Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #25


Merry Christmas... and here is the last for this Advent blog. 


Z is for Zurline 

 Zurline is the ruler of the Wood Nymphs. She and her subjects live in the Forest of  Burzee . Queen Zurline first appeared in  the  children's story classic, " The Life and  Adventures of Santa Claus" , first published in 1902 by L. Frank Baum and then later in the graphic novels and an animated version.  In this story,  Queen  Zurline was a member  of the  Council of the Immortals  which bestowed  immortality on  Santa Claus. . So, it is appropriate that  Zurline  completes the A-Z of Christmas celebrities as she and her colleagues were responsible for Santa Claus continuing to visit children on Christmas eve in the 21st century.... or at least, I think I have interpreted that correctly. 

The story  begins with baby Santa Claus being found in the Forest of Burzee. As he gets older, he learns about the world inhabited by humans, and when he becomes an adult, he can no longer stay in Burzee, but moves to Laughing Valley where he becomes known for making toys and being kind to children. It may come as no surprise there are gift exchanges, assistance from reindeer, stockings by fireplaces, gifts  left under near trees, journeys by night and chimney descents in this story.  It was when Santa Claus was 60 years old that the Council of Immortals met to decide the future of Santa Claus - and as they say the rest is history .... Santa Claus is immortal.  Thanks Zurline!
Queen Zurline in "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" 
And now this series is finally over, thank you for following this blog during Advent, and I hope you return to the blog each week for an update on various topics even when we are not in Christmas mode. It is now time to turn off your computers and devices and enjoy some precious time with your family and friends, or even quietly by yourself, celebrating the blessed peace and  joy of Christmas.
My very best wishes to one and all!  - Wilma




Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #24

As we come close to the end of the alphabet, and only a day from Christmas, it is also becoming obvious that the research for this year's Advent blog has uncovered some unusual, and dare I say, weird Christmas celebrities. 


Y is for Yani (the Kitten Angel ) 
Y is also for Yamal Iri. 

Let's tackle the heavenly Yani first.  Yani is a kitten angel who narrates "The True Story of Critter Angels"  and  explains the reasons for the existence of animal angels.  Perhaps cat lovers will relate to this? While Yani has a rather tentative link to Christmas, she is an angel whose existence is based on spreading love and peace in the world in the truest spirit of Christmas. While this book sounds very sweet and comforting, Yani could be classified as being a little too sentimental and at times, even schmaltzy, but never without the capacity to bring joy! 

if you’ve ever loved an animal, this book for adults and children alike will touch your heart. And if you’ve ever experienced the passing of a beloved animal, this book is a must. Anyone who has opened his or her heart to an animal knows an animal’s capacity for love, connection and devotion. Yani, a critter angel, shares the true story of critter angels, why they come into our lives and why they have to leave. Yani’s sweet story, accompanied by the charming and delightful illustrations of Yani and her critter angel friends, will make you smile and bring you comfort and understanding. (from Amazon. ) 




 While I am happy to report Yamal Iri  is a little more down to earth than Yani, his story is an interesting piece in the annals of Christmas myths. His unusual name, clothing and legend instils curiosity in people all over the world.The Yamal Peninsula is in Russia, and this particular region decided they wanted a Santa Claus of their own .The tourist organizations decided on a character based on  local children's art work. interpreting a folk hero. 

Wikipedia

.[There is]...   a legend of Terlei, who is the folk hero belonging to the Northern region of Russia. A Good Samaritan and an extensive traveller. Coming with a drum which drives away the evil spirits, Yamal Iri also spreads positive energy and happiness to the people who surround him. (  http://festivals.iloveindia.com )


Yamal Iri only came into existence in 2007, but strangely, he appears to be a Christmas celebrity from the past...   I like the idea that he is active throughout the whole year not only at Christmas, travelling extensively and always helping people to put things right.  Besides his staff decorated with runes, his  drum  has magic powers  to get  rid of all that is evil  in the world...  
Yamal Iri, bring on your drum this Christmas!  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #23

X might be for Xmas, but it took some searching to find today's  celebrity lurking in the 1990s.  

