Thursday, December 27, 2012

YAY! We Put Our Christmas Tree Up Last Night

By the rest of the world's standards, we're behind in our Christmas preparations. Well, we're a little slow by our considerations, too, since we do like to have the tree in place before Christmas Eve. This year, with more than the usual lack of financial overflow sprinkled with extra work and a bit of sickness, coupled with the fact that we never got around to cutting a tree down until December 23 and then couldn't quite remember where we stored the tree stand, we've given ourselves a bit of leeway.

Other than that, we're right on time.

You see, we celebrate TWO Christmases at our house, or, more correctly, we celebrate the same Christmas twice, on December 25th (Gregorian calendar) and January 7th (Julian calendar), the latter also being Rebekah's birthday.

Plus, as Eastern Orthodox Christians, we celebrate a six-week advent, more correctly known as the Nativity Fast or by its nickname, St. Philip's Fast (because it begins on his feast day, November 15). Except for St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, we're more or less (except for occasional chocolate consumption) in preparation for the Christmas season.

Generally, we begin our festivities on December 24 with a traditional twelve course meal, which we forewent this year due to half the household being down with a stomach bug. Instead, we watched a terrific movie--The Encounter--and then spent the evening in Morris with Joshua and his baby son Ezekiel.

On December 25, we attended Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Homewood (after first traveling back to Morris for Ezekiel), followed by caroling, then back to Morris to drop off Ezekiel, then to Plainfield for a holiday family party, and then back to Morris for the evening. All in all, we traveled a hundred miles that day, by Timothy's count.

Yesterday, the feast of the Synaxix of the Theotokos (Mother of God), Christopher found the stand and dragged in the Christmas boxes so Rebekah and my goddaughter Rachel could spend the evening decorating while I read, answered, and purged hundreds of backed-up emails. They saved my two newest ornaments for me to hang up. I kept my hands clear of the needles and did not hive up, WHEW!

Today is the feast day of protomartyr St. Stephen, the 29th is The Holy Innocents, and January 1st is Jesus' circumcision. All the way through January 7th, we'll be baking, opening presents, etc. culminating with the Christmas celebration of our immediate family. Meaning, if you're not a child, grandchild, or spouse (or soon to be spouse), you're not invited.

While this may sound stingy or inhospitable, as my family grows, the demands on our time and ability to come together under one roof grow more and more challenging. As the family expands, the extended family quite rightly claim their share of the time and making of plans.

By selecting a day when the much of the Western world has long forgotten even the post-holiday blues, we gather simply, atlhough not necessarily so quietly, and enjoy each other and the birth of our Savior in a way that is generally not possible the rest of the year.

Practically speaking, this means we take advantage of post-Christmas sales (the best time to commence Christmas shopping). We also avoid any post-Christmas let-down since we extend the holiday longer than most people. The Christmas really doesn't officially end until the Presentation in the Temple on February 2, and it is quite possible the tree will remain fresh that long.

Spiritually speaking, our Christmas occurs in an out of the way place, away from the hustling and the bustling, in a manner similiar to the birth of Jesus Christ in a stable more than 2000 years ago.

Eccentric? Maybe? But then, there is nothing normal or natural in the ordinary sense of the words to a walk closely paced with Christ, a walk to which we are all called.

Christ is born! Let us glorify Him!


Monday, December 24, 2012

"Romance This Christmas? Meet Him in St. Louis"

Dear Reader,
My cousin said, “Where ever you’re looking is the type of girl you’ll find. If you go searching for women in bars, then that’s what you’ll get.” I’ve always been a romantic, but I’ve never lost hope. That’s why I’m mailing these letters.

If you want something you’ve never had, you need to do something you’ve never done. I’m sending these to libraries because I know they’ll get read. After all, that’s what libraries are for. But I’m also hoping you can help find a gal that I may not have met.

