your holiday celebration that might be misunderstood when viewed by someone from a different time or circumstance? My first thought? Mistletoe!!! How odd must it seem to someone looking on for random people, with no explanation, to just walk up and kiss someone — because there’s foliage hanging from a ceiling somewhere?? It’s fun, but definitely needs context. Now it’s your turn…
Oh!! And after you comment with your “outsider’s view” of a holiday tradition… be sure to check out the other two Mistletoe Madness posts today, from my awesome blog event partners-in-holiday-crime…