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Tomte Finds a Home

The night was silent, not even the owl was calling. The tomte looked up at the night sky. Oh, so many stars flew in flocks overhead. The tomte trudged through the snow that was so deep he kept disappearing into deep holes and he was getting wet from climbing out of snowdrifts.

The tomte was looking for a new home. Tomtes had to have homes with families to look after and his family had left their house and moved far away. Tomtes belong on farms and not in the city so he was looking for a new home and some big people who would appreciate him and of course, didn’t already have their own tomte. The tomte sighed, as he made his way through the snow, he really wanted a home for Yule. He wanted children to bring gifts to and a farmer to bless with help on his farm. That is what tomtes did and he didn’t feel right not helping people.

He straightened his tall red pointed cap and tugged his beard straight and climbed out of yet another snow drift when he saw a light in the distance. He was so tired and wet. There was no point in using a drying spell if he was just going to get wet again. He trudged toward the light and came to a large new barn and peered inside. No other tomte was in sight. That was a good sign. He went in and found two cows drowsing in their stalls.

“Cows?” He whispered quietly, “Does a tomte live here?”

The first cow who was a beautiful light brown, looked down at the tomte. “No, we haven’t got a tomte and the family really needs one. This is a brand new farm and my name is Elsie”

“Hello Elsie, very pleased to meet you, my name is Karl, do you think they would mind a little help? Are they the kind of people who would be good to help? ”

The second cow lowed and said, “I’m Delsie and they have never been farmers before and they do need help and they have been very kind to us. I think we are their only wealth and they take very good care of us. I heard them say to the children that they might not get very much for Jul but that that wasn’t what was important. Being together was important.”

This made the tomte think. These might be the people he needed. The cows were beautiful and healthy and that was a very good thing since they hadn’t had a tomte to help them. He thought he’d go watch the family quietly if he could just to make sure they were his people.

The tomte trudged through the snow following some big people footprints back to the house. That made moving through the fresh snow a little easier. He followed the light falling through the window onto the snow and peered into the house from behind the new shutters. The tomte was impressed with how they had been sanded to a shiny soft shine and stained. These people took good care of what they had and had been doing it without a tomte!

In the main room stood a small tree that had been brought into the house in a pot. It’s branches had been hung with strands of popped corn and red berries. There were handmade ornaments of paper that had been obviously done by the children and he could see the mother cutting carefully into paper to make more snowflakes to hang on the tree. The two children were lying on the rug in front of the fire listening to a story that the grandmother was telling. It looked like she was knitting good wool socks as she spoke. The father was sitting smoking his pipe and listening and looking at the family with love and pride in his eyes. The tomte saw that there were no gifts under the Jul tree. He also saw that their clothes had been carefully mended but showed signs of hard wear. The tomte straightened his red hat and thought, “these people look like they could use a tomte like me! I need to help them!”

The tomte made his way over to the door and was about to go through as all tomtes can when the door swung open and the father came out to get more firewood. “That was easier!” thought the tomte as he quickly went to the house and hid behind the hanging brooms in the kitchen.

He waited into the father came in, stamping his feet to get the rest of the snow off and removing his boots. The father then piled the load carefully in the rack and went to hurry everyone to bed. It was Solstice Eve and farmwork and cows still had to be tended to in the early morning. The tomte watched as the family went to bed. The children went to the loft and the parents and grandmother to their rooms downstairs. The house settled down and it became very quiet with only the sound of snow falling off the trees and the slight sigh of the wind.

The tomte went to the mud room first. He cleaned the farmer’s boots and added a waterproofing spell. He then cleaned all the family’s clogs and shoes that were there and waterproofed them too. He went into the kitchen and charmed the pots so they wouldn’t burn the food and he had fun helping the yeast to grow in the bread and Jul rolls rising on the counter above the old wood burning stove. He polished the iron stove and charmed it too so the wood would burn evenly and there would be even heating.

