Friday comment: December, by Leeds Book Club.


A whole month of numb fingers and toes; gusty wet winds; trees stripped bare and hanging on for dear life till THE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL OF DOWNTON ABBEY* airs.  Ok, there might be maybe one or two other things happened also. Some of them even have a literary theme *beams with pride*

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – refers to a period of time from the 25th of December to the 5th of January.

The 5th of January is known as the Twelfth Night, which is also a play written by William Shakespeare, to be performed after the Christmas festivities containing many motifs associated with the date.

As we’re talking about Shakespeare (I’m a subtle creature me!), let’s think about World Book Night for a moment.  Though WBN itself is not until April 23rd – the Bards Birthday – registration is now taking place – HERE! My buddy, fellow LBC blogger and curator of the Travelling Suitcase Library@BookElfLeeds – has provided an invaluable run down of the books on offer – an essential guide if you will – please have a look HERE!

If you’d like to be a book giver; head to World Book Night ; register your interest and pick the books you’d like to hand out to emerging readers! There are 20 book titles to chose from – covering a range of styles, authors and genera’s – so there should be something for everybody.  Though being a ‘giver’ in the past is no guarantee that you’ll be picked again; I’m hoping that signing up early will help. I’m also therefore charging as many book club members as possible to join in the fun! This year we held a Books, Buns (and Booze!) night at White Swan Leeds which was just a fantastic evenings entertainment. There were tables full of trays of cakes, buns and treats – all contributed by local book lovers. We ended up handing out copies of 9 different WBN options and had a general book swap too.

Crazy amounts of Point Horror books changed hands as I recall.

In England, the Yule Log is a large and hard piece of wood to be burned in the hearth.

In France, the Christmas Log is a traditional dessert with chocolate buttercream.

Well played France, well played.

I love this time of year – all friendship and delight and socialising. This year, for me, the big party of the season is Kirstymas, to be held on the 9th of December at Brewbar Espresso.

@Gazpachodragon is one of the pillars of the Leeds online scene and this event will bring together a number of her projects, including Folageddon (origami), Leeds Letters, Colouring Club, Photohunt, Coffee Crawl, Christmas Quiz and, of course, we’ll all be enjoying a twitnic.

The People of Leeds project is also co-ordinated by the ferociously cuddly @Gazpachodragon and as an alumni of the project, I can’t wait to meet every one else and compare experiences!

It’s a Wonderful Life is based on the 1939 short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, originally entitled The Greatest Gift. Stern was unable to find a publisher interested in releasing his tale, so he self published 200 copies and sent the resultant booklet to friends and family in 1943 as Christmas presents.

Two years later, the short story was privately published with the film released a year later in 1946.

Last year I was devastated to find that I was going to miss the annual (at least I think it is!) showing of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ at the Hyde Park Picture House. So, I’m planning ahead in good time and I’ve spotted this classic and heart-warming film is scheduled in for the week of the 21st of December. If you can, do book in and watch it!

The HPPH – for those not in the know – is one of Leeds hidden-ish treasures and is a glorious gem of a cinema. An Edwardian Grade II listed building; it’s the last remaining gas lit cinema in use in the UK. It still has a piano, organ, balcony and comfy seats – providing a genuinely civilised way to watch a far more eclectic selection of films than anywhere else in the city from Art House to classics to mainstream to all sorts of weird and wonderful along the way.  Recently, I went with a gaggle of gigglers to one of their semi-regular viewings of the 1986 film Labyrinth. Prior to that I sang along to my first live experience of the Rocky Horror Picture Show – this is quality stuff people!

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those films that everyone should just loathe – all good natured and heart warming; full of meaning and honest-to-gosh life lessons all wrapped up in a coat of sugar. It should be utterly trite and annoying and offensive. I LOVE it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Muppets Christmas Carol – my only truly essential viewing on Christmas Day – but it’s a great film for getting you into the festive spirit and in the mood for giving – harder and harder in these recession times.