Friends and family say I’m single because I choose to be alone. I say it’s because I know exactly what I want. A couple years ago, I discovered a twenty-one year old British coed on an online dating site who was studying in Minneapolis. She had everything I looked for in a woman, however, never replied to my e-mail. I can only assume she was deported. Unfortunately, even if you find the girl of your dreams, she may not consider you the man of her dreams.
I always imagined I’d be with a career woman, most likely a nurse or a teacher who has truly found their passion serving others. Although I’m old-fashioned, it is 2012, so I believe the task of cooking dinner should be shared. Since I’m tall, I would need a girl at least 5’8” possessing the attitude of Karlie Kloss walking through the door. After a quick kiss, she would say a prayer to thank God for another day.

As much as I enjoy satisfying my guilty obsession with reality TV, we’d rarely frequent the couch. After salsa dancing lessons, chasing after our gigantic dogs, and teaching the boys down at the park a thing or two about ballin’ (That’s how the kids say it nowadays); we’d finally relax with a cold beer or glass of wine.
Although she would appreciate the humor of Aziz Ansari, John Mulaney, and Mike Birbiglia, she’d laugh the hardest at my jokes. Like me, she is often ridiculed for having never seen blockbuster movies. That’s because she’s out trying new things. Heroin is not one of those things. Instead, she gets high off aimlessly wandering Oklahoma back roads like a twenty-first century Magellan and singing along to the country music station. Unlike my failed impersonation, her twang is truly authentic and makes me smile.

My darling isn’t quiet, and can tell an intriguing anecdote. I’ve always been “that guy” at every party and even at twenty-four (And a half) the shoulders are beginning to ache. My best friend and old roommate of nine months will tell you that when my mouth is shut, I’m infinitely content.  
I want to be infinitely content on Christmas and all I want from good ole Mr. Claus is you…whoever that is. It sounds like something from a pensive Zach Braff indie flick or catchy Taylor Swift tune, but if you know someone who possesses the desired requirements, please follow the instructions of Judy Garland and have them meet me in Saint Louis.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
John Truett

P.S. If they wish, I’ll be at the return address (The St. Louis Arch) the night before Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Christmas Bells," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Story Round-Up

Christmas Bells by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The time draws near the birth of Christ:

The moon is hid, the night is still;

The Christmas bells from hill to hill

Answer each other in the mist.


Four voices of four hamlets round,

From far and near, on mead and moor,

Swell out and fail, as if a door

Were shut between me and the sound;


Each voice four changes on the wind,

That now dilate, and now decrease;

Peace and good will, good will and peace;

Peace and good will, to all mankind
Artist's religious paintings known around the world
The art--as well as the theology--behind many of Lillian Brulc's paintings provided a focus for reflection and basic catechism.
Pets have Christmas lists, too
Angry bird catnip toys, flavored treats, and a racetrack top the list.
A no-excuses philosophy
Primary lymphedema hasn't prevented this dentist and oral surgeon from delivering compassionate, excellent care.
Raising hope, awareness
A Celebrate Recovery leader is on a mission to pre-sell 1000 tickets to a new movie addressing the complexities of addiction and recovery.
Keeping characters alive
In the late 1980's, Baen Books published Andrea Alton's Demon of Undoing. The rights have now reverted back to her, and she now writing its long-awaited sequel.
From deep sorrow, spectacular holiday tradition is born.
Two neighbors united in tragedy. One recently lost her father; the second has a father battling cancer. Both want their three-year-old children to know the magic and joy of Christmas in the midst of sorrow. So they collaborated to create a Christmas light show.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

BryonySeries Artist Wednesday: "Valerie's Heavenly Scents" and How to Get a Free Mini BryonySeries Candle

THIS SUNDAY, December 23

Stop by Aunt Nina's Sweets 'N' Treats, 21121 Division Street in Crest Hill anytime between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. If you are one of the first five people to purchase a BryonySeries product, you will receive a free, mini BryonySeries soy candle made especially for the book series by Valerie's Heavenly Scents.

So far, three books in the BryonySeries are currently available for purchase on Sunday: Bryony, the 2012 holiday edition of Visage, and the official BryonySeries cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony." All cookbook proceeds will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties (

Here's the story behind Valerie's Heavenly Scents:

Owner Valerie Burkholder began making candles in 2005. She began with paraffin candles and then switched to 100 percent eco-friendly soy wax candles as they are 95 percent soot free and burn longer, cooler and with better "scent throw" than other candles.