He moved into the main room and stood looking at the lovingly decorated tree. It wasn’t very big but it was still lovely. He liked that the family had carefully dug up a live tree and were obviously going to put it outside again when they could. He liked that they hadn’t killed a tree for the holiday. The tomte decided to make the tree shine. He charmed the red berries to gleam and shine and he made the wooden ornaments glow just a little. He changed the paper snowflakes into flakes of shiny crystal that gleamed in the dimness. He put a spell on the candles that were on the tree to never cause harm and to go out when they burned down. He stood back and looked at his tree. It looked magical. What else could he do?

Tomtes give gifts but he didn’t know what this family wanted. What would be good? What would really help? Meanwhile while he thought, he very quietly left piles of nuts and fruit and candy in the slippers by each bed. The family all looked so peaceful and he felt so good to help. This is what a tomte did best but what would be the biggest help? He decided to go ask Elsie and Delsie what to do.

He hurried through the snow and back to that mostly empty barn to his new friends. “Elsie! Delsie! Your family is so wonderful and they love each other so much. I want to do something wonderful for them this Jul! Do you know anything they want or need?”

Elsie thought carefully, “They have love in plenty and isn’t that the greatest gift?” Delsie nodded her big head.

Delsie said quietly, “If you are helping them, they will have prosperity. What else do they need? Besides don’t tomtes all have goats? Where’s your goat?”

The tomte knew they were right but he still wanted to do something special. And then he knew what he was going to do and found a place in the hay and went quickly to sleep.

Early the next morning, the tomte woke up and cleaned the hay off. He peeked out. The farmer must not be up yet. He couldn’t see any lights in the kitchen. So he crept in the house and unbanked the fire in the stove and set the table. He went back outside and sent a call out to anyone that was listening.

“I’m a tomte and I need a goat? Is there anyone who needs a tomte and a place?” The tomte counted to himself, 1….2…..3……. and there was a small flash and a very young black and white goat was looking shyly at the tomte.

“You asked for a goat? I’m ready! The goat said eagerly.

The tomte looked at the tiny goat, “what’s your name?”

“Flicka” said the goat shyly.

Suddenly the door opened behind the tomte. He froze in place holding the goats mane.

And the farmer came out with his newly clean boots on.

The farmer smiled down at the tomte. “Are you the one that cleaned my boots?” the big man roared out.

The tomte shivered a little. He wasn’t supposed to be caught by the big people. “yes” he said very quietly.

The farmer got down to the tomte’s level and looked in his eyes. He held out his big hand to the tomte. By now the tomte was thoroughly confused. Big people coming down to his size? That hadn’t ever happened before.

“Thank you” the farmer said. “They look cleaner than when I bought them. “Thank you very much!” The tomte started to shake. The farmer was really big up close. “How can I help a tomte today?”

The tomte was now even more confused. “But I need to help you not you help me.” The tomte stammered out. “I need to know if you need anything.”

The farmer looked into the deep blue eyes of the tomte. The tomte noticed the whole family had come to the door and was listening. This was sooo not how it was supposed to work.

The farmer looked at the tomte kindly and back at his family. “All we need this Jul is a good friend. Are you a good friend, Sir Tomte?”

“I think so, I try to be.”

“Well”, said the farmer. Welcome to the house, Sir Tomte and please come in.” The farmer stood up and walked back in the house.

Karl, the tomte followed and when they were inside. He looked up at the farmer and around to the smiling family. “Could I be your Tomte?” he asked quietly.

The farmer looked at the tomte, “I thought you already were. Welcome to our house.” The whole family cheered and the tomte looked at his family and sighed. It was good to be home.

Yule Treat – Lemon Angel Pie

This used to be my requested birthday dessert if I didn’t want a cake and the weather was right. Meringue is weather dependent. Good thing my birthday was in June

Beverley Robb’s Lemon Angel Pie

4 egg whites (large)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar ( superfine)
4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
Grated lemon rind
1 cup heavy whipping cream  Powdered sugar to taste
½ teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 275 degrees (250 if using a glass pan)
Grease a 9 inch pie pan
Separate the eggs and return the yolks to the refrigerator
Let the whites come to room temperature
Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in large mixing bowl until whites are stiff but not dry.

Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff, glossy and sugar is completely dissolved
Put in pie pan and smooth top.

Bake for an hour or until the top shows palest tan.
Cool
Not to worry if top cracks.

In mixer bowl, beat egg yolks until stiff and lemon coloured. Gradually beat in granulated sugar. Blend in lemon juice and rind. Cook in double boiler over simmering water, stirring constantly until thick, 5 to 8 minutes.
Set aside to cool.
Whip heavy cream, and sweeten with ½ teaspoon of vanilla and powdered sugar to taste.
Spread half the cream over the crust to the edge.
Spread lemon custard over the cream and top with the remaining cream.
Chill 4 hours or overnight.
Serves  6 This recipe may be doubled using a 9×13 pan.

My mom usually made the doubled recipe and it’s great for after a heavy meal like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Yule Cookies – Chocolate stars

Chocolate Hearts

These are my all time favourites and they really aren’t a cookie. They are a confection because they have no flour.

3 oz of bitter chocolate
1 lb powdered sugar
2 or 3 unbeaten egg whites
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Melt 3 oz of chocolate
Add 1lb of powdered sugar
And mix thoroughly
Work to a stiff yet pliable paste with the unbeaten egg whites
Add 1 tsp of vanilla
Roll ¼ inch thick and cut with cookie cutter
Sprinkle the board with powdered sugar instead of flour
Place on oiled or foiled pan
And bake until firm at 325 degrees
Remove from pan after standing a minute to cool

Yule cookie – Toffee Bars

Toffee Bars

2 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or ½ cup butter and ½ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 oz of milk chocolate
½ cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar
Add egg and vanilla
Mix well
Add sifted dry ingredients mixing just enough to combine
Spread in shallow 10×15 greased pan
Bake in 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and cover with 6 oz of melted milk chocolate
(Grate on sheet immediately)
Then sprinkle with nuts
Cut into bars immediately and remove to wire racks

Makes 50 1×3 bars

Pagan carols – Ye children all of Mother Earth

Ye children all of Mother Earth ( It came upon a midnight clear)

Ye children all of Mother Earth Join hands and circle around.
To celebrate the Solstice night When our lost Sun is found.

Rejoice! The year has begun again. The Sun blesses skies above.
So share the season together now In everlasting love.

How does your family eat and what do they eat?

My sister and I were discussing our family traditions and in particular, the foods mom fed us on a regular basis and that we tend to fix for ourselves because that’s what we learned to make and eat. It’s just beginning to sink in how Scots/Scandinavian we still are when it comes to food.

I think breakfast is the most apparent. If you give us a choice, it will be a pastry, and milk and maybe some meat and some cheese. If it isn’t a pastry, its waffles or pancakes which are more like crepes than pancakes. I remember the first I was confronted with thick pancakes and being unsure of what they were. I do draw the line at pickled herring or herring in white sauce as breakfast food.

And pancakes and French toast tend to be served with butter and powdered sugar not syrup. Dad had to have syrup and it had to be maple, mom would switch to boysenberry syrup since Ikea hadn’t invaded yet to add lingonberries to our diet.

The Scandinavians are the largest consumers of dairy per capita in the world, Finland and Sweden are numbers one and two. The Dutch are number three. I just laughed when the doctor suggested I was allergic to milk and he did admit he had never seen a Swede that was. We have evolved to tolerate it and the only way you lose it is by losing the bacteria to digest it. If you start drinking it again and establish the flora you are back in the game.

You also get a lot of fish and potatoes, meatballs in white sauce and pea soup. Mom had to learn to cook for dad since he was raised on a farm in the Midwest and she would just have shitfits sometimes over the things he would cook for himself like fried mash potatoes in bacon grease. When he was sick we could always tell because he would start making Navy bean soup and as a child I could never figure out why it wasn’t blue, it was Navy bean wasn’t it? He also was always eating things my mother would consider spoiled like green on cheese, he would cut the green off and keep eating.