X is for Xena - Warrior Princess. 

This may seem a strange selection for a Christmas celebrity list, but there are many Xena fans for whom Christmas would not be complete without a viewing of  a Xena: Warrior Princess episode, "A Solstice Carol." 



I think I am justifying Xena's inclusion here because she is one of those fictional characters who change from evil  to good. The TV series focuses on Xena's quest to redeem herself for her dark past by using her formidable fighting skills to help people. Xena, with her partner Gabrielle, challenge ruthless warlords and their armies in an ancient mythological world. So, it is seemingly impossible for Xena to appear in a Christmas scene, but it happens.  In one day  Xena met Santa Claus, Jesus, and Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, but not without criticism.The Christmas episode  of Xena is undeniably another poor imitation of Dicken's ' A Christmas Carol' with even more Christmas ... 

 For today’s Christmas episode, we’re going to look at a Xena  episode that somehow incorporates A Christmas Carol, Santa Claus, and Jesus into a single, gloriously insane story.  Along the way, it reminds us of mid-90s syndicated television was really like
A Christmas Carol – Yeah, that’s the whole plot of the episode.  Of course, since the episode is set 1800 years before the birth of Charles Dickens, Xena gets credit for coming up with the idea.

Santa Claus – Not only is there a character named Santicles (with a long “e” at the end.),He is clad in a red suit and fake beard, and he has to go down a chimney.

Nativity Scene – Xena and Gabrielle meet Joseph, Mary, and their newborn child.

Holiday Cheer-O-Meter – You know what?  This episode is goofy as hell, the plotting is crazy sloppy, it’s cheesy, and most of the story requires everybody to be mentally deficient in some way.   But as dumb as it is, I really had a lot of fun watching it.  It made me genuinely laugh a couple of times, and even the stupid stuff was good-natured.  I’m not going to pretend for one minute that it’s good TV, but I had a good time.  That, plus the overwhelming amount of Christmas makes it a 10.....  (from http://www.spunkybean.com)  

Regardless of all of this incongruity surrounding Xena's association with Christmas, she is nevertheless  a formidable tactician, inspirational leader, and strategic thinker - Xena, you belong here - Peace on Earth! 


Postscript: Yesterday my friend June and I did something we have not done before... I think this Christmas festive spirit has overwhelmed us! Together we went into our local newsagency and we each bought a copy of the Christmas edition of The Australian Women's Weekly, just to get the recipe for a totally indulgent  Christmas dessert we would like to include on a menu sometime during the festive season.  It so happens that this dessert , Tiramisu  Ice Cream Box was created by another "X" Christmas celebrity, Xanthe Roberts, assistant food editor of The Australian Women's Weekly   If you want to see this sensation created, watch  Xanthe demonstrate it here on the Nine Now website. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #22

So close to Christmas and it's getting harder to find Christmas celebrities but today here's  a wily W character. 


W is for Wilma. Yes I am Wilma but I am NOT today's Christmas celebrity. 
Wilma the weasel  is the one of the main characters  in The Flight Before Christmas, a 2008 animated movie  and its sequel  Little Brother Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure. The Flight Before Christmas centres around the problem of Niko, a small reindeer afraid of flying, and in search of his unknown father who is one of Santa's Flying Forces (that is, one of the eight main reindeer who pull Santa's sleigh) 


Wilma is a street wise fearless singing weasel, who Niki and his surrogate squirrel father, Julius befriend while saving Santa from a wolf pack attack . Long story short, the climax involves  Niko, Wilma and Julius killing the wolf leader, the Flying  Squad saving themselves in order to save Christmas, Niko learning how to fly and learning that Prancer is his father. 
The main theme of this movie is believing in yourself and discovering that searching for something elusive may mean you lose sight of what is really important and what you already have. While the movie itself has mixed reviews, there is no doubt that Wilma does everything she can to assist her friends. What other kind of friend do you need at Christmas, or for that matter, anytime . 