All candles produced by Valerie's Heavenly Scents contain coreless, lead-free cotton wicks. Burkholder offers a variety of scents and an almost limitless number of custom-mixed colors. In addition, Burholder also offers five scents in her BryonySeries line: Bryony, Purple Rose, Simons Woods, Lake Munson, and Sue's Diner.

Order Burkholder's candles from her site:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guest Post by Sir Frederick Chook: "The Public's Peacocks, Part One"

The Public's Peacock, Part One, by Sir Frederick Chook
 Penned upon the 17th of October, 2009
First appeared in FrillyShirt (

Among the fops and dandies of history, there have been more than a few whose philosophy of life was, shall we say, a little conservative. Brummell himself moved in the most elite circles – so select as he felt justified in snubbing the Prince Regent, albeit with provocation – but he was a down-to-earth man of the people against some of the clotheshorses who followed. Gabriele d’Annunzio, for instance, was a fine fancy fellow, with a precisely sculpted beard and a house full of art objects and tailored suits – products of the same creative talent he dedicated to shaping the culture of Italian Fascism within his own lifetime. Similarly, the Duke of Windsor (briefly King Edward VIII,) who gave his name to the Windsor knot and the Prince of Wales check, was (and remains) suspected of outright support for the Nazis – and was certainly openly contemptuous of non-whites, communists, and, well, the usual underclass targets.

Thankfully, it’s not all so depressing as that. Not everyone who seeks beauty makes the connection to “the masses are ugly – they must be controlled, or else cleansed!” Plenty of those who made a spectacle with their style held no strong opinions, or kept them to themselves – the inestimably dapper Fred Astaire, for instance, who never spoke publicly of anything more consequential than golf. Others chose to – and I hope you’ll forgive if I wax a trifle moral – find beauty in compassion, and washed their cloth with the milk of human kindness. I’d hoped to showcase some of these individuals for you all, over a series of FrillyShirt entries – to honour some fops who paired their pizzazz with dedication to the cause of the castoffs of the world.

First and fopmost is Oscar Wilde himself, and with Oscar at the head of the list, you might wonder why we need any others. Well, Oscar’s case is a contested one, y’see. In his essays – particularly 1891′s The Soul of Man under Socialism – he argues that a socialist society, in eliminating poverty and inequality through the collective control of industry, would free individuals from the mutual obligations of mastery and service, and allow them to dedicate their energies to the cultivation of the self, to the “full development of Life to its highest mode of perfection.” When property is held by individuals, then some must always be seeking others to work for, and some must always be seeking others to employ – always with the risk of ruin hanging over. Were property held collectively, Oscar claims, and material security guaranteed to all participants, then spiritual individualism could begin, and a cultural uplifting of society.

Some readers take these tracts as entirely satirical – as Wilde’s jolly “to hell with you” to the collectivists of his time, turning their ideology on its ear. Not an unfair reading, but I cannot agree. Soul is witty, but it doesn’t read as a satire – it takes care to distinguish itself from other socialist arguments, not to associate itself with them, and it draws on Christianity far more than on the prominent political writers of its day. “He who would lead a Christ-like life,” he notes, “is he who is perfectly and absolutely himself.” The “Christ-like” individual is a concept he returns to in De Profundis, describing the anarcho-communist Prince Kropotkin, and locating the same spirit in the works of William Morris, among others. I see no reason not to consider this realisation of the self the ultimate end of Wilde’s aestheticism – to see his artistic and dress reform as part of a social reform, to see that “what is true about Art is true about Life.” In short, there need be nothing selfish about living exactly as one wishes – in being foppish, in manifesting and developing one’s ideals in all of one’s life – for one is simply tracking the same path that one would hope to give others the freedom – and, more importantly, the opportunity – to follow.

