Tag Archives: Christmas

The Discworld: The Hogfather and Christmas

Hogfather

Many of the Discworld books mirror (or parody) our world (if you’re not familiar with the Discworld see here and here). The Last Continent, for example, laughs at Australia and some of our history, food and traditions. But that’s OK because we Aussies are so laid-back we’re horizontal and quite capable of having a laugh at ourselves. Anyway, a lot of it is true and there’s no denying the truth, right?

The Hogfather is the Discworld’s answer to Christmas. You might have seen it listed in the 12 Blogs of Christmas: Books. I could also have listed it in 12 Blogsof Christmas: Favourite Holiday Movies because they made a TV movie, but I chose not to, for variety. 

The Hogfather is a big, fat man in a red suit who delivers toys in a sleigh pulled by four hogs. Sound familiar? OK, except for the hogs. Unlike Santa, the Hogfather harks back to more primitive times, when Hogswatch was a sun festival, and he still has some of those trappings. 
Susan, Death’s granddaughter

The Hogfather, like Death, is an anthropomorphic personality. That is, people’s belief in him has generated an actual corporeal representation of what is otherwise a natural force. In the Hogfather’s case, it’s the belief of children that keep him alive.  We know from Small Gods, where the great god Om was reduced to a powerless tortoise because he had but one believer, what happens when belief fades. When people stop believing, gods die…

When the Hogfather dies, the consequences are more terrible than disappointed children. 

If the Hogfather dies, the sun will not rise.

In The Hogfather, the Guild of Assassins has been engaged by the Auditors of Reality (kind of self-explanatory really – you could see how the Discworld’s existence might annoy them a tad!) to eliminate the Hogfather. This task is assigned to Mr Teatime, of whom Lord Downey, head of the assassins says:
“We took pity on him because he’d lost both parents at an early age. I think that, on reflection, we should have wondered a bit more about that.”
Indeed….

Mr Teatime’s cunning plan is to kill the Hogfather by preventing children believing in him. This he does by breaking into the Tooth Fairy’s domain and seizing the stash of teeth, which he uses to control all the children. This is a reference to many old beliefs that witches and the like can use a part of you, a tooth, some hair, nail clippings and so forth, to work their will on you. 

And it works. As belief in the Hogfather wanes, spare belief starts flapping around, to the point where even the mention of something, like an eater of Socks or Verucca Gnome, causes a glingleglingleglingle sound signalling the creation of that creature – because someone believes in it, and as we know, belief gives life. And we all believe in the Eater of Socks, right? That’s the reason we can only ever find one sock from a pair. Where does the other one go? We never find it. It must have been the Eater of Socks!

Death as the Hogfather
In an attempt to make children believe in the Hogfather, despite Mr Teatime, Death delivers the Hogfather’s presents, being sure to be seen in a long red cloak and a white beard. Imagine, a skeleton with a beard… I’m not sure it would have the desired effect! The role isn’t precisely one that comes naturally to him:
“ER…HO. HO. HO.”
 I suspect that the cheerful ‘Ho Ho Ho’ lacks a little something when delivered in a leaden voice that sounds like crypt doors slamming. Even on paper it comes across as a little grim. 

It falls to Susan, Death’s granddaughter (who wishes she was anything but and would like to be left to live a normal life) to find the real Hogfather. At the Castle of Bones (wow, I think I like the North Pole better!) she meets the Oh God of Hangovers, also created by the excess belief floating around. His name is Bilious and he gets the hangover every time the God of Wine gets drunk. No wonder he runs around saying ‘oh me!’ so much (think about it for a minute if you don’t get it). Poor chap, I have to say I can’t help but laugh at his predicament. He is one of my favourites in this book.  

Bilious, Oh God of Hangovers
While probably not one of my favourite Discworld books, The Hogfather is, like all of them, entertaining and hilariously funny. Susan is an interesting practical figure who takes no nonsense from monsters (Death’s granddaughter, remember?) and Death is always worth a laugh for his awkward attempts to be something he’s not. The Wizards of Unseen University make an appearance with Hex, their ‘computer’, which is always guaranteed a laugh. Kind of like watching a bunch of people who really don’t understand the first thing about computers try and make one work. 

I’d give this four stars out of five. Now I wonder where I packed it… it is Christmas and I should read it!

This will be my last post of the year. Tomorrow we are moving into the house we just built (which if you are interested you can see here). I have the internet organised, but with the holiday season, who knows when it will be connected. 
 
So have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and hopefully I will see you all after January 1!

12 Blogs of Christmas – Decorations That Have ‘Kangaroos In Their Top Paddocks’

12 Blogs of Christmas

In case you’re wondering ‘kangaroos in the top paddock’ is an Australian expression for someone who is a little nuts. So… this is a blog about Christmas decorations that are a little bit nuts… or at least a little left of centre, in a weird, hideous, or cute kind of way, featuring decorations contributed by other participants in the 12 Blogs of Christmas. 