In Finland, Joulupukki is a traditional Christmas figure, which has merged more or less with Santa Claus, despite originally translating to Christmas or Yule Goat.

Additionally, it is from Finnish translations that Rudolph became Santa’s lead reindeer.

Up until then, he was merely known for having a bright red nose.

For those of you with young charges (or who have retained their own youthful essence), the following look awesome!

  • – The Carriageworks Theatre has a production of Jack and the Beanstalk running until the 5th of January. All hail the giant killer…nowt so bloodthirsty as children’s entertainment eh?
  • City Varieties are bringing the joy of Cinderella to the city. Following on from the huge success of last years Aladdin, I believe that this will also be a Rock n Roll panto – so prepare yourselves!
  • – Along a similar vein, the West Yorkshire Playhouse will be kicking off ‘Big Stories for Little People’ with the enchanting story of Sleeping Beauty.
  • – If you fancy something a bit different, Tropical World are hosting the Totally Tropical Christmas. I believe that Santa has brought his friend the Fire Eater to join in the festivities. I get it, if you had a friend who ate fire, you’d invite them everywhere too!

In Irish tradition, a candle is lit and left visible over Christmas Night, signifying that hospitality is available for any who might need it. This emerged out of Mary and Joseph’s stay in a stable – where there is no room in Bethlehem, room can be found in these houses and hearts.

It’s also traditional to go for a swim in the sea on Christmas morning. Not every tradition is going to be a golden one eh?

Quick Round Up
You still have time – just – to catch Oliver at the Leeds Grand Theatre. We’ve just finished Hard Times by Charles Dickens for the book club at Arcadia and it’s put the longing in me to see this highly acclaimed production.

Christkindelmarkt will only be at Millennium Square for another week or so (ending on the 16th of December) though the Moroccan Market at Briggate runs till the last week of the month. Ideal for stocking fillers. Also, gingerbread. If I need to say more, you just don’t get it.

I’m finally heading to see The Wind in the Willows at the WY Playhouse so I’m cheating slightly with the Christmas Read-a-long to make sure that I have the book read in time. Once I have details on the Leeds Book Club jaunt to see it as a group, details will go up on the blog!

The Royal Family open their presents on Christmas Eve (in line with most of mainline Europe), contrasting with the rest of the population who open theirs on the morning of the 25th.

Ba Humbug
Already sick of the sound of Christmas? Sure, the rest of the world may be festively inclined, but that doesn’t mean you have to be!

Why not join LBC on the 16th of December for a trip to see the Hobbit at the Kirkstall Vue? For those not in the know, I’m a bit of a Tolkien fan. I would’ve said a huge one until I met members of the Tolkien Society. They are in another league! You will be swapping one over-the-top obsession for another, but this one has elves and hobbits and wizards – so clearly, it wins. We haven’t settled on a time just yet – film not being out just yet and all – details will be posted on the blog and on twitter in the next day or so.

There are a number of gift givers associated with Christmas –

including Ded Moroz/Father Frost (Russia), Basil of Caesarea (Greece), Christkind (Germanic Europe), Sinterklaas (Dutch), Saint Nicholas (Greece), Tomte (Nordic nations), Father Chirstmas (UK), Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann (France), Pai Natal (Portugal) and Papa Noel (Spain, Southern America).

Though we – especially in the Western World – tend to regard these as the same character each has a distinct and unique mythology behind them.

It’s impossible not to notice how wet, dark and miserable the last few weeks have been weather wise. Unfortunately, in these times, there are more and more people across the city requiring additional support.

As it is the season, I’ll be supporting one of the local Leeds based charities that specialise in supporting people at their lowest ebb. This way, I feel that I’m hopefully helping – albeit in a small way – and giving back to this city that I love.

Fancy joining in? As the large capitalist corporation slogan goes, every little helps.

Nollaig Shona Duit

*Doctor Who and Calling the Midwife are both acceptable substitutes to Downton Abbey.

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