This year the traditional blue spruce was not delivered to Dameg Square. This meant no Christmas tree for the Square, and no tree for Rookpot. The tree is the centre of the city’s Christmas festivities – what to do in its absence?
In years gone by, when dragging a giant spruce tree from the Daggerrock Mountains to Rookpot, and them up through the steep, narrow streets to Dameg Square, was impractical, the celebrations were focussed instead upon the tree that always lives in the Square: the bent oak that leans over the gorge. The oak has bare branches in December, and so every household in the city creates three leaves, usually from paper or cloth: one red, one golden, and one green, to cover the tree in bright foliage.
This led to exploring other forgotten Christmas traditions, hidden in the Museum archives. These traditions grew from the close relationship between the Peoples, and when the wolvern, foresteens and seafolk withdrew from human contact, the traditions were abandoned as well. By reviving them once more, it is hoped that the other Peoples may be encouraged to return to Rookpot.
A giant wreath adorned the heavy, ancient Cathedral doors. Young foresteens would once have climbed Rookpot tor and hung it themselves. This year it was wrought by volunteers from the Cathedral choir and by a group of Museum Assistants. They entwined holm, mistletoe, and the feathered branches of blue and fire-tinged firs, but not ivy (out of respect for the foresteens), and garnished it with red and white holly berries amidst their dark, shiny leaves.
The Square is bathed in the shimmering light of the giant silver star that sits atop the Council Chambers, visible from the ever-spreading suburbia that surrounds the tor. Ropes of brightly coloured lights criss-cross the Square, and drape over the entrances to the Library and the Chambers. Once these would have been ropes of jewels from wolvern mines, but now they are illuminated by slightly less mystic electric bulbs.
A red, blue, green or yellow (or sometimes all four) candle is placed in every window in the Square, kept alight until well into January. This is one of the recent traditions. As is using the leftover fat from Christmas dinners to create balls embedded with nuts and dried fruit that are hung up on trees, outside windows, and on the Library roof for the city birds.
There have been other visitors to the city, according to the archives, more mythical and legendary than the Peoples. There is an entire section in The Lilac Beech devoted to Creatures from the Gorge, and two of these seem to be associated with Christmas, and they both seem to have paid a visit this Christmas. How else to explain the light dusting of snow on rooves and window sills other than frost fairies? And who else would have left a small gift or bauble on the porch of every house on Christmas morning but the Gorge Gnomes? There are even rumours that the golden stag with the black antlers, Black Goron Carw, has been seen racing silently through the streets, spreading the Christmas spirit in his wake.
To work up an appetite for Christmas lunch, it was decided to re-introduce the Kickabout. The Kickabout had been indefinitely suspended because the last time it was played somebody fell into the gorge. But that had been many years ago, and everyone was confident that that would not happen again. It is a game loosely based on football, in that there is a ball involved, and it is played between the Cathedral, the Library, the Museum and the Council Chambers, although really anyone can join in. It starts in Dameg Square, but often spills out into surrounding streets and Squares. Two players from each side carry the goals, and another carries a bucket of punch and a ladle. Those that manage to avoid being dragged into the game sip on large mugs of steaming hot chocolate. Nobody is ever sure who the winner is – but as long as nobody falls into the gorge, it is considered a success.
Later in the evening, after the post-lunch snooze, the people take to the streets once more. This is a lazy time. A time for eating (if possible) the rich, rum, bourbon or whisky-soaked fruit cakes and mince pies. When the Peoples used to join the festivities this would be a time for feasting. This year the flattened sugar biscuits have been cut out into shapes that resemble wolvern, foresteens and seafolk.
At midnight, or soon after, fireworks fill the sky, and all of the bells in the city ring out. This was the farewell to the Peoples as they returned to the mountains, the forests and the sea. This year it is to remind the frost fairies, the Gorge Gnomes, and even Black Goron Carw, that they must now return from whence they came.
They will be welcome back next year, though. As will the other Peoples, should they wish to celebrate Christmas with Rookpot once again.