In this short video, Wilma sings to the reindeer challenging them to own up to being Niko's father . Her voice is one of her main assets... "Wilma is certainly informative and useful towards the heroes, but her little side story of wanting to become some diva/singer is 90% of the time irrelevant, except for that one scene where she used her voice to cause an avalanche to escape the wolves."
 from inywhitewaters.deviantart.com

As it is W for Wilma Day, I would like to thank you all for following along with this Advent blog. I have enjoyed each day finding a Christmas celebrity to share with you. Stay around, only X,Y and Z to go.... All the best for the festive season, Wilma 


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #21

Because  there are only 25 days in Advent and there are 26 letters in the alphabet, today we have a  daily double - U and V




U is for Ulla  

 Ulla  is a Finnish name , made popular by the Swedish secretary in the stage play, "The Producers" , but today I have two different Christmas celebrities who are named  " Ulla" .  




Little Ulla is the  fictional heroine of an interactive Christmas Stage Show specially created for little ones, with puppets, music, and yodelling! It’s a busy little time for Little Ulla the Post Goat!  It’s Christmas time and she has lots of cards to deliver around the village.  Every day she makes people happy by delivering cards from friends and loved ones. But poor old Mr Hans the clockmaker never gets any Christmas cards!  Needless to say, Little Ulla makes sure that Mr Hans is not neglected this Christmas.  


The discovery of this rather odd Scottish operetta and its caprine heroine does not diminish the brilliance of  my artist friend, Ulla Anobile who is not fictional, but a real living Christmas celebrity. Ulla is a Finnish-American, who creates   the most whimsical nativity scenes, and other  delightful Christmas characters from felt with hand embroidery.  




You might have remembered " tonttu" from yeseterday's post.... Ulla's Christmas elves  each has his own personality defined by the hand embroidered features. Most of Ulla's work refers to her Finnish heritage and is unique - every felt character is a work of original art.  Ulla's work can often be seen and purchased from Cactus Gallery in Elysian Valley, Los Angeles.  

You can find Ulla  and her  brilliant work on her Facebook page.  
Hyvää Joulua, Ulla!




V is for Virginia 
Most may not recognise the name " Virginia O'Hanlon" but if I mention the letter and the classic response which began , " Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus".   I am sure it will ring a bell, a Christmas one even! Eight year old  New Yorker Virginia questioned the existence of Santa Claus, and the now famous reply appeared as an editorial in The Sun in 1897  
Virginia enjoyed a career as a teacher and later as a school principal but throughout her life, she continued to receive correspondence about her letter . Virginia died in 1971 and her family recall that Virginia never ever thought she did anything special, she felt all she did was ask a question, and it was the editor Francis Church who wrote the remarkable response who should be receiving the glory. 

Ulla, Little Ulla and Virginia all have in common the love of spreading joy in the world.... what a lesson we can all learn from them this festive season. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #20

A little Finnish surprise for you today.....
 T is for tonttu 
A tonttu ( or tomte in Swedish)  is a mythological creature from Scandinavian folklore today typically associated with the winter solstice and the Christmas season. It is generally described as being no taller than three feet, having a long white beard, and wearing a conical or knit cap in red or some other bright colour. They often have an appearance somewhat similar to that of a garden gnome.[1] from Wikipedia. 
In the past, in Finnish households  there were guardian spirits known as elves (tonttu) Each type of building had its own sort of elf.- household elves, sauna elves, stable elves, storehouse elves, barn elves and mill elves. When treated with respect, they brought good fortune, but if they took offence, there was no predicting the consequences. All commonly were active after nightfall,but individual tonttu were often notorious for their eccentricities. from  The Book of Finnish elves (Suomalainen tonttukirja
These days, Tonttu are Santa's little helpers. According to legend, these quick and cute
characters find out which children have been good by listening to conversations and writing down their findings in a huge notebook. When Christmas arrives, Joulupukki (Santa Claus) rewards the good children with gifts.