We start with the wackiest decorations and work our way down to some unique and poignant family traditions.


Chucky the Snowman by Ciara Ballintyne – This thing is hideous. OK, it doesn’t look hideous. It looks kind of cute – in a mad, axe-wielding scarecrow fashion. It’s also huge. I mean, at least three feet high. Once it starts singing, though, it’s hideous. It sings ‘Let It Snow’. In this awful high-pitched voice which should not be permitted to exist. Mum loves it. Because everyone else hates it she says. What does that say about Mum’s sense of humour? Dad says she doesn’t have a wicked sense of humour, she just likes to laugh at other people’s misfortune. I suggested that he reconsider that statement in the context of the definition of the word ‘wicked’ and then get back to me. 



What’s worst about this decoration, though, is kids reallylove it. They don’t want it to stop. After this thing has sung its song a half dozen times even Mum is ready to put an axe through its music box. But the kids want it to keep going. In the words of Bill Cosby… ‘Do it again!’ I would have liked to provided a video but it just wasn’t happening.  


6 White Boomers by Ciara Ballintyne – I also can’t miss this opportunity to mention ‘Six White Boomers’. This originates from a Rolf Harris song (of ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ fame – if you don’t know him, be sure to look up Rolf and his wobbleboard). 

Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer, right? Everywhere else in the world, maybe. But not Down Under. Here, in Australia, the sleigh is pulled by… six white kangaroos. Of course… No I have never seen a white kangaroo, but just go with it… OK?

This does make an awesome yard decoration though.
  
 
Christmas is Cactus by Kelly Gamble – When you live in a desert, you make do with what you have, right? Instead of a Christmas tree, how about a Christmas cactus.  Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory has a huge cactus garden that they light up every year, and it is so strange, but unique.  And after looking at the various cacti, you can eat chocolate! 


Visit Kelly here for book recommendations from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.





Creepy Christmas by Karen Delabar
– A couple of years ago we were at my husband’s grandparents and we did the annual search for the pickle ornament on the tree (I have no idea how this tradition started but it’s fairly popular around here). I was so excited when I found it because it meant I won a prize. 🙂 

Then I opened my “prize” and found what I thought looked like two figurines screaming to be put out of their misery. Trying to be of the Norman Rockwell variation, these two Christmas carolers look… well, creepy. However, since I technically got them from his grandparents I can’t throw them away. Each year I bring them down from the attic and put them in a drawer. When his grandparents stop by they come out for the hour or so and then back in the drawer they go until Christmas is over and they join the rest of our Christmas decorations back up in the attic.

Visit Karen here for some favourite Christmas movies from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


 

Fallen Angel by Erica Lucke Dean – Several years ago my mother gave me the vintage 1960’s tree topper from our childhood Christmas trees.  It’s just about the ugliest angel I’ve ever seen but it brings back wonderful memories.  My kids won’t let me put her anywhere but the back of our tree but I don’t feel it’s Christmas unless she’s tucked in there somewhere.

Visit Erica here for some childhood nostalgia with the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


 

Football Santa by Marie Patchen – We might be living in the milder climes of southern Arizona these days, but my family is Pennsylvania born and bred.  And if it’s one thing we take pride in, it is our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.  

Now, we don’t go to heck with the joke, but the truth of the matter is, if Santa Claus came out of the closet as any other football fan but a Steelers fan, we’d have to take issue with him.  This is why we make sure that when he visits us, he’s always dressed in his finest black and gold, and has a prime spot underneath the Christmas tree.  Because honestly, what other football team is there?

Visit Marie here for Christmas cartoons with the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


More Power! by Natalie Kenney – My mother likes lights on the tree. Lots of lights. It’s a crime not to have lights on your tree in my family, punishable by coal in the stocking. (All of the house lights are off in the first picture. I swear). Last Christmas, one of the cats spent all her time trying to blend in with the decorations… After all, she lit up too!

Visit Natalie here for some delicious Christmas Cookie recipes from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.


Good Things Come In Small Packages by Amberr Meadows – I used to envy my ex-boyfriend’s mother for her Christmas decorations until we went to visit her at Christmastime. She had two Christmas trees, one of them devoted entirely to Santa ornaments and the other devoted to expensive Disney ornaments. She had more Nativity scenes and Disney displays in the yard and around her home than I’d think could fit comfortably in one storage shed, and I resented her magnificent collection of outdoor and indoor twinkly lights. Her family Christmas stockings were of the finest material, and she even had a damn snow machine. I could never have hoped to have decor even half as lovely with my then-salary.

