I’m doing a thing for my church’s Facebook page based on the O Antiphons, seven prayers dating from at least the eighth century (and possibly as far back as the sixth, as they seem to be referenced by my good friend Boethius) used to mark the last week of Advent — though they actually end on the 23rd, largely because Christmas Eve is liturgically a distinct thing and Christmas technically starts on Christmas Eve after the Vigil Mass.
All of which is to say, I’m inspired about Christmas Week, so I’ll be doing a week’s worth of daily writings between now and Christmas Eve — realistically, I’m not sure how likely I am to actually get anything done on Christmas, but we’ll see.
So, we’ll start with the Lyte Brigade discussing regional variations of Uncle Wintermorn, Realmgard’s Santa.
With the permission of Mr. and Mrs. Lyte, the six members of the Lyte Brigade have been decorating the dining room of the Lyte family’s pub — the closest thing the guild currently has to an office — for the upcoming holiday of Wintermorn.
Naturally, Sally has insisted on helping. Wintermorn is her favourite day of the year.
Sally looks up at Falcata.
“Can you lift me so I can put up my picture of Uncle Wintermorn?” she asks.
She proudly holds up her drawing of a rotund man with a billowing beard, a fur-lined coat and big sack of presents.
Falcata quizzically tilts her head at the sight the picture.
Sally gasps in horror.
“Wait! Does Uncle Wintermorn not come to Amazons?” She gasps even louder. “Do you not even have Wintermorn?”
“We call him Divus Imperator Brumalis,” Falcata explains. “He wears a purple robe, rides a panther, and his arrival every year is heralded by the appearance of thirteen fearsome women who go before him, driving off evil spirits and wicked men to defend those of good cheer.”
Sally’s eyes go wide.
Nolan looks up from where he is gluing together a festive scene out of green and red macaronis.
“Our Uncle Wintermorn just comes down the chimney and gives you presents,” he says.
“He works one night a year and gets paid in food,” Matilda says, hanging garlands from the Lyte Brigade’s Wintermorn tree. “He’s living the dream.”
Pela looks over from where she’s helping dress the lower reaches of the tree.
“He’s two people for us — Dwarves and Goblins, I mean,” she notes. “Bácsi Dér is a fat old Goblin man, and he’s got a Dwarf daughter that he adopted after he found her in a tree stump. Her name’s Morgenmädchen. They go around giving the good kids gingerbread and marmalade, and tapping the women who are trying to have babies on the head with oak branches.”
“Of course, if you’re bad, then the Kindermampfer jumps through your window and eats you, and then gives your parents a turnip with a face carved on it so they can replace you with a better-behaved child,” she concludes.
“Oh,” Tancred says, not looking up from his work of cutting into folded pieces of paper to make snowflakes. “How horrid!”
“You’re only saying that because you’re an only child,” Matilda mutters.
“Hey!” Sally and Nolan answer in unison.
“You know,” Amara muses, pausing from her task of hanging the stockings by the chimney as carefully as possibly. “I’ve always thought Uncle Wintermorn’s ensemble was rather fetching. The ermine trim, the boots. The hat, of course. I wonder where he shops.”
Sally turns back to Falcata. “Does he still bring you presents?” she asks the Amazon.
“Well, if the strength and valour to overcome one’s enemies and vex their many devices in the year ahead can be considered presents,” Falcata answers. “And he has been known to bestow festive sweaters on the particularly upright in conduct.”
“And cookies? Does your Uncle Wintermorn still like cookies?”
Falcata nods. “It is customary to leave libations for him and his thirteen companions.”
The members of the Lyte Brigade all fall silent as the door to the pub suddenly bursts open, letting a cold winter wind rush inside.
“Oh no!” Pela exclaims. “It’s the Kindermampfer! He knows I dented Dad’s favourite frying pan!”
“It is really coming down there,” Mr. Lyte says, coming inside with a load of fresh firewood in his arms.
Now, Uncle Wintermorn really is more of a Ded Moroz than a Santa, largely because the whole “derived from a Christian saint” doesn’t work in Realmgard, since the current state of the worldbuilding of Realmgard’s religion doesn’t really lend itself to that sort of thing.
So, basically, he’s more of a seasonal figure than a religious one.
I didn’t realise it at first, but Amazon Uncle Wintermorn is more or less Christmas Dionysus with is own troop of Maenads. And I mean, like, two Classics degrees and all, so it may have been a subconscious Meno-esque moment of anamnesis, but I wasn’t trying to work that angle deliberately.
The Dwarf-Goblin version is more deliberately modelled on the versions of Santa that traditionally described as having a sidekick — most obviously the Snow Maiden. And, of course, since the Dwarf-Goblin Kingdom has basically ended up being Austria-Hungary, one has a German name and the other has a Hungarian name.
And the Kindermampfer (which isn’t 100% proper German, but means something like “Child-Muncher”) is a pretty obvious reference to the Krampus.
Look forward to a whole week of Christmas writings, and then actual Christmas!