Dad wanted red meat and potatoes and as few vegetables except beans as he could get away with. Mom occasionally would like to experiment. The night she first made tacos for dad was interesting to say the least. Mom knew tacos, she was born in LA in 1922, her parents were the immigrants. Dad was not certain until he ate them what she was trying to feed him. He liked them so they became a regular dinner item.

We always ate dinner as a family and before my mom went back to work when my sister was old enough to go to school all day, breakfast too. We were allowed to read at the table sometimes but you had to explain why you thought the book was good enough to do that and dad had to not be wanting to read the paper.

Swedes are big on coffee and the Scots are more likely to have tea. Mom served coffee for she and dad, hers was black, his with lots of milk, truthfully more milk than coffee. When I spent the summer with my maternal grandparents, Grandma and I had tea and Grandpa had coffee. Grandma would make it in really concentrated distilled batches once a week and then would use it to make his coffee in the morning.

Grandpa wanted his Danish in the morning, his herring and coffee and toast. Grandma would make oatmeal or Cream of wheat or some hot cereal for herself and I got the sugar cereal I wasn’t allowed to eat at home until there my sister came along. Grandpa had a sweet tooth and would buy sweetened cereals and save the toys. That was his excuse he was saving the toys for the grandkids. He could not be persuaded to homemade Muesli or other cow grazing cereals.

I have no idea why we were allowed sweetened cereal until Alison came along except that if mom was working finally when I was in high school she could shove that at us and then she could get ready for work. We only got if they could afford it and there was a toy my brother and I couldn’t live without. I still would rather have a pastry for breakfast, thank heavens, for Sunday trips after church to Martino’s bakery for bread and a week’s worth of breakfast pastries and tea cakes.

I still go over to Gelsons on Saturday or Sunday mornings because they have fresh Danish right out of the oven and if I can get there early enough I can snag a lemon one before they run out. If I have a vice it’s fresh lemon Danish and milk.

So sometimes when American allegedly Norse worshipping pagans start claiming to know how Scandinavians eat other than mead, most are eating weird shit that probably had no resemblance to what the Norse really ate.  I want to see them eat lutefisk. Hah! The minute my great-grandma Hilde/Halde died at 92 the Sjobergs eliminated it from all family holiday menus. That shit is nasty and I like most fish.

Most American pagans don’t think of cultural appropriation in terms of European cultures but I think it can be if you don’t know the culture and the history of the reason behind the ways of doing things. Sometimes it’s like the house wife who always cut the end off the roast because her mother did and she finally asks her mother why she did it and her mother tells her that she didn’t have a pan big enough so she had to take the end off.

I have to admit I was very comfortable eating in the UK except for haggis because they were cooking like mom. They used butter instead of mayo for instance. Just try getting a sandwich here with butter instead of mayo. The fish was amazing and I think plaice is the best fish on the planet.

Until recently most families ate the same way their families always did. If your mother made it, your grandmothers probably had too and on back. Now our eating patterns are all disturbed with fast food, instant meals in microwaves and you don’t eat with your family and you don’t talk to your elders and learn the stories or how and why they think a certain way. We talked about what we had learned in school, what we were reading, what the country was doing, current events, family history, I learned to pun at the dinner table. I learned when I disagreed sometimes I didn’t know when to shut up if dad was in one of his moods and sometimes I did it anyway but we were really talking to each other and not at each other. If your don’t eat as a family, how do you even know who your family members are?

We are a product and a continuation of all the family members who came before us, and the only way we learn who they were is by talking to the people in the family.

I have memories of so many holiday dinners. I remember the last Christmas dinner with my great – grandmother. When she had brought the family to America from Sweden her requirement was that they learn English. They had landed in Duluth and they joined the local Presbyterian church because it was the only church that held services in English and not some Scandinavian language. The minute they all learned English she moved them to LA sometime between 1900 and 1910 according to census data. But Grandpa said it was because she was not going to live some place colder than Sweden. The problem with only speaking English was when she was in her 90s she would revert to Swedish occasionally and I can still remember sitting at the table with my Uncle Don and him saying to her when she had asked for the jam and the jelly. “Say jam and jelly, Grandma.” And she dutifully said, “Jam and jelly, now pass me the yam and the yelly”. Even at 5 this struck me as being hilarious.