Incidentally, I should mention more of William Morris while he’s fresh in my mind. While in his person he wore the common Marxist look – big beard, simple suits – his immense contributions to art and design were matched by those to socialist culture. His Chants for Socialists was the definitive labour songbook until the era of the Wobblies – and there’s no shame in being overtaken by their songwriting skills, to be sure! At the same time, too, I feel the Arts & Crafts virtue of “truth to materials” holds as true in dress as it does in craft or architecture – one should never forget the material natures of cloth and of the body. Dress, more than most any other art, serves material needs – it cannot be abstracted without being destroyed.

Well, that’s a solid enough start in 19th-century aestheticism! I’ve a surprisingly long list of candidates, but I think I shall next turn to some political fops who were able to put their ideas into practice from the highest offices. Part two, coming soon!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sir Frederick Chook is a foppish, transcendentalistic historian who lives variously by his wits, hand to mouth, la vie bohème, and in Melbourne with his wife, Lady Tanah Merah.

When not reading Milton and eating Stilton, he writes, ponders, models, delves into dusty archives, and gads about town. He has dabbled in student radio and in national politics, and is presently studying the ways of the shirt-sleeved archivist. He is a longhair, aspiring to one day be a greybeard. He has, once or twice, been described as “as mad as a bicycle.”

FrillyShirt is a compilation of articles, essays, reviews, photographs, artworks, question-and-answers, promotions, travelogues, diatribes, spirit journeys, cartoons, ululations and celebrations by Sir Frederick, his friends and contributing readers. Irregularly regular features include Teacup in a Storm, an etiquette column, and How to be Lovely, advanced speculations on the aesthetics of the self.

Other topics that pop up include fun things in and around Melbourne, art, nature, history, politics and schnauzers. Sir Frederick’s favorite color is all of them. Enjoy his writing? Drop him a telegram at



Monday, December 17, 2012

"The Next Big Thing" Author Interview (and a few good authors to check out)

As promised in yesterday's post, here is the Q&A for The Next Big Thing blog chain.

Please read to the end. I've included links and information about several, very worthy, authors.

1)       What is your working title of your book?

“Visage.” This is the second book in the BryonySeries (a drop of blood, a deceptive fantasy).   In the first, “Bryony,” a ‘70’s teen trades her blood with a Victorian vampire for a trip back into time. In this second one, after trading her blood with a Victorian vampire, that same 70’s teen plunges into a misleading contract, trapping her into another bargain to save a life.

2)      Where did the idea for the book originate?

In January 1985, was lying on the couch and reading from a book of classic, short vampire stories when I had an idea of a teen girl falling in love with the romantic illusion that surrounds many vampire stories. By the time my three year old and eight month old were waking from their naps, I had mentally written a skeleton outline.

3)      Under what genre does your book fall?

       Young adult (as in high school and up), fantasy, gothic and vampire

4)      Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

      I’ll let Hollywood figure it out, although I do think Voltaire would make an awesome Kellen.

5)      What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

       See question number one.

6)      Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

      Self-published by choice, since I want to maintain the integrity of the story and the creative
freedom to express it as I wish.

7)      How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

 Through the years, I had played around with various scenes and drafts, but I never got busy with it until the 2007 Labor Day weekend. Money was tight, and I decided to write it as a novella for my seventeen year old son’s birthday. I realized two things once I started: it wasn’t a novella, and it wasn’t a weekend project. I presented Timothy with what I had written and then started anew. I pecked at it here and there for about nine months or so until I learned about the release of a movie—“Twilight”--that seemed as if shared the same premise of my book. At that point, I quit. That October, my daughter Rebekah brought the book home from the library. Once I began reading it, I knew my story had nothing in common with “Twilight.” I completed the novel in March and began my round of submissions the following month.

8)      What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

       Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eye” and Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca.”

9)      Who or what inspired you to write this book?

       See questions number two and seven.

10)  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

      The book is a unique meld of teen obsession, science fiction, and traditional vampire elements    (complete with an unusual Van Helsing-type slayer) with a dash of Celtic fantasy.
Now for the other authors:
Sue Merrell (the author that invited me):
Merrell has been a journalist for 40 years, retiring two years ago from The Grand Rapids Press in Michigan. For the past decade, she has specialized in covering live theater and other entertainment events.
Her memoir, Laughing for a Living, reveals the behind-the-pen stories of interviewing famous stars such as Tony Curtis, Cary Grant, Julie Newmar, Bette Midler, Molly Ringwald, James Earl Jones, Jerry Lewis and more.

