Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Holly and the Ivy and the Sacred Colin Firth Christmas Jumper Picture

The Holly and the Ivy, a Christmas carol dating from the 17th - 18th Century, is one of my most favorite.  The concept of Holly and Ivy has come to symbolize different things over time, from the original pagan festivities of the Winter Solstice, or emerging as a homage to Jesus Christ and his Virgin birth, to even being a representation of the Battle of the Sexes.

The dreaded Pagans - Holly was sacred to the Druids.  To alleviate the dreariness of winter they would decorate their dwelling places with it, allowing the greenery and the berries to recall the Springtime to come, the hope and promise of rebirth.  Pagans fashioned Holly and Ivy into wreaths and garlands for the Winter months; Ivy had a close association with the idea of Bacchus, the Roman God of wine, Holly with Saturnalia (upon which the Christmas holiday was based)  Holly and Ivy were accepted decorations during Roman times, and despite the disapproval of early church fathers, they gradually found their way into our Christmas traditions.

The Church - Early English Lyrics by Chambers and Sidgwick, published in 1926, mentions a broadside of 1710 with a version of the carol which begins

The holly and the ivy
Now are both well grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour.

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good.

The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.

The holly bears a bark
As bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown.

Here the Pagan symbols for life and rebirth, Holly and Ivy, are captured in lyrics that possess a definite Christian meaning.   The blossom, 'white as lily flower,' recalls the purity of the Blessed Mother and the innocence of the birth of Jesus.  The red berry recalls the blood of Christ, the prickle of the leaves as sharp as the Crown of Thorns, the bark bitter as the gall given to Christ to drink as he died on the cross.  'Of all the trees that are in the wood, the Holly bears the Crown."

The Battle of the Sexes - Everyone's favorite bitter/sweet battle.  Supposedly, in ancient English village life, men and women would hold singing competitions in midwinter with the men praising Holly for its masculine strength and disparaging the Ivy for it's femininity.  Of course, women took the opposite viewpoint (remember, the battle between men and women is as old as time).  Women would praise the Ivy for its feminine qualities and scorn the Holly for it's manliness.  Not surprisingly, more 'Holly' songs survived, as this example below.

Holly stands in the hall, fair to behold:
Ivy stands without the door, she is full sore a cold.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.

Holly and his merry men, they dance and they sing,
Ivy and her maidens, they weep and they wring.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.

Ivy hath chapped fingers, she caught them from the cold,
So might they all have, aye, that with ivy hold.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.

For me - The Holly and the Ivy reminds me of watching old black and white Christmas movies on television late at night, the English ones especially, like A Christmas Carol - every year my brother and I would watch the Alastair Sim version on TV (NEVER the Reginald Owen one).  I also think of midnight mass for which I could never seem to stay awake.  As the choir sang carols I would fall asleep leaning on my mom's arm or snuggled in my father's lap.  

Happily, the carol continues as popular as always, bringing me so many happy memories of Christmas past.  When I was younger I never understood when old relatives would become melancholy on such a wonderful day!  I loved Christmas and the gifts and the family joy.  But then time took its toll on me as well. I got to be an old crank like my aunts and uncles before me.  As you age you sometimes lose your grasp on the holiday you loved as a child; worse yet, you lose the very people who made it special.  

It is then that the real meaning of Christmas, hopefully, recharges your spirits.  This is a holiday of hope and rebirth; after all, the salvation of the world is at hand.

Hold your loved ones near and never let them go

And have a very Merry Christmas
God Bless Us, One and All.

Karen V. Wasylowski is the author of two books, 'Darcy and Fitzwilliam' a rollickingly funny continuation of Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'
'Sons and Daughters', a rollickingly funny continuation of 'Darcy and Fitzwilliam'
(The Family Saga of Mr. Darcy)

Purchase either book here, at

Visit her blog, as well


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A morning visit with Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam

“Mr. Darcy, sir.”

“Yes, Mrs. Reynolds.”

“Sorry to disturb your breakfast – oh, good morning Colonel Fitzwilliam. I was unaware you were breakfasting here…at Pemberley…today…again –.”

“Morning, Mrs. Reynolds, let myself in. I wonder, are there any more coddled eggs in the kitchens? And some ham perhaps. A good roast wouldn’t be turned away…”

Darcy lowered his newssheet. “Fitzwilliam, haven’t you your own food, your own residence…your own kitchens? Why am I continuously feeding you here?”

“Well, what an incredibly thoughtless thing to say. I am shocked, Darcy, horribly affronted, wounded deeply – oh, and, by the way, if you’ve more scones down there, Mrs. Reynolds, you may as well bring those up as well. Wouldn’t want your cook’s excellent excess gone to waste.”

