24 December 2018

It's Christmas Eve in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .

One of my favorite old images of Santa Claus/Father Christmas.  More understated that the Coca-Cola version that has taken over everywhere, eh?


The ground is white with fresh snow east of the sun and west of the moon in the far off Grand Duchy of Stollen. Billowing, silvery drifts are piled throughout the country. The rivers and lakes are frozen solid. The woods are still but for the distant jingle of sleigh bells in the bracing air. The sky is slate grey, and heavy coal smoke hangs over the villages and towns. It is almost Christmas here in the Grand Duchy, somewhere very near to Frederick’s Prussia, sometime during the mid-18th century.  More or less. 

Citizens of Krankenstadt bustle to and fro through snow-covered streets of the small capital city of the Grand Duchy, running last minute errands before the Christmas festival begins in earnest. The red brick North German Gothic storefronts feature special Christmas items and treats like the marzipan for which the city is known, and the happy faces of children peek in through the frosty windows at the cheerful seasonal displays.  Street vendors peddle their wares in the town square, shouting loudly above the din of shoppers, their voices forming puffs of steam in the wintry air.      

In the streets leading from the busy riverfront to the city center, the colorful, gabled merchants’ houses are warmly lighted by candles in each window as year-end business is concluded in the ground floor offices. Music and song emanate from the Lutheran and Catholic cathedrals on the town square as their choirs rehearse one final time for their respective Christmas services this evening. The notes and tones coalesce, spiraling up above the old city as organists and choirs rehearse their respective parts for the coming celebration. And in the side streets, local coffee houses and taverns provide a welcome respite from the biting Baltic cold along with hot beverages to warm the palettes of many a weary patron.       

Meanwhile, the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, his trusty English manservant Hives, and the palace staff are busy preparing for their midday departure.  The Grand Duke and Hives are joining his aunts  Hiltrud, Irmgard, and Waltraud, who, unbeknownst to to him, have decided once more, after failing yet again to procure an understanding with a young woman of suitable marrying age and family, that the time has come yet again for an end to all of this shilly-shallying.  Irwin-Amadeus II must settle down and marry!

Apropos their collective aims, the three formidable old ladies are once again  hosting a large house party and Christmas Eve ball in their nephew's honor at Aunt Hiltrud's home.  Besides a host of suitable young women, including the charming Lady Clothilde de Badinage, the guest house party list reads like a veritable who's who of Krankenstadt society, including the unlikely gambler and cardsharp Bishop Sivert Tiburtius, the Prince von Boffke and his wife the Lady Leonora Christina (nee von Grandin), and the terminally hungry Prussian ambassador to Stollen Herr Heinz von dem Salat as well as the inveterate gossip and society columnist Katrina-Bettina von Heffelfinger.   

Other guests on the list of people joining the aunts for the Christmas festival include the crafty General Leger de Maine, the overly accessorized General von Tschatschke, the hypochondriac General von Bauchschmerzen and his leaky hot water bottle as well as the ponderous and not-quite-yet outgoing English ambassador to Stollen, one Lord Huffington-Blather, who is eventually due to be replaced in the new year by the libidinous Lord Algernon Fortescue de Rumpier-Pumpier, whose reputation precedes him.  Poor Irwin-Amadeus II!  Without doubt, a madcap ballroom farce is sure to unfold before Christmas Day and continue through New Year's Eve.

Just before Noon, the ornate coach into which Irwin-Amadeus II and Hives have  at last nestled beneath bearskin blankets rolls away from the palace entrance on its way to Aunt Hiltrud's house.  The fresh snow squeaks and crunches beneath the coach wheels as the team of six horses drawing it trots across the courtyard toward the gate.  The Grand Duke's coach next passes a detachment of the the blue and yellow uniformed Corps of Pontoniers, led by the fabled Oberfeldwebel Klatschen of the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers.  The grizzled old NCO spies the grand ducal coach, shouts to the men in his charge to form up and give a salute to their monarch.

And in the spirit of the season, the gruff Klatschen throws caution and protocol to the chilled wind, wishing his Grand Duke the compliments of the season and "Frohe Weihnachten!" (Merry Christmas!) in a loud voice, hardened by much tabletop campaigning. The unwitting and befuddled Grand Duke nods and waves cheerfully, returning the wish through a coach window, bidding the marching troops well as the carriage pulls through the gate and out of the courtyard on it's journey to Aunt Hiltrud's country house a day's journey north of the city.  

Returning to the present for a moment, wherever in the world you might find yourself this Christmastime, as you drop by the Grand Duchy of Stollen for a cup of warm holiday cheer during the next several days or so, the "real" Irwin-Amadeus II, the fetching Grand Duchess Sonja, and Young Master Paul I bid you warm season's greetings. We would like to wish each and every one of you a safe, happy, and joyous holiday season. May you discover oodles of your preferred brand of figures in your stocking Christmas Morning, and perhaps a recent Charles Grant title, or two beneath your tree.  Maybe the latest issue of your preferred wargaming magazine?  Or  perhaps the 2019 Wargamer's Annual?  Or simply winter quietude and the company of those nearest and dearest to you.   

Tangible things notwithstanding, may your Christmas Day and the week following be filled with peace, joy, and the good cheer of close friends and family.  May the spirit of the season fill your hearts and lives in the coming year.  Merry Christmas from all of us in the Grand Duchy of Stollen!
 

-- Stokes 



A Christmas Eve P.S.
Everyone loves a parade!  Townsfolk stop to watch as The Provisional Hanseatic Regiment, consisting of men recruited from trading towns around the Baltic Sea, marches into Krankenstadt just in time for the Christmas celebration before taking  up garrison duties around the city in the new year.  Figures are by RSM95, Minden, Willie, Jackdaw, and Black Hussar.







Watch too for a small game during Christmas Week.  The table has been cleared and covered with Hotz terrain mats already in anticipation!  Speaking of anticipation, The Grand Duchess has informed me that she will bake her yeasty Dresdner Stollen either tomorrow of on Boxing Day.  It's never really Christmas yet until we have a stollen around here.  I cannot wait.

-- Stokes


Another great vintage seasonal image that seems, somehow, a bit more like Christmas ought to be  in stark contrast to the media- and retail-driven circus, um, cycle that now so colors the festive season.  And on the morning of December 26th, it's on to the next big thing.  Surely, there is more to the Christmas season, and the ideas behind it, than that?

7 comments:

Peter Douglas said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours Stokes

David Crook said...

Hi Stokes,

I could almost smell the mulled wine and ginger bread!

Have a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2019!

DC

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Hoorah for the Hanseaticers! and best wishes for Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Dan Foley said...

Merry Christmas!

Wellington Man said...

Wonderful!
Merry Christmas, Stokes
WM

Gallia said...

Merry Christmas Stokes and To Your Dear Family,
Bill P.

Mark Nichipor said...

A very Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family. Thank you for sharing and inspiring me to better Motorola and table.And a most wonderful parade! Love it!

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