Merrell's earlier career in Illinois inspired her second book, Great News Town, a fictional mystery-thriller loosely based on a series of murders which occurred in 1983 when she was assistant city-editor at the Joliet Herald-News.


She is currently working on a lighter mystery about a 60-year-old teacher whose beaus keep dropping dead. It's dangerous just to know her. For fun, Sue makes mudpies at the pottery wheel in her basement. Read Merrell’s The Next Big Thing interview and learn more about her projects at
Tommy Connolly:

Connolly always wanted to write a novel, be a comic, and act. For twenty-eight years he would sit with drink or drug in hand, fancying himself to be the next Hemingway or Walken and penning stories of great adventures, safaris, and foreign wars. He would win Oscars, he thought.

The stories never came, but the next high always did. Instead, he fought the wars—on a battleground inside his head-- with the bottle, addiction, and fear. His adversary was God and his racing thoughts.

Sentenced to addiction and depression, freed through grace and faith, spared to catch his dreams of becoming an actor and comic and writer, Connolly’s first book, Soul Parole, features selected writings from his blog, Every Day is a Gift. Connolly is currently working on his second book.

 To read his blog visit Learn more about Connolly at

Thomas Meisinger:

 Meisinger was born, raised and educated in Chicago's southwest suburbs. He began performing stand-up comedy in 2009 while in college. You may have seen him at The Comedy Shrine, Edge Comedy Club, and other establishments he doesn't like enough to give free publicity.

If he spent as much time filling out job applications as he did writing jokes during his last semester, he would probably have a better paying job. He has since shifted his focus to writing.

Meisinger spent a year working on his first novel, The World Is Shallow; That's Why I Never Learned How to Swim, which is currently available on all major eBook retail sites. The humorous fictional autobiography has received rave reviews from family, friends, and stray cats wandering his apartment.

His favorite hobby is people-watching at coffee shops but let's face it, he really just has a staring problem. Check out his five blogs:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Next Big Thing" Blog Chain

Several weeks ago, a fellow author and former Herald News writer Sue Merrell invited me to participate in a blog chain for writers: Next Big Thing. Here's how it works.

You, the author, write a blog answering ten questions about your latest project. In this case, I'll be writing about Visage. The questions are fairly stock, the type of questions authors should be ready to answer at any given time. They are not difficult to answer nor timeconsuming to write (I did mine in about fifteen minutes, including a quick proof-read). Why would I not agree to something so simple?

When your scheduled week comes up, you post that blog, tag the author that invited you, and then tag five additional authors blogs for the reader to check out. My week is this week, so I'll be posting my Q&A tomorrow, as well as adding links to the blogs of some very worthy authors.

Advantages to you: a glimpse into the latest book and the series, along with some new reading material to navigate. Sounds like a winning combination to me.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Official Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, "Visage" Book Signing, in Pictures

Copies of the 2012 holiday edition of Visage patiently wait for Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, to attach his signatures to them. Ed had overslept this morning and was running late to his own signing.
Despite the hurried start to his day, Ed did not forget his traditional Santa Claus hat.
After greeting his constituents and passing out candy canes (each and every carrier, manager, and helper in the distribution center always receives a candy cane from Ed each and every day leading up to Christmas), Ed assumes his best book-signing position.
A close-up view of Ed Calkins' official candy canes.
Before Ed's immortalization, he had dubbed Denise "paper goddess" because she had the largest route in the distribution center at the time (nearly one thousand newspapers on a Sunday, not counting her husband's papers). Ed therefore dubbed her "paper goddess" and assumed this position when hand-delivering her daily route book. For nostalgia's sake, Ed and Denise recreate this classic pose, substituting candy canes for paperwork.
Denise is so delighted with receiving an official Ed Calkins candy cane, she forgot to give Ed permission to rise.
The Steward of Tara poses with Dan Yates, his prime minister.
The Steward poses with Christopher Baran, owner of Channahon Computer Repair and the author's official "limo" ride for the night.
Ed signing a copy of Bryony, the first book in the BryonySeries.
The Steward admires the cover for the holiday edition of Visage.
Ed prepares to affix his signature to a copy of Visage.
Ed signs a copy of the official Bryony cookbook: Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony."
The Steward poses with Bryony and Visage, while reminding one and all that the storyline is really only about him.
A farwell photo until next year's signing, the best part of the night for Denise, since it's not often she's photographed with someone who does not exist. Correspondence for the next twelve months will consist mostly of email telegrams, with an occasional phone call for more personal, ruthless updates.
As a parting gesture, Ed leaves a few candy canes behind, so Denise can share them with other members of her household.

