01 February 2019

"Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve"

by Robert Herrick

Down with the rosemary and bays,
      Down with the misletoe ;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
      The greener box (for show).

The holly hitherto did sway ;
      Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day,
      Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box which now hath grace
      Your houses to renew;
Grown old, surrender must his place
      Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
      And many flowers beside;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
      To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
       With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments
        To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift ; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

31 January 2019

"Silence Profound"

by Coleen Shelver Keefe
(from "Victorian Homes," December 2006)

Quiet, soft and steady,
Not a sound can be heard,
Not a whisper of the wind,
Not a call of a bird.

A cold stormy night
Let a blanket of snow
And a silence as pure
As a carved cameo.

The snowy ground glistens,
The air smells of pine.
Trees webbed with hoarfrost
Leave a dreamy design.

Nothing compares,
To the beauty of snow,
To the sparkle of frost,
To the clouds hanging low…

Except for the quiet,
The stillness profound,
That floats on the air
And covers the ground.

25 January 2019

Rudolph Day, January 2019

"Rudolph Day" is a way of keeping the Christmas spirit alive all year long. You can read a Christmas book, work on a Christmas craft project, listen to Christmas music or watch a Christmas movie.

I was actually listening to some Christmas music today as I read my very last Christmas magazine, "Early American Life's" Christmas issue. This is always the last one I read because I like to savor it. The articles this year were chiefly about vintage (18th century, early 19th) Christmas decorations and historical sites that feature them, like Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts. There were also photographs of hand-crafted primitive Christmas items like hooked rugs and hand-carved Santas (ones featuring the Santas I favor, the figures with a robe and hood). On the CD player was George Winston's "December" album. I love Winston's playing and compositions. I can't describe how he plays; it's as if you are hearing the whole song but also the pure, individual notes one at a time. I also played the Windham Hill album "Simple Gifts." This includes a lovely instrumental version of "In Bethlehem City."

Christmas Past, Robert Brenner
Price guides are usually a snooze. Really, you just buy one of these volumes to determine if a certain item or items you have is worth money. There are photos of an item and prices for "fine," "good," and "fair."

Unless you get a Schiffer book, and this one is a prime example of one: oh, there are prices, but way in the back. The rest of the book is a history of whatever  you're pricing: in this case, vintage Christmas ornaments of all stripes (and one chapter on vintage Christmas lighting outfits and lamps), with lots of text and a variety of black and white/color photographs. Brenner covers everything, from the history of decorating trees to the specialty decorations: wax figures, gilded painted "Dresdens" (3D paper ornaments), glass balls and figurals, Czechoslovakian bead ornaments, wire, tinsel trims, "scrap" paper ornaments, cotton batting figures. There are also photographs of vintage Christmas trees and advertisements.

More than a "price book" for collectors, this is a history book. It is somewhat out of date (revised edition being 1992), so the prices won't be correct, but as a reference book it's still a delight to read. I had not read it since I purchased it in the mid-90s and discovered references to several things I had come to learn about since that time. In a later chapter Brenner discusses the opening of Christmas stores and mentions Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, MI, a place we had the delight of visiting in 2012. It also mentions the old Christmas store that used to be in Helen, GA, that was, sadly, damaged by fire and closed. And finally, for knowledge of vintage Christmas ornaments, he directs people to the super group The Golden Glow of Christmas Past, an organization of people who collect and decorate with vintage Christmas ornaments, and who have a yearly convention where these ornaments are sold and panels about Christmas decor are given. I belong to their Facebook group and this is a super-nice collection of people who have the most astoundingly beautiful decorations.

If you still remember your grandmother's (or even great-grandmother's) vintage ornaments, or if beautiful old Christmas trees in vintage photographs delight you, or you're just interested in the history of Christmas decorating, this is a great source for information and the variety of ornaments from the past—realistic fruits, hot air balloons, Charlie Chaplin and Native American heads, hedgehogs, pigs, red-topped mushrooms, bunches of grapes, and more—will certainly please. Brenner has several other books about Christmas decorations, including a volume about the 1940s-1950s, one for the 1960s forward, and a big hardback called Christmas Through the Decades.

