Jane Austen told me about Michaelmas. The British Isles holiday is peppered in her written works. Well, maybe not exactly peppered, but the Michaelmas parties do make their occasional appearances, and every time I saw anything of it, I wanted to know what in Heaven it was. Once I got Michaelmasly educated, I wanted to take part in the holiday. Every year. September 29th.
Michaelmas is an Olde English Holiday stemming from an older Scottish Holiday with blackberries as a key ingredient in the celebratory mix. Blackberries?! Ooh, I LOVE blackberries. An excuse to enjoy blackberries?! Sign me up! We can even almost call it Blackberry Day, just for fun! Do the research right now, if you like, and find out WHY blackberries are the thing at Michaelmas!
I don’t’ know about other Janeites and Austenophiles, but it seemed to me that Christmas Holiday season almost began at Michaelmas, in Jane’s novels. A chance and excuse for me to begin Christmas feasts and festivities three months earlier?! Before Thanksgiving?! Even before Halloween?! What’s not to love?! Put Michaelmas on my calendar of events! I’ve GOT to do this! Michaelmas could kick off my Christmas season henceforth!
For years I talked and planned of celebrating Michaelmas. I read up on it. I wanted to do it right. I looked at attendant traditional recipes. It was a goose-style feast with all the trimmings. Soon I wondered how traditional, modern, classical or neo-gothic I should do the holiday for my loved-ones.
In the end, I decided we could do it fancier like Downton Abbey or just wing-it like a Highland Fling picnic in the British countryside. Our first forays into Michaelmas territory have been with Scottish Scones and Blackberry desserts in an English Tea Party style. With pretty teacups, saucers and all, it doesn’t take much to put all our favorite dainties together for a delicious celebration. With my family bringing their best or funniest British accents to the table, it makes the event all the jollier. It’s an annual hit I highly recommend to any UK descendant, or Anglophile.
When our grandsons come for their summer vacation visit, it seems that most all my prior plans to do ‘ALL the fun things’ go out the window shortly after the tweenagers’ arrival.
In no time at all I’m already exhausted and sleep-deprived, and realizing that I’m not as energetically young and capable as I was when I was raising my own young sons. The missed sleep also hinders my brain’s abilities as well. I become an old bimbo, and a bit of cranky old lady hovers on the edges.
This time around, my early agreeing to let them stay up all night (meaning me too), a few nights running, when their grandpa was out of town and state on business, seemed to set a precedent and pattern for weeks to come, and became a hard habit to break.
‘What were you thinking?!’ my husband later asked.
‘I was just trying to be nice.’ I fully explained.
Egad, was I tired!
With a huge backyard pool plan falling through, among others (for various reasons), there was little left for me to do but to cook favorites, bake treats and scoop out scads of ice-cream drizzled with oodles of chocolate crackle shell, to make up for all I couldn’t accomplish.
For every week the boys stay here, I understand they generally gain a number (tons?) of pounds. Well, one’s back at his football and the other is distance running again, so, it will all even out. They needed to stock up on all those calories, right?
The moral of this story might be, not unlike the ‘good cop, bad cop’ method, I prefer to be good gran(ma) and leave the bad gran(pa) including laying-down of the laws, to the main man of this house. I just wanna have fun, and be nice.
Anybody who’s had more than one baby, whether one or a few years apart, will relate to this. When my toddler granddaughter was first pictured next to her new baby sister in recent weeks, some of us were a bit surprised to realize how big that little girl had suddenly got.
We were reminded that there’s quite a difference in size between a toddler and a newborn. It’s a little stunning to suddenly see the big contrast. My toddler granddaughter went from seeming teensy, to huge, in one day.
This took me back to each time I brought a new baby into this world. Our former littlest, suddenly appeared much older than our previous perception.
And with that realization, expectations suddenly rose for he or she who was no longer the baby of our family. Time to grow up some, little one!
The younger they are, the more the adjustment can be for the usurped baby, but they’ll soon get used to their new position in the household. Our older granddaughter seems to be doing wonderfully: more happy to have a little sister, than sad to share her mommy and daddy with the new baby.
From where I sit, it’s a thoroughly lovely thing to welcome another little member to our larger family. It’s a true reminder of the most beautiful things in life. Loved ones, are the best life offers. And the littler they are, the more they seem like angels sent down to us straight from Heaven above.
