On the tenth day of Christmas – Leaping and dancing: happiness!

On the tenth day of Christmas,

my true love gave me

Ten Lords a-Leaping,

Nine Ladies Dancing,

Eight Maids a-milking,

Seven Swans a-swimming,

Six Geese a-laying,

Five Gold Rings,

Four Calling Birds,

Three French Hens,

Two Turtle Doves,

and

A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

According to the tradition, the Ten Lords represent the Ten Commandments:

  • I am the Lord, your God. (Preface)
  • Thou shall bring no false idols before me.
  • Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  • Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  • Honour thy father and thy mother.
  • Thou shall not kill.
  • Thou shall not commit adultery.
  • Thou shall not steal.
  • Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  • Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s wife.
  • Thou shall not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbour.

I understand the necessity to remember the main tenets of the faith but, indeed, this is no great fun on the twelve days of Christmas! I like the idea of the Lords a-Leaping better than the Ten Commandments – may the Lord and the Roman Catholic Church have pity on me.

The Ten Lords a-leaping make me think of dancing (thanks to the simile my sister makes with some ballet dancers and frogs), and of the tradition we have in the family to watch the New Year’s Day Concert in Vienna on TV. Whatever was to be done that day – and it was most surely a family lunch with Grand-Mother and Grand-Father and various Uncles and Aunts – it was a rule to push it back after two o’cock in the afternoon.

In France, the concert is seen “live”. Therefore, at a quarter past eleven, when the first notes of Marc-Antoine Charpentier Te Deum were announcing the Eurovision broadcasting, all family was gathered in the sitting room, somewhat uncomfortably perched on chairs, in front of the TV set.

I have to digress somewhat. There was a TV set almost at the very beginning of TV at both my grand-parents. Mother and Father were then very used to TV and we grew up with TV as well. But in all houses or flats or any dwelling, the set has been placed in an uncomfortable place. The only concession was that it was in sitting rooms but at such an odd angle that nobody could watch any programme for long without getting a lumbago, a squint, a stiff neck, or other benign but very real ailment. The reason was that nobody should stay long in front of the screen: that was unhealthy and there were several better things to do. I confess that some remnants of this attitude stay with me as it IS still uncomfortable for the Little family to watch TV. One of us gets an armchair and may see things properly; another may get a less comfortable armchair, set in in a gap in between a sofa and the wall, see things from an angle, and get both lumbago and stiff neck; the third gets a straight back wooden chair absolutely uncomfortable, and may do a crossword puzzle better than watch the programme. I may change it one day but old habits die hard…

So, to come back to the NYD concert, Mother was in the comfortable armchair and all the others perched as they could.

There were comments upon the Musikverein, the flowers, the concert from the year before and its conductor while the commentator was talking to make people wait patiently for the orchestra and the maestro to be ready. We stopped talking when the conductor entered the auditorium. One could have waited for us to applaud since we were so intensely transported to the concert hall.

Und es war Musik!

Unanimously silent and listening. Intent. Some closing eyes. Some intent on the joke to come. Relaxed and happy. One of the few times when my whole family was gathered and relaxed. Communion between the conductor and the orchestra, among the members of the orchestra, among the conductor, the orchestra and the family. Bewitched. Deeply happy. Laughing at the jokes. No criticism. As if we were in the concert hall and at the same time, a united family in a country house rather shabby but comfortable sitting room.

Of course there was the habitual tourism and promotion of Wien and the Donau and the vineyards forever associated by us to Schubert – don’t ask me why -, the Little Vienna Singers and the kitsch of the dancing in the Prater, the Hofburg or Shönbrunn, when the dancers go and run in the various rooms, “playing hide and seek” as my sister said, and “leaping like frogs” (here comes the simile).