Tonttujen Jouluyö is a popular children’s song in Finland with a very catchy tune. It was once featured on an episode of Teletubbies. It relates story of the Tonttu, the elves who visit the house on Christmas Eve, dance, sing, and eat some of the goodies they find. The Tip Tap refers to the noise they make. As morning draws near, they scurry back to their homes under the bridge.


Soihdut sammuu, kaikki vaki nukkuu,
vaki nukkuu,
Oiten varjoon talon touhu hukkuu, touhu hukkuu.
Tip-tap, tip-tap, ti-pe ti-pe, tip-tap, tip, tip, tap.
Tonttujoukko silloin varpahillaan, varpahillaan,
Varovasti hiipii alta sillan, alta sillan.
Tip-tap, tip-tap, ti-pe ti-pe, tip-tap, tip, tip, tap.


“TIP-TAP”
Day is fading, night is slowly creeping, slowly creeping.
Lights go out as people start their sleeping, start their sleeping.
Tip-tap, tip-tap, ti-pe ti-pe, tip-tap, tip, tip, tap.
From their caves the elves come softly prancing, softly prancing.
From beneath their bridge on tiptoe dancing, tiptoe dancing.
Tip-tap, tip-tap, ti-pe ti-pe, tip-tap, tip, tip, tap.
Complete lyrics and translation can be found at You and Me Around Europe
Chrsitmas card by Eva Melhuish

 The Tonttu reflects the Finnish Christmas tradition's innermost being: whatever is linked to Christmas, Peace on Earth and Happiness among all People. The Tonttu is an important symbol for the Christmas celebration and its magic winter mood, not only in Finland but all over the world where  Scandanavian  Christmas traditions. are shared.   

Hyvää Joulua ja Onnellista Uutta Vuotta (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year) 



Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #19


No prizes for guessing that today's S celebrities include the jolly man himself,  but wait, there's more... 
 S is for Santa Claus  and Suzy Snowflake 
What do these two have in common - nothing much except a  tentative Christmas link, a reference to the same era, and  I think they look good  in a snowy scene together. 
I am sure I do not need to add  much to the profile of Santa Claus  because many of you are most likely experts on the subject. However,  in Australia, I often see images of Santa in beach board shorts or even wearing a bush hat with hanging corks to keep away the summer flies and I wonder how it came about that red flannel and white fur are still the preferred attire for Santa. 
 Did you know that red and white became a tradition after Santa appeared in a Coca Cola advertisement in 1931?  Coca Cola Company deny that they "invented" Santa Claus as we know him - plump, jolly, friendly and definitely lovably human. In the past Santa Claus had been depicted as a thin man or a spooky elf. I think Cocoa Cola had a lot to do with "shaping" the image of Santa Claus with their famous Christmas advertisements from 1931 -1964 by Sundblom. Perhaps Cocoa Cola  didn't  create the image of a 'modern" Santa Claus, but they certainly popularised it.
 (://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/santa/cocacola.asp)


Now as we are going back in time in popular Christmas culture, the personified snowflake, called Suzy got her break when, in 1951,  Rosemary Clooney recorded Suzy Snowflake as a Christmas song, with instant appeal to those who love Winter.  Suzy Snowflake is thought to be a young happy character who dances her way through a Winter Wonderland. Although Rosemary Clooney's version remains the most popular  "record" , I have included a dancing video version of this catchy Christmas song about Suzy Snowflake... just for all the tap dancers in my family. 


Since hearing this song recently, it does appear to be strange that a snowflake , even with a name like Suzy, could take on human attributes, and it doesn't really make sense - such an impossibility here in mid summer. 
But if you believe in Christmas, anything is possible.  






Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #18



R is for Rudolph and Robbie

You know Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer...
You know Dasher, and Dancer, and
Prancer, and Vixen,
Comet, and Cupid, and
Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose
and if you ever saw it
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
play in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!

 I probably don't need to remind you that Rudolph is a fictional reindeer with a glowing red nose, Rudolph popularly known as "Santa's ninth reindeer". When depicted, he is the lead reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. The luminosity of his nose is so great that it illuminates the team's path through inclement winter weather. But, do you know as much about Robbie the Reindeer? 

Robbie is portrayed as being the lazy, overweight son of (an implied, but never explicitly mentioned nor seenRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with a nose possessing many unique capabilities and powers. Whilst his father's nose lights up Robbie's works as a worldwide tracking device that assists him in locating the North Pole and he hopes to join Santa Claus's famed team of reindeer. He is depicted as being an underdog character due to his lazy personality aspects, but is trained under the tutelage of elderly reindeer coach Old Jingle for the Reindeer Games. Other characters featured in the story are based on several traditional reindeer depicted on Santa Claus's team, including Vixen, Robbie's attractive original love interest (who he later abandons in favour of Donner, who also is depicted as being female); Prancer, a male reindeer; Donner, Robbie's later love interest and wife; and Blitzen, the primary antagonist of the first and second film who bitterly despises Robbie's famous father for overtaking his position as the head reindeer and frequently conspires against Robbie out of vengeance.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robbie_the_Reindeer)
As Christmas celebrities, Rudolph and Robbie are definitely a nose (or two) ahead! 

PS a bonus  drawing today of another "reindeer" type .... Ellen of the Ways... not at all related except for her antlers. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #17

It is not easy finding a Christmas celebrity whose name starts with Q ... so today I am featuring three! 


Q is for "Queen of Christmas", Quentin Blake and "Queen" the band. 


https://www.amazon.com 
1. Following on from Pollyanna yesterday, I  decided to feature another  fictional literary heroine,  the self-appointed Queen of Christmas, of the Ann Estelle stories by Mary Engelbreit. The Queen of Christmas  has been working on "The List" since just after Christmas last year. After all, if she forgets anything, "that would make Christmas not quite as wonderful as it should be." So, although she has a marvellous time ice-skating with Grandma, perhaps a sparkly red skating outfit would make it better. And going sledding with her father on his old wooden sled is great, but still, it might be nice to have a brand-new plastic one. In my illustration, the Queen of Christmas has a couple of things sorted - a "Special Dad " poster by Quentin Blake, and some song sheets of "Thank God It's Christmas" printed for her carolling on Christmas Eve! 


It might sound as though Ann Estelle  whose alias "Queen of Christmas" should really be called the Spoiled Princess of Christmas, but in truth, she’s just a normal little girl bedazzled by the "golden gift-getting opportunity" of Christmas. And--with no parental prodding whatsoever--our little heroine eventually realises that what she loves is the time spent with her family, not the gifts on the list, and  closes the story with the kind of moral every parent would like to hear: "Oh, Dad, it’s not just the presents that matter. Don’t you know that?"  

2. I couldn't omit Quentin Blake from this Christmas celebrity line up, so hence the earlier mention.  You may not know Quentin, but you know his work.  His Illustration style is highly recognisable. Quentin Blake, British illustrator famous for his illustrations of many of Roald Dahl's stories, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, Fantastic Mr Fox , Matilda and many many classics, including A Christmas Carol  
from https://www.quentinblake.com
Quenton's delightful Christmas illustrations for greeting cards have supported various charities, including Survive International, a support organization for tribal peoples.  Quentin is a long-standing supporter of numerous charities, some of which work to promote understanding and engagement in art and literacy, as well as organisations which support threatened peoples and animals across the globe.  I think my favourite small works of art by Quentin Blake are his series of Christmas stamps all, unmistakably his own style of humour and quirkiness. 