In spite of it all, it took only the one visit to determine I was the luckier one. She was batshit crazy and constantly going through bouts of mania and depression and bringing us along for the miserable, unwanted ride. After jumping through hoops and dealing with the issues associated with that matriarchal drama queen, I realized something important. It didn’t matter that her home was more lovely and her decorations were of the finest quality – she was miserable and destined to continue in this vein, because she thrived on it. The atmosphere in her home was dark and dreary, and not even five storage sheds full of fancy ornaments would have remedied the problem. I hated every minute of my time there.


When I returned home, I looked around my tiny one-bedroom apartment with the 18″ Christmas tree decorated with mini-Santas and didn’t feel the usual sad Holiday feeling. I felt grateful and humbled. The scant decorations didn’t matter in the slightest; genuine joy lived within these walls, and I never took it foolishly for granted again. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Visit Amberr here for traditional Christmas food from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Wreathed In Christmas by Justin Bogdanovitch – I love the bubble lights and other vintage ornaments of the fifties and sixties and I’m partial to multi-colored lights for a tree… an all-white lighted tree is static to me, same with the all-gold theme some really stylish people can’t seem to do without. Give me the green, red, blue, yellow, and orange lights powered up to the nines with only a few of them blinking away in syncopation. 


Having said all this about color, my favorite Christmas decoration is a large house wreath hung on the side of the house. It only has the tiny twinkling white lights because when our last wreath grew too weathered with so many winter seasons, the current model was the only one readily available. Just seeing the view as I drive home or walk the dogs around the pond adds to the peace of the season. 

Visit Justin here to read the 12 Faux Pas of Christmas — part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

It’s Raining Christmas Trees by D.C. McMillen – My favourite tradition during the holidays is to walk around downtown – mostly the financial and the shopping districts – to look at all of the amazingly decorated Christmas trees. 

Many of the trees are the same every year so my excitement builds to an excruciating level before I’ve even left the apartment. Will Dundas Square feature trees made from stacked balls of light again this year? Will the snowflake tree in The Esplanades Park be set up in the fountain?  


Of course, my absolute favourite is the Swarovski tree in the Eaton Centre. This rotating, 35 ft high tree is covered in ten thousand sparkling Swarovski crystal ornaments. Every year I snap a picture and then complain that the picture simply does not do it justice. On that note, here is the picture:

Visit D.C. here for favourite festive drinks from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

Personalised Christmas Ornaments by Raine Thomas – Our Christmas tree this year is the “pretty and stylish” design that I like.  We also have a “kid-friendly” version with lots of brightly colored lights and ornaments, but this “more traditional” one is my favorite.  So that my husband and daughter can more enjoy the tree, though, they hung a number of ornaments that reflect them… including Chewbacca and the Disney princesses. And I’ll admit it… the Atlanta Braves ornament is all mine!



Visit Raine here for favourite Christmas music from the 12 Blogs of Christmas.

The Yule Log by Maureen Hovermale – In any home at this time of year, there has to be a Yule log. In Neo-Aramaic (the Chaldean language – think Iraq) yule meant child. It took a while for the tradition of the log to be in a hearth, but when it finally did, it was sprinkled with salt, oil, and mulled wine then prayed over to protect the home.  

Nowadays, it’s a cake rolled like a log and decorated with icing holly and roses. Sounds better than salted and oiled wine to me!

Visit Maureen here for a look at the Christmas Clauset in the 12 Blogs of Christmas.



Winter Wonderland by Melody Kauffman – My favorite Christmas decorations are outdoor lighted ones.  My parents didn’t do yard decorations when I was growing up.  I always loved the houses where the yard was lit up with reindeer, snowmen, and other colorful figures.  They were so magical.  As a kid I always wanted to have a house with a yard like that.  I had no idea the time, expense, and work that went in to them.  The first year we owned our house we didn’t decorate the outside.  I told my husband how much I wanted to decorate the yard and we looked at a lot of decorations.  I suffered a bad case of sticker shock and decided not to even try to decorate that first year.  After Christmas that year my husband bought me my first yard decoration – a lighted, beaded snowman.  I was so thrilled.  The year we put it up he bought me a set of the lighted beaded presents to go with it.  The beaded design allows the figure to reflect the light better at night. During the day the beading prevents the figure from looking skeletal.  We’ve added a lot of decorations since then but the snowman and his presents are still out there.  They give me a ridiculously happy feeling when I get in from work at night. They sparkle like some magic winter wonderland dropped right on to my lawn.  Childhood dream decoration realized thanks to my awesome hubby.

Visit Melody here for some fun Christmas toys from the 12 Blogs of Christmas!



   
Thanks for stopping by. This is one installment in the 12 Blogs of Christmas series – do be sure to check out the others!

Merry Christmas!