Preparing for Christmas

pc158670treehat.jpgOur tree is up. We’ve baked five different kinds of cookies (with lots of help from Sylvia, who is an expert stirrer and cookie-decorator…so what if the sugar-cookie snow man’s buttons are in the middle of his face instead of his chest, right?). All cards and packages went out in the mail last week. And I finally finished this Christmas-tree-shaped hat for Sylvia. I love this pattern (though in future renditions I think I’d make the red border at the bottom a bit longer) and the yarn I used (I heart Lamb’s Pride bulky).

I knit all of it last winter but had the hardest time keeping the I-cord evenly spaced while attaching it to the hat, so I put it aside out of frustration. I picked it up again a couple of weeks ago, and after about five attempts managed to get the I-cord “garland” on the tree nicely. Sylvia wore the hat last weekend, when we went to a local farm (it’s a county park that’s a working farm—one of our favorite places to visit) to see Santa. She was a bit wary of Santa, but utterly enamored with the candy cane he gave her.

In addition to holiday knitting, I’ve also been playing Christmas carols on our piano a lot lately. We have a few Fireside books (Folk Songs, Favorite American Songs, and Song Book of Birds and Beasts; interestingly, that last one was collected and edited by Jane Yolen, whose Owl Moon is one of Sylvia’s favorites) but, aside from a few pieces in those books, didn’t have much holiday music.

When Jan was growing up, his family had a book called A Treasury of Christmas Songs and Carols that he loved. So we poked around online and managed to find a used copy on sale. It arrived a few weeks ago, and we’ve really been enjoying working out way through it. It’s a retired library copy, so it has the library binding. But the pages are totally pristine. Our copy is the seventh printing of the first edition, from 1955, so the composer dates always make me do a double-take. “The Three Ships,” for example, has “Alfred Noyes (1880- )” and “Colin Taylor (1881- ).”

There’s a huge variety of songs in this book, which is divided into sections: “British and American Carols,” “Carols from Foreign Parts,” “Christmas Hymns and Chorales,” “Especially for Children,” “Christmas Solo Songs,” and “Christmas Rounds and Canons.” I’ve found lots of old favorites in here and made some new friends, too. But the one that always brings a smile to my face is this one, penned by Henry W. Longfellow to a traditional tune:

“Nuns in Frigid Cells”

Nuns in frigid cells
At this holy tide,
For want of something else
Christmas songs at times have tried
Let us, by the fire,
Ever, ever higher
Sing, sing, sing
them till the night expire

I mean, really: who doesn’t think of nuns in frigid cells when they think of Christmas, right?

11 Responses to “Preparing for Christmas”

  1. Chrison 18 Dec 2007 at 9:40 am

    Those poor nuns. I hope they knew some knitters! ;) That hat is adorable!

  2. Pshortenon 18 Dec 2007 at 11:03 am

    I will never think of Christmas without thinking of nuns in frigid cells again. What an oversight on my part…those poor forgotten nuns…

  3. Bethanyon 18 Dec 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Marsha I thought I would pop over to your blog from Arianna’s to see what you are up to. What a FUN christmas tree hat. Man, you guys were really serious when you all did stitch ‘n’ bitch in fifth grade in our living room! haha! Hope all is well — enjoy the holidays!

  4. Bethanyon 18 Dec 2007 at 12:13 pm

    whoops, wrong marsha friend of arianna’s, but still lovely hat!!!!

  5. Bethanyon 18 Dec 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Heehee! Arianna said such nice things about you when I told her I had confused Marshas I am glad I stumbled upon your blog too! I will have to add it to my reader!

  6. Kellion 18 Dec 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Hee hee! Nuns in frigid cells. As a Protestant, I can honestly tell you the only time I think of nuns is when I’m traveling in South America (they appear everywhere) or at the zoo with the penguins.
    Happy knitting and even happier Christmas to you!

  7. Pixieon 18 Dec 2007 at 10:36 pm

    I got a very lovely holiday card in the mail!! Thank you, it’s hanging up with the rest of our cards where I can see it every morning when I head to work!

  8. Katie Jon 19 Dec 2007 at 2:43 am

    “Nuns in frigid cells” is truly a bleak Christmas thought. I’d love to hear you rock out to that song, though!

  9. Helenon 20 Dec 2007 at 2:26 pm

    I just had to comment… I found the Nuns song in a piano book (maybe the same one) that my dad has, a few years ago. It has been a favorite of mine and my family’s ever since then. Sadly, it’s one you never hear on the radio. :) Have a very merry Christmas!

  10. Sarahon 21 Dec 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Oh, I got such a chuckle over the nuns in frigid cells! Thanks for that. Good old Longfellow – a quirky fellow if there ever was one. Sylvia’s adorable in her elf hat.

  11. Frankon 21 Dec 2007 at 10:10 pm

    I like the nun song. Thanks for sharing!