3. And if all that wasn't enough for "Q" here is Queen with their rendition of "Thank God It's Christmas!" 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #16


P is for Pollyanna 

Yes - today the Christmas celebrity is that beloved happy girl from Eleanor H Porter's classic children's book. Now I know you are all wondering if there were any Pollyanna Christmas stories?  No there weren't any specific Christmas stories, but I just want to remind you of the reason for Pollyanna's being was making others happy and seeing the good in everything. In the original stories and all the sequels, Pollyanna was renowned for her optimistic  "Glad Game" where you were challenged to find the positive in any situation.  I remember that I admired Pollyanna for being "glad" about whatever gift she was given. When she received crutches in a gift exchange, instead of a doll, and she learnt that she should be glad about the gift, because she did not need them! I also remember that  although I thought Pollyanna was very virtuous, I hoped desperately that I was never given crutches when I didn't need them!  
Now to the real reason for the choice of Pollyanna today - I am sure this " glad game" approach gave rise to the practice of gift exchange which in some parts of USA is  called a "Pollyanna".   The practice named after today's heroine is probably better known in other parts of the world as Secret Santa or Kris Kringle or even the White Elephant Gift Swap.

It’s a way to give gifts, as you say, to other members of a group, such as fellow workers in an office, other members of a club, or within a large family. The formal term at one time was Pollyanna gift exchange, which turns up a lot in newspapers from about 1947 on. . The idea is to limit present giving by ensuring that each person gives one gift to one other person in the group; often a ceiling is placed on the amount that can be spent on each gift. In some cases, each person provides a gift already wrapped so nobody knows what it is; the potential recipients draw lots to decide who gets which gift. Or people draw lots to determine who buys a gift for whom; sometimes recipients are asked to guess who bought it for them. Both the giver and the receiver may be called the Pollyanna. (from http://www.worldwidewords.org) 

I was amused to read a blog  written by  someone obviously disgruntled with Pollyanna and Secret Santa  gift exchanges in the past and wanted to be sure some formalised 'Pollyanna" etiquette be established to ensure no future disappointments.
Not quite in the spirit of the Pollyanna but then again Pollyanna was about making everyone happy! 


 I have to admit that on occasions I have been disappointed in what I received in gift exchanges, and at other times, I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the gift giver. I guess the lesson to learn from Pollyanna is that whatever your gift is, be positive and happy - enjoy the giving and stress less about the gift itself! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #15

Curiouser and curiouser...strange name, strange story!

Olentzero - watercolour, pencil & pen sketch - Wilma Simmons
O is for Olentzero ... 
I admit I had not heard of this well loved but strange Christmas character before researching for this blog This big fellow is well loved at least by Basques -  Who?  Where?
The Basques are indigenous to and mostly live in an area traditionally known as Basque country, a region which is located around the west of the Pyrenees on the coast of Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north -central Spain and south western France.   But who is Olentzero?  

There are  quite a few versions of his story and how he is related to Christmas, but I like this one.... 
 Olentzero is a humble man with a heart filled with love. As a new born he was left alone in the woods where a fairy adopted him, gave him the name Olentzero and raised him. He turned into a strong man and worked as a charcoal maker. He was hard-working and gifted with his hands. He carved wooden animals, toys and dolls. When he had a big charcoal bag full of toys he hiked to the village in the valley and distributed the wooden figures amongst the children because he liked to see them happy. The kids loved him and Olentzero came back whenever he had finished another bag of toys. 
One day as he came down to the village he found a house in flames. He dashed towards the house finding crying children behind the closed windows. Without hesitation he ran into the house and freed them by lowering them from an upstairs window. With everyone safe he went downstairs when the house collapsed under the fire, burying him. The people from the village had gathered by now outside the burning ruins and they suddenly saw a white flash leaving the flames and heading towards the sky. The fairy that had found him in the woods had come to be with him in this moment. She said, "Olentzero you have such a good heart, you even gave your life for others. You should not die. You shall live forever, making toys for all the children in this village and in the whole Basque country." 
And that is now how the story is told so that on the 24th of December, the Olentzero makes his annual appearance.
Each year at Christmas, Basque villagers create an image of Olentzero , usually a papier mache  or a wooden carved figure.  Olentzero  is characteristically dressed in the traditional peasant farmer's garb of dark pants tucked into socks below the knees; leather, rope tied shoes; a dark overshirt , a black beret,  and a smoking pipe. 
It's worth mentioning a couple of the other beliefs surrounding  Olentzero which make him a rather curious Christmas celebrity. A common belief is that Olentzero was the last of a race of mythical giants, who all, exceot him, threw themselves off a mountain when they heard about the birth of Jesus Christ, I also  found a rather strange Christmas song which alludes to Olentzero eating whole ten piglets in one sitting.  However, in all the various Basque village stories and songs, Olentzero remains  a revered Christmas figure, who epitomises goodness and kindness, especially  towards children. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #14