Grand-parents and other members of the family would arrive and join us little by little. And, please, do not laugh now. Grand-Father only knew how to dance the polka and would invite Grand-Mother for a polka lente that would turn into a polka rapide; they would laugh like young people. Father would ask my sister for three or four turns of a waltz, and as much as she sings flat, as well she has the rythm of the dance in her. I was asked by sheer politeness as I am as stiff as a broomstick! Mother was asked  by Father (always) demurely for the Blue Danube, at the end of the concert. And we all clapped duting the Radetzky March, following the instructions of the maestro. We were entranced and stupid. But immensely happy.

After the concert, Father would say that it was time for him and us all to refresh our memories by some useful reading about Mittel Europa, by novels by Musil, Rilke, Schnitzler, and authors of the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire. That would take us through the lunch and most of the afternoon! I still have my Mittel Europa crisis in January…

Now that there are only The Girls and myself, we are still ready by a quarter after eleven in the morning. We start lunch during the intermission but nothing would make us move when the concert is resumed. I invite my sister for three or four turns of waltz – usually the Blue Danube – and sometimes another one. We laugh at the jokes. We clap during the final March. And we shout “Bonne Année” as an answer to the orchestra and the conductor’s wishes. I think it is one of the few moments during the end-of-the-year festivities when we are truly happy and with no more self-consciousness, grief, and sorrow. Therefore thanks to Klemens Krauss and the Eurovision at the end of the 1950s!

We are neither leaping nor gambolling on the first of January, and it is not the tenth day of Christmas, and yet, we feel like the lords that

On the tenth day of Christmas,

my true love gave me

Ten Lords a-Leaping,

Nine Ladies Dancing,

Eight Maids a-milking,

Seven Swans a-swimming,

Six Geese a-laying,

Five Gold Rings,

Four Calling Birds,

Three French Hens,

Two Turtle Doves,

and

A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

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4 thoughts on “On the tenth day of Christmas – Leaping and dancing: happiness!

    1. In fact, i realised that I was writing along this theme of time past when I started blogging, early in April – time crystallized in a drop of dew, etc. This theme has almost always been with me because of some great books and lectures at the university – the place of the Antonines, for instance. I developped it in the few short stories I wrote. And it came back when I startd working upon the Advent Calendy (mine and the entry for Solveig’sblog). Perhaps, I should go back to the short stories and work on them but the blog is taking much of my free time.
      And, yes, if ou consider that I am 22, I have lived a life that has been full and anachronic. My familly was different from others, both conservative and innovative.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re 22? For some reason with all of the stuff that has changed in your life I expected a little older. I would guess that it is the passing of the oldest generation that has made so many of the changes.

        What might be good would be a series of short stories that are loosely tied together and loosely based on your family and it’s traditions and how those traditions quickly became a thing of the past. Although they would be only partially related, they could gel into a larger narrative, making a bigger story about a time and place.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I am 22 but with a brother who died of a genetic illness (muscular degenerescence – myopathy) and the discovery that I carry the gene and may pass it on to daughters (as Mother did with me) a,d/or give the illness to sons. This triggered depression and working alcoholism. I had leaped years at school and did it again so strated university really early: burnout and two minor strokes followed. Mother fell ill (cancer) and had a reprieve but finally lt herself die two years and a half ago. My Godmother died of cancer three months after Mother. She had a sister suffering from DownS (56 now) like my sister (20 now) and both their wills made me guardian of The Girls, leaving me the house in Dordogne and a small allowance. I stopped all studies and went to the country with The Girls. Father died not longer after Mother. Brothers live their lives.
    This is a full life time behind me!
    The short stories are following the pattern you describe. They are in English and will need editing of course. A friend of mine who is a publisher thought of having one side of a book (if they reah the book format…) in English, and a re-writing (not exactly a translation) in French on the other side.
    There is one major character and others who are more or less important according to the stories, some being the protagonists of the stories and he major character being only one amongst others.
    But the blog is taking mire and more time. I shall have either to choose or to reduce the activity on the blog.

    Like

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