Friday, December 14, 2012

"Indian Children," by Annette Wynne and Story Round-Up

Indian Children by Annette Wynne is one of the first poems my oldest children memorized. It was originally published in 1919 in Annette Wynne's For Days and Days: A Year Round Treasury of Child Verse.

Where we walk to school each day

Indian children used to play ---

All about our native land,

Where the shops and houses stand.


And the trees were very tall,

And there were no streets at all,

Not a church and not a steeple ---

Only woods and Indian people.


Only wigwams on the ground,

And at night bears prowling round ---

What a different place today

Where we live and work and play!
Gift Mart Aids Community
A local church's toy drive does more than provide gifts for needy children. It spares the parents' dignity and raises money for the schools.
Family keeps toy drive going
Excuses are legion why individuls feel stymied to make a difference. Meet a family who's overturned them all.
Woman was there for those in need
From opening her home to those without one to helping start a church, Anna Mae Johnson cared for others in real and tangible ways.
Playing Santa for the dogs
Who's the man inside the jolly red suit? A veteran with a giving heart and serving spirit for his community.
Pitching in to help the needy
It's not enough for this local blues artist to play music. He provides a weekly jam forum for other musicians and feeds and clothes the homeless.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fruit Fritters: I Want to Try These

Originally published in Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

This recipe is featured in the chapter John and Bryony's Christmas Eve Wedding from the official BryonySeries cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony."

Buy the cookbook from the website HERE.

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties (
Fruit Fritters

1 pint milk

1½ pints flour

2 teaspoons salt

6 eggs

A pint of cream (or milk with a little butter melted in it)


Fruit (can be blackberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries or sliced apples or peaches)

Sweet lard


Wine, nutmeg, or grated lemon peel

Mix eggs and cream with the fruit. Mold into small cakes and fry in lard. Eat with a sauce of butter beat with sugar and flavored with wine, nutmeg, or grated lemon peel.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BryonySeries Artist Wednesday: Kallan Dee Eilas, Photographer

Joliet Junior College graduate Kallan Dee Elias is a wedding and portrait photographer that also enjoys macro and other forms of artistic photography.

Last year, after the Morris Daily Herald shot a very nice picture of me at the P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life and Joliet History (near the antique piano where we shot the BryonySeries music video) to accompany an equally nice story about Bryony by Jeanne Millsap.

After the story ran, BryonySeries media researcher and developer Tommy Connolly asked Kallan to shoot a series of press portraits of me in costume in that same mansion. Below is one of those pictures. Check out more of Kallan's work at


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Guest Post by Sir Frederick Chook: The Ossuarial Odium of St. Nicholas

The Ossuarial Odium of Nicholas of Myra by Sir Frederick Chook

Penned upon the 30th of December, 2010
First appeared in FrillyShirt (

Like a (SIMILE EXPUNGED), Christmas has come and gone, and I’m left slightly stunned by the usual madness, though not entirely without goodwill to all. One thing I have been wondering – and will probably wonder forever more – is why there’s so little attention to the legendry behind the holiday. There’s the standard children’s nativity story, certainly, which any disgustingly precocious schoolchild could tell you has been simplified to the point of historical impossibility – not to mention the neglect it gives to the Biblical role of the Zoroastrian aristocracy.