15 January 2019


Robert Louis Stevenson

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,  
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;  
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,  
A blood-red orange, sets again.  
Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;  
And shivering in my nakedness,  
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.  
Close by the jolly fire I sit  
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore  
The colder countries round the door.  
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap  
Me in my comforter and cap;  
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.  
Black are my steps on silver sod;  
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;  
And tree and house, and hill and lake,  
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

06 January 2019

"Farewell to Christmas"

Noël is leaving us,
Sad it is to tell,
But he will come again,
Adieu, Noël.

His wife and his children
Weep as they go.
On a gray horse,
They ride through the snow.

The kings ride away
In the snow and the rain,
After twelve months,
We shall see them again.

French Epiphany Carol, quoted in Celebrate the Wonder

05 January 2019

The Real Victorian Christmas

A Victorian Christmas Treasury, edited by Moira Allen
Many people are fascinated by Victorian Christmas customs because so many of our modern customs derive from the Victorian time: the Christmas tree, turkey dinners, the Father Christmas/Santa Claus custom, the season being devoted to children (instead of wild partying and drinking as had been customary before that), etc. We chiefly get our ideas of a "real Victorian Christmas" from modern magazine articles that explore the origins of these customs, but it's quite different reading the material that was actually written at the time. Thus this book, which is a collection of 250 articles long and short (and a couple of short stories) from 1853-1898 mostly British magazines.

In one way it's not much different from modern magazines: every third article seems to be recipes for Christmas food, so there are a lot of recipes for plum pudding! However, if you are not used to reading Victorian-era prose, beware that it's wordy and effusive, and most of the time in teeny-tiny type, and illustrated not in color, but with black and white engravings. If that doesn't faze you, dive in and enjoy the customs that didn't make it to today: steamed puddings made of stale bread, "bran pies" with gifts in them, elaborate plays being staged for charades, the wandering mummers' parade about St. George, for just a few examples. There are accounts of Christmas celebrations in foreign lands (Italy, France, Germany, even a Canadian spending Christmas in England) and Christmas spent in unexpected places, like a hospital. There are accounts of how to make authentic Victorian decorations, like mottoes (glued together with flour paste) and greenery dipped in epsom salts and ground glass to simulate frost or snow, accounts of young people making money selling Christmas greens, accounts of Christmas past and the history of Christmas, a long and fascinating narrative of how a medieval Mystery play was produced and what it would be like, Victorian children's letters to Santa Claus, interviews with famous Christmas card verse writers (which produces the astonishing fact that back then religious cards were not very popular), articles on "sledging" and skating (and one on oranges), even a long story about a Christmas in Provence.

Even with the ever-present recipes, this is a fascinating sample of how Christmas was really celebrated, and the now-quaint vocabulary and unfamiliar words only adds to its mystique. Students of Christmas history should enjoy!

Anyway, I did something astonishing this year: I finished all my Christmas books! I usually pick up three or four during the year at used book sales, and pick up three or four new ones, but end up still having a tidy pile of around ten books at the end of the season. This year I read a "new" (to me) book every other Rudolph Day and re-read an old one down in the library, and still had enough books for the Christmas season with the three or four I usually re-read every year, and completed all of them, except the new book about Hanukkah I bought which I will save for December. This means I can do some happy re-reading this year.

"The Three Kings"

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.

“Of the child that is born,” said Baltasar,
“Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
To find and worship the King of the Jews.”

And the people answered, “You ask in vain;
We know of no King but Herod the Great!”
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
Like riders in haste, who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, “Go down unto Bethlehem,
And bring me tidings of this new king.”

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped—it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body’s burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David’s throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
And returned to their homes by another way.

02 January 2019

Two Readings for Advent and Christmastide

Goodness and Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, edited by Michael Leach, James Keane, and Doris Goodnough
Preparing My Heart for Advent, Ann Marie Stewart
When I saw these both at the same book sale, I figured it was fate. Here was something I could do for Advent and Christmastide, one reading a day until Christmas from each.

