I promised myself earlier today that I would not, under any circumstances, be using the holidays, winter, or the Dreaded White Death as the subject, or even a tangential reference, of tonight’s post. I noticed I’ve had discussed precious little else around here lately, and honestly fear boring you kind people to death with talk of, well, that.
But then Mom called. Mothers are perfect for ruining even the best laid plans.
She phoned specifically to tell me that in all the holiday foolishness that has gone on at my parent’s house over the years, and trust me, some Epic Holiday Shenanigans have gone down in that place, she has never once super-glued a partridge to a pear tree. She was quite amused with that particular idea, so much so that she picked up the phone immediately.
I told her I very much appreciated that she liked it, and then she wondered, idly, where that partridge/pear tree business come from anyway, because that’d certainly never been part of a custom she’d witnessed.
I had to admit that I had no inkling. And then it was officially ON. See, I’m that guy, the guy you ask when you need random details about something trivial or would like an explanation for some incredibly obscure custom. My coworkers will testify to the truth of this; they’re frequently asking me to explain things, such as, what’s the difference between catsup and ketchup? The Puddinette will also back this particular claim. In fact, afraid that I will ramble on about scientific minutia for half an hour, she usually prefaces such questions with the condition that I need to be out with it in 30 seconds or less.
So then, as soon as Mom referenced the origin of the partridge, I instantly knew I’d be doing some research. Because (all together now) that’s what I do.
Interestingly enough, there’s no really good explanation of the partridge business. I figured it would symbolic of, you know, something, but it turns out that the song is French in origin (of course it is), and apparently red partridges perch in trees in France.
Anyway, that’s not what caused this whole Christmas-related post. What did was that while looking up information on The Twelve Days of Christmas, I came across this entry for the song at Wikipedia, which suggested that the song had been written (or used) to help Catholics learn their faith, and each twelve items had some liturgical significance.
That, of course, immediately got me to thinking, Dag, back in The Day, the Church would claim anything it could get its grubby mitts on*!
I thus imagined some ancient, stuffy conference of Cardinals where a slight bookish guy with a clipboard is saying something like, “Ok, so we’re making progress, people. Last year, we really got some traction when we approved the use of the Germanic pagan decoration of pine trees as a symbol for our swanky new ‘Christmas’ holiday, because everyone knows pine trees were clearly part of the birth of Our Lord (laughter). Also, holding our Christmas season during the traditional time for that heathen Scandinavian winter Yule festival where everyone gets all drunk and sets the town on fire resulted in a 3.7% boost in conversions and a drastic reduction in burned mead halls. Now, this year, rumor on the street in France and England is that the kids are all singing some Twelve Days of Christmas song, but the thing has no religious relationship, whatsoever. Test groups suggest that getting into this could have a huge effect on conversion rates among the pre-adolescent poor, so let’s buckle down and get some ideas scrolled for putting our stamp on this caroling thing in time for this year’s Christmas. Then we’ll break for lunch!”
And that ladies, and gentleman, is how a phone call from my mother hijacked today’s post and resulted in my fevered brain concocting the image of the Church resembling a modern-day PR conference a thousand years ago.
So, yeah. Probably would have been better staying away from Christmas topics.
*I’m technically Catholic, so I can say things like this