Darcy sighed then turned to his housekeeper. “Bring him fruit and two slices of bread with jam; he’s had enough meat, eggs and pie to sink a boat already. Mrs. Reynolds, what was it you wanted?”

“There was a woman here to see you…”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, Darcy, Darcy, Darcy – such scandalous behavior…”

“Ignore my cousin, Mrs. Reynolds; proceed.”

“As I was saying, there was a woman here to see you, that American – Karen V. Masikowsky, or Wasyhooski, or something like that; the one who wrote the book about you and Colonel Fitzwilliam – ‘Darcy and Fitzwilliam; A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer.’

Fitzwilliam slammed his knife and fork onto the table. “Oh gad, not her again! She pestered me last time until I thought I’d lose my mind, Darcy…”

“…what mind…?”

“… stalking my wife, questioning my servants…”

“What does she want, Mrs. Reynolds?”

“…I swear I even saw her sifting through my trash. In fact, I definitely saw a rather chubby foot sticking straight out from the compost heap last September. Must have been her. Hope it was her…”

“Well, Mr. Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, apparently she’s written another book, sir, this one about you and the Colonel and events that happened during the next twenty years of your marriages.”

“Oh, will you look at the time. I’d better be off.”

“Sit down, Fitzwilliam.”

“Kind of you to ask me to stay, Darcy; however, I really should be going. I need to shave and then I’m to meet my estate manager, or the bishop, or my solicitor…”

“Which is it?”

“Take your choice. I just don’t wish to be in the same room with that woman! Only heaven knows what she’s dug up…no pun intended regarding the compost heap incident…”

“Come now. She could not have discovered anything that scandalous, Fitzwilliam.”

“Do you remember the past twenty years?”

“Show her in, Mrs. Reynolds.”

“Are you mad, Darcy?”

“Evidently so, you’re still here.”

“I am afraid she’s already left the premises, sir. Last I saw of her she was bouncing up and down the driveway and cackling like a crazy woman. I think she’s a pea short of a casserole, sir, if I may be so bold.” Mrs. Reynolds placed a book upon the table then and produced a short missive from her apron pocket. “She left these behind, a copy of her new book, 'Sons and Daughters', and a note.”

Darcy opened the note ~~

Here is my latest book, “Sons and Daughters” a sequel to my Pride and Prejudice sequel, “Darcy and Fitzwilliam” ~~

“Rather peculiar woman if you ask me.” Fitzwilliam picked up the book, turned it over. “Pretty cover, not as nice as the first, but still, quite pleasurable. What else does she say Darcy?”

Darcy proceeded to read aloud ~~

Your story is now a Family Saga, you see. I feel it began with “Pride and Prejudice” then continued with “Darcy and Fitzwilliam”, and now goes forward again with “Sons and Daughters”. “Sons and Daughters” begins five years after the end of my first book and follows you and the Colonel for the next twenty years, examines your choices as fathers, the sacrifices you made for your families, describes your children’s infancies, adolescence, their young adulthood and finally their maturing into adults in their own right. I hope you enjoy. There shall be more, but for now, I am your obedient servant, Karen V. Wasylowski~~

“More? God help us!” Fitzwilliam had opened the book to a random page and began reading. It wasn’t long before a hoot of laughter escaped him. “Well, I do hate to admit it, but this is quite funny! Remember the incident with the children when they found my trunk in the attic, the one with my war mementos, those rather bawdy ink drawings from France? Listen to this, Darcy.” Fitzwilliam then began to read a short excerpt from Sons and Daughters …

“What ever possessed you to retain these pictures?”

“They’re works of art, Darcy! Very valuable.”

“Oh, yes, I can sense the influence of Botticelli here, what would he call this, Venus Reclining in Barracks?”

“Don’t look so smug. You don’t understand, you’ve never been to war, brat. Alone, dispirited, terrified, and forced to live in appalling deprivation…”

“Your mistress secured a villa for you both throughout much of the Portuguese Campaign and, when in France, you stayed at the Palace. Please spare me the – oh, good heavens. Is that his foot?”

“Give me those. Oh, I say, Darcy, I actually met this woman in Paris. She was very pleasant.”

“I spoke with George, explained to him all about procreation. He was bored to tears but then inquired about the upcoming horse race that Tattersall’s is sponsoring, said he needed other thoughts to distract him from the horrors he had witnessed in the attic. The child is becoming a first rate manipulator.”

“Did it work? Are you taking him?”

“Yes, of course I am. Guilt is a wonderful incentive. Did you speak with your children?”

“Good gracious no! I’m certain the boys would do better learning the way we learned, behind the barns or peeking in windows…”

“You are pathetic.”

“Never claimed to be otherwise. Sweet St. Timothy’s shin bone, Darcy, did you see this one?”

“I have not the same prurient tastes as you…ooh, let me see that. Good God! Is that Barlow?”