It was just too difficult to decide on the Christmas celebrity for today's letter N , so I settled on two - one most people know, and another less connected. 
St Nicholas and Nestor - watercolour, pencil  and ink sketch  - Wilma Simmons 


N is for St Nicholas and Nestor. 

Let's start with St. Nick.... Santa Claus is a fictional character based on multiple figures. The person most closely connected with the Santa Claus legend is Saint Nicholas, a Greek Christian bishop who helped the poor and left presents for children. I suppose most people know about the story of how St. Nick saved three daughters whose poverty stricken family were being forced to sell them. As they slept, St Nick placed bags of money into their stockings hanging out to dry. Familiar with any Christmas practices we know? 


We remember this saint, such a holy, good man.
Be like him in charity, do all that you can.
Many miracles Nicholas hastened to do,
Helping people in need with gifts that were new.
(from http://www.stnicholascenter.org) 

I am not sure if St. Nicholas had a donkey to deliver his gifts, but that is how I portrayed him today, only to introduce you to Nestor, the long eared Christmas donkey.  Nestor is featured in an animated movie which tells  the story of the little donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem. This was not a popular movie, but Nestor is such an endearing and noble character, that his story is worth retelling. 


Nestor was born with extremely long ears, even for a donkey. He  is an example of a victim of teasing and bullying, who in the end comes out on top.  After  abandonment by soldiers and the death of his mother  who protected him in a snowstorm, Nestor is alone.  However, an angel  appears and tells Nestor that his life has a special purpose and to follow a star. Soon, Nestor is chosen by Mary and Joseph to carry her to Bethlehem, and Nestor becomes a hero to the other animals.


We are now over half way through the alphabet and two weeks closer to Christmas..Stay with me please .. only 11 more blog posts 'til Christmas

Christmas Characters 1-13 - Wilma Simmons 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #13


M is for Magi .. 
While children here are waiting excitedly for Santa Claus to arrive on Christmas Eve with presents, some children will expect gifts from the Magi, probably better known as the three wise men or the three kings.  The word 'magi'  (magus)  is an ancient word referring  to practitioners of  astrology, alchemy and other esoteric knowledge. The most current use of the word is applied to the men who according to the gospel of Matthew visited the baby Jesus soon after his birth. Most of the details  about the Magi are in an earlier post, featuring Caspar, one of the Magi. - Christmas Countdown Characters #3, so in this post, I will focus on the Hispanic tradition of "Dia de Reyes" (Day of the Kings)  which honours these Christmas icons. 

Twelve days after Christmas, the Epiphany, is called Three Kings Day which is celebrated in Latin America, Spain, and in Hispanic communities of the United States .Traditionally,  there are special church services and children receive gifts on this day, from the three wise men , Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. 
  "In the days preceding Three Kings Day, children write letters to the Magi requesting a toy or gift that they would like. On the night of January 5th, the figures of the Wise Men are placed in the nativity scene. In Mexico, children would traditionally leave out their shoes with a bit of hay in them to feed the camels of the Magi .  When the children wake up in the morning, their gifts will have appeared in the place of the hay." (from http://tudecidesmedia.com)  
There is no doubt that the Three Kings hold a significant place in the celebration of Christmas in the culture of Hispanic nations... even Disneyland holds a colourful and joyous festival day to celebrate Dia de Reyes  

And here is some Christmas humour from an unknown source. 