What’s cuter than seeing your granddaughter happily holding a new dolly you gave her? What’s sweeter than seeing her cuddle a soft toy you picked out for her? And to see that she bypassed the sweets for the cute cuddlies? Not to say that she didn’t dig into those chocolate sweets later, but, you know, treats only last so long, and cuddle toys persist with love and fun far longer. And dolls, well, I’m a bit of a doll person, so I can’t resist regularly introducing my granddaughter to dolls of all my favorite kinds.
And what do treats and toys really have to do with the Easter Holy days? Well, to me, it’s the love. The sharing, the giving, the loving we bestow on the little ones particularly. And to those tiny tots: treats and toys do communicate love.
Of course, I don’t mind enjoying a little chocolate myself, and wearing more pastels during the Easter spring season. But hunting down eggs, chocolates, bunnies and other delights for the younger ones in our family, is the Easter finest for me.
Valentine’s Day has got me thinking romantic thoughts about my man again. And asking, ‘which Jane Austen hero is he’? As I’ve done before.
Sometimes I’ve thought he was a Darcy, other times, a Bingley, or a Knightly and even a Tilney. Occasionally, I’ve wondered how much an Edward or Edmund he is. I suppose, over the years (and decades!), my man’s many facets and moods have made him seem an Austen hero chameleon. I can fit him into most any Austen hero slot on any given day or hour.
No matter, he’s my hero. My very own.
And he doesn’t have to fit into any fictional slot, no matter how profound or Austen-like. As long as he fits with me, that’s what counts. As with many couples, we two work to fit together. Constantly. Ah, communication and compromise, SO romantic.
Come to think of it, as I actually have pondered many times before, I’ve never fully fitted any of Jane Austen’s heroine slots either. I’m a little bit of a number of them, at different times in my life. And then there are my own moods, of course.
Whether you have your romantic hero in hand, or not, worry not about having or finding a Darcy, a Brandon, a Knightly, or any other Austen hero creation. Don’t fuss which heroine you are either. It all matters not, save understanding human personality traits and characteristics, and how to mesh it all together nicely. Wisely. Lovingly.
Though Jane Austen’s heroes and heroines can be very realistic, for she was decidedly and even expertly a connoisseur of human follies and all, this is reality. And truth is stranger than fiction. More complicated and less understandable as well. Who’s life perfectly fits any romance novel, however classic and crème de la crème?
But yes, it is fun to compare your life to Austen stories and characters. Jane is romantically tops.
The Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas are filled with more than a few of my favorite things.
Twinkling lights and trees, the music and movies. Sparkling snow and shining stars. Dears and deer, ribbons and bows, wrapping and wreaths.
Warm woolen scarves, sweaters, slippers and mittens. Leather and furry collars, cuffs, muffs and moccasins.
The food and festivities, family and friends, giving and smiling, hugging and loving, and spreading cheer.
A perfect baby boy, His loving virgin mother and protective adoptive father. Humble shepherds and wise men bearing gifts and honoring Him. A lowly manger in a stable with the star on high.
Now, for those who don’t believe in Christ, there is still much to celebrate and enjoy, so why not? For goodness sake, the world around us needs more caring, joy, charity and love. Won’t you agree?
Here’s wishing you all your favorite things this season of peace and goodwill.
The kiddies and costumes were cute again this year. Many darling princesses and cute little pirates came to our door last night. Every witch or zombie seemed an adorable version. One standout was a perfect little female cop. Then there was a beautiful blond family playing out their night as lovely Native Americans. One memorable girl was a creative jellyfish, or at least her large twinkling hat was, and the sparkling streamers were as long as she was tall for her age.
Yes, we should have gotten pics, but the trick-or-treaters were hurrying on their ‘get candy, get candy’ hunt and we were too busy holding the cauldron full of treats for each to reach into, and looking at all the creative outfits. Many seemed pretty obviously custom sewn up, likely by their moms.
A surprising favorite was Nonni’s Biscotti, even amongst the tiniest tots, oft holding up their treasure treat, marveling at its newness. Many asked what it was and our common answer was simply ‘dip it in milk or hot chocolate’. Because we had plenty on hand, it was a last minute addition to round out the other Chocolate and Rice Krispie Treats, but its interesting popularity means we’ll be adding more of those next year.
They chose for themselves and only a few took two or more without permission first. When told they could take more than one, some said things like ‘you’re awesome!’, which is always nice to hear – and makes the sharing well worth it. Polite and gracious as most were, reminded us that their parents are doing a great job and the rising generation is wonderful.