Now, anyone who knows me will tell you twice that I’m no po-faced evangelist, here to instruct you to get back to Christmas’s Christ-Mass-y roots. I proselytise for no Earthly church, and even if I did, I value historical uncertainty too highly not to admit that the whole thing’s a hodgepodge, an amalgam of too many winterfests, gods’ anniversaries and Classical-era retail scams too count. As far as I’m concerned, Christmas is defined by municipal councils putting giant tinsel decorations on the streetlights, and dreadful Rat Pack-style crooners competing to disgrace jazz’s good name.

No, what interests me here is not the founding of the holiday – be it the commemoration of the incarnation of the martyred creator deity, or anything elsewise – but its, shall we say, active participant. Its chief mythical being – its fairy, goblin, or imp. Yea, it’s Santa himself that I’m pondering – that mysterious fellow who defines Christmas until around puberty and reappears in a more malign aspect with childbirth. Everyone knows he lives at magnetic north, keeps a staff of magical toymakers, is allergic to eggs, and so forth – but dashed if I knew any more than that. I was dimly aware he was once a real man who was noted for his generosity, but I had no idea where he lived, what he did, whether he received remuneration for the use of his image and/or donated the proceeds to charity… twenty-five Christmasses and I hadn’t the foggiest.

Well, I’m not one to take blinding ignorance sitting down, so I did a little superficial research, and discovered a few interesting facts! Saint Nikolaos was a bishop in the early centuries of the Church, who was indeed known for his generosity – distributing gifts to the faithful of his diocese, and so forth. In death and canonisation, he is the patron of sailors, students and thieves (and so, I’d assume, of cussing, informally competitive drinking and regrettable tattoos.) It’s his death in particular which sparked my imagination: for all the years which have passed, his original tomb remains extant, and though his skeletal remains have since been removed, they too are still in Church hands, in a dedicated site in Bari, Italy.

The history of his life and his role in worship is fascinating enough, of course, but what really struck me is the potential for the cruellest act ever committed against child-kind. Simply possessing the knowledge that Santa is dead and his bones are in a box in Italy… the horrors you could inflict! “If you little curmudgeons don’t behave, I’ll take you to Bari, Italy, and show you Santa’s bones!” Heck, there’s a continuing repatriation debate concerning the return of his remains to the original tomb in Turkey – if you timed it right, you could get there while the casket itself was open. Or, or – don’t tell the kids what you’re doing until the last minute! Imagine:

“I’ve got a surprise for you all! Inside this box is Santa Claus! He’s sleeping now, but if you’ve all been good boys and girls, he’ll wake up and have presents for everyone!”
open sepulchre – reveal grisly horror


I suppose, technically, this trick would work with any box of dead bishop, but I think the genuine article lends it that crucial element of blasphemous verisimilitude. The expense is a problem, certainly – air fares and so on. I can imagine an atheistic primary school writing it off as a study trip… but I prefer to keep politics out of my childhood-destroying pranks, you know. And, yes, the whole business may be cruel, low and mean, but it’s still truer to the known facts of the holiday than a quarter-century and billions of dollars of talking reindeer, chimneys and mutually-contradictory True Meanings of Christmas.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sir Frederick Chook is a foppish, transcendentalistic historian who lives variously by his wits, hand to mouth, la vie bohème, and in Melbourne with his wife, Lady Tanah Merah.

When not reading Milton and eating Stilton, he writes, ponders, models, delves into dusty archives, and gads about town. He has dabbled in student radio and in national politics, and is presently studying the ways of the shirt-sleeved archivist. He is a longhair, aspiring to one day be a greybeard. He has, once or twice, been described as “as mad as a bicycle.”
FrillyShirt is a compilation of articles, essays, reviews, photographs, artworks, question-and-answers, promotions, travelogues, diatribes, spirit journeys, cartoons, ululations and celebrations by Sir Frederick, his friends and contributing readers. Irregularly regular features include Teacup in a Storm, an etiquette column, and How to be Lovely, advanced speculations on the aesthetics of the self.
Other topics that pop up include fun things in and around Melbourne, art, nature, history, politics and schnauzers. Sir Frederick’s favorite color is all of them. Enjoy his writing? Drop him a telegram at