What would have happened if there had been three wise women instead of three wise men? They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole and brought practical gifts.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Countdown Characters #12

Here is one from my own childhood .....  
Comic character - watercolour and ink sketch - Wilma Simmons 

L is for Little Lulu 
 Little Lulu Little Lulu with freckles on her chin
Always in and out of trouble but mostly always in. 
Using daddies neckties for the tail of your kite. 
Using mommies lipstick for the letters you write. 

Little Lulu first appeared  in 1935 as the cartoon creation of Marge ( Marjorie Henderson Bueli) in the American Saturday Evening Post. Little Lulu was first seen in print  as a wedding flower girl, mischievously strewing banana peels down the aisle, instead of rose petals, so this will give you a little insight into her character. 

I began reading Little Lulu comics in the late 1950s obviously after the syndicated comic Marge's Little Lulu was established in 1948. Lulu was a resourceful and resilient little girl who could hold her own against the boys in the comic,Tubby and his mates.   Marge said she chose a girl for her comic book heroine because 'a girl would get away with more fresh stunt s than in a small boy would be boorish.'  Little Lulu continued in comic form until 1984, followed by the publications of libraries until 1992. I suppose Little Lulu's big break came in 1995 when the Little Lulu Show hit television and  continued to be popular until 1999. Surprisingly Little Lulu made a comeback in 2009 in a Brazilian comic as "Little Lulu Teen and her gang".  
from http://michelesworld.net/
Little Lulu Christmas themed comics were very popular, and the festive season provided plenty of opportunities for childhood adventures, for holiday mishaps and  for considerable problem solving. For example, in "Oh Christmas Tree" , Little Lulu and her father Mr Moppet, go out into the woods to chop down a Chris mas tree - an excursion for Little Lulu and an attempt to avoid paying for a tree.  All is going well, until they meet up with a wolf who chases them up a tree, and they are stuck there until the owner of the woodlot comes along. Of course, he makes his living by felling trees, and this is his Christmas tree supply lot. Needless to say, Little Lulu and her father are saved, but the tree cost a lot more than Mr Moppet bargained for.


 I also love the story entitled "The Snooper" - Little Lulu sneaks a peek at her wrapped presents under the Christmas tree . She finds out they are all boys' toys, and much to no reader's surprise, Tubby's peeks at his, and they are girls' toys. Little Lulu and Tubby then secretly exchange the gifts under their respective trees. Unknown to them, their fathers earlier  organised to swap presents, just in case, their children would be tempted to snoop and then on Christmas Eve, the parents retrieved what they thought were the right presents for their son and daughter respectively. On Christmas morning, Little Lulu is surprised of course, to open "boys''" toys, instead of the girls' ones she knew she had swapped. Of course, another swap had to be done, and Tubby and Little Lulu had a very happy Christmas gift opening.  No matter what the title of the story  or what season , Little Lulu always get into some sort of trouble , sometimes of her own making, sometimes, just pure circumstances but  somehow, she manages to get out of the scrape relatively unharmed, always learning an important life lesson. Such innocent times! 


Post script : Here is a special  Christmas bonus " L"  for my sister. 

L is for Little Owl ... 
It was a silent night.

I sat in my tree,
with a waiting feeling.

On a silent night, a star beckons to Little Owl, and he follows. He flies by three men on camels, plodding through sand and watching the sky. He flies above hills where shepherds keep watch over sheep, who watch too. And finally, in a distant manger, he finds a man, a woman, and the happiest baby - and joy that lights the world. (from  the children's book, "Little Owl and the Star")