Yuletide – Pagan Carol – God Rest Ye Merry Pagan Folk

God Rest Ye Merry Pagan Folk

God rest ye merry pagan folk
Let nothing you dismay
Remember that the Sun returns
Upon this Solstice Day!
The growing dark is ended now
And Spring is on it’s way.

O tidings of Comfort and joy
Comfort and joy!
O tidings of Comfort and joy!

The Winter’s worst still lies ahead
Fierce tempest, snow and rain!
Beneath the blanket on the ground
The spark of life remains.
The Sun’s warm rays caress the seed.
To raise Life’s songs again!
O tidings …

Within the blessed apple lies
The Promise of the Queen
For from this pentacle shall rise
The orchards fresh and green.
The Earth shall blossom once again.
The air be sweet and clean.

Blessed St Andrew’s Day!

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From my Clan Chief: Michael MacFarlane

St. Andrew’s Day is the feast day of Saint Andrew. It is celebrated on the 30th of November. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew’s Day (Scots: Saunt Andra’s Day, Scottish Gaelic: Là Naomh Aindrea) is Scotland’s official national day.

In 2006, the Scottish Parliament designated St Andrew’s Day as an official bank holiday. It is also a national holiday in Romania.

Although most commonly associated with Scotland, at least in the English-speaking world, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople[1] and Saint Andrew, Barbados.

In Germany, the feast day is celebrated as Andreasnacht (“St Andrew’s Night”), in Austria with the custom of Andreasgebet (“St Andrew’s Prayer”), and in Poland as Andrzejki (“Little Andrews”, diminutive), in Russia as Андреева ночь (“Andrew night”). Scotland’s Flag -The Saltire -The Cross of St. Andrew .

The Saltire is the national flag of Scotland and, with a white diagonal cross on a blue background, it represents the crucifixion of the apostle St Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint.

Believed to be the oldest flag in Europe, the origin of the flag comes from an old legend. Tradition has it that the flag originated in a battle fought near the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford in AD 832.

An army of Picts and Scots under King Angus invaded the Lothians (at that time still Northumbrian territory), and found itself surrounded by a larger force of Saxons led by Athelstan.

Fearing the outcome, King Angus led prayers for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white Saltire against the blue sky. The king vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire eventually became the flag of Scotland.

In 2003 the Scottish Parliament specified the official colour of the flag using the international colour coding system and it was decided that the white St Andrew’s Cross should appear on an azure background known as Pantone 300.

Along with the royal flag, the Lion Rampant, the Saltire can be seen flying with gusto in the crowds of international sporting events, on churches and on national and local government offices.

Customs And Traditions Of St Andrews Day

People in Scotland and Scottish people who find themselves living abroad celebrate St Andrew’s Day by playing or listening to bagpipe music and dancing to Scottish music. The day following St Andrew’s Day marks the first day of Advent on 1 December.

A young woman or girl should pray on the night of the 29 November to be married. They would look for a sign about their future husband on the 30 November. One such sign would be to throw a shoe at the door of her parents house. If the toe pointed to the house she would be staying there another year. If it pointed away from the home she would be leaving to be wed within the year and live with her spouse. Another old custom from Saint Andrew Day is that a young woman should try and peel an apple in one go. This peel would then form the initial name of her intended.

There is no specific food that should be eaten on St Andrews Day, though some enjoy cock-a-leekie soup as a started and a main course of haggis whilst others eat fish because Saint Andrew was a fisherman.

A modern day custom on Saint Andrews day is free admission to Scottish Castles that are maintained by Historic Scotland. These include free entry to Edinburgh Castle, St Andrews Castle and St Andrews Cathedral today to celebrate St Andrews Day.