Alas, the spirit was willing, but the flesh was still juggling too many things. I skipped the books totally last year after starting the second one, and waded in with good intentions on November first. One would have ended on Sunday, the other on Monday, but since this weekend will be busy I just sat quietly today and finished the readings from Christmas Day onward. Perhaps next year.

Goodness and Light is a small book with one essay a day starting November 1 and finishing on St. Distaff's Day (January 7). These range from poetry to essays to a couple of short stories, one of which, Cheever's "Christmas is a Sad Time for the Poor," I didn't think was really representative of the rest of the theme. However, "Papa Panov's Special Christmas" was quite welcome. Some of the essays are by religious figures who were missionaries put into prison; some are totally unexpected, like one from Anne Rice who became a born-again Christian after writing her famous vampire books. There are some well-known names here: Maya Angelou, Pope Francis, Annie Dillard, even one by Ghandi, but it's the sometimes small ones that captured my attention, like "Holy Innocents" for the 28th of December, or "Salvation Army Santa Claus Rings His Bell."

Preparing My Heart for Advent is partially a Bible study and workbook. You begin on November 1 reading from the Bible and doing the daily exercises. These readings of the old and new Testaments explain the background behind the coming of the Messiah: the prophecies, the history, the primary and secondary figures in what we call "the Christmas story," hymns, etc. From December 1 through Epiphany there are daily devotions, each with a Bible verse, a Reflection and finally a Response (prayer).

If you are looking for a more spiritual experience at Christmas, both these books are recommended. If you wish to delve a little more into Biblical study, the second book would be an appropriate choice.

01 January 2019

31 December 2018

"Ring Out, Wild Bells!"

From Tennyson's "In Memoriam"
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

29 December 2018

A Warm Family Treat

The Cottage Holiday, Jo Mendel
The Tuckers series of books began in 1961 with the publication of the Whitman book The Wonderful House, in which the family moves into the big old house on Valley View Avenue in the fictitious town of Yorkville after having lived in a small apartment in nearby Castleton. They were a typical 1960s literary family: working father, stay-at-home mother, five rambunctious kids under twelve, loving grandparents, a big wooly dog, and a cat, plus an assortment of friends. The kids got into usual foibles: rivalries, mistaken impressions, summer vacation adventures, arguments, but family love always wins through.

The Cottage Holiday revolves around Penny, the shy seven-year-old, who catches cold easily and is always being pampered. But she doesn't revel in the attention; she inwardly resents it, and is tired of being told to sit still and take pills. She wants to play with her brothers and sisters and be part of family activities, and she wants to know what her part is in the scheme of family dynamics: Tina's domestic, Terry's clever, Merry's musical, Tom's sensible, but what is she? Then she makes an idle wish: she would like to spend Christmas at the family's lake cottage, where they could all participate on an equal footing. Surprisingly, her pediatrician says she's well enough to do so as long as she takes precautions, and suddenly the family is off for a winter adventure that includes a marauding cougar, a missing calf, an abandoned baby, and the sheer fun of finding a Christmas tree, not to mention making treats for one another, playing in the snow with their lake neighbors Mel and Butch Smith, having an ice-skating party, and doing other fun activities that didn't involve staring at a screen or manipulating a game controller.

The story is simply told with a limited vocabulary that often makes the dialog stilted. Yet Penny's wish to participate more fully in her family's activities shines through the story like a beacon, and the final pages will make you misty eyed. It's more introspective than the other books in the series and that serves to make the story more timeless. A yearly treat for me. Penny's search for self is something everyone, adult or child, can identify with, and Christmas just adds irresistible icing to the cake.

28 December 2018

The Elements of Christmas

Merry Christmas!, Karal Ann Marling
Having refreshed myself with Christmas history via Restad and Nissenbaum, I felt I had to revisit this entertaining volume about the history of the elements of Christmas with almost all the emphasis on the US. Marling begins by "unwrapping" that ubiquitous bit of Christmas misdirection, wrapping paper (originally gifts were hung, unwrapped, in stockings, in wooden shoes, and even on the branches of Christmas trees), skips to the decorations of Christmas (the original trims of Christmas greens to candles and ornaments and finally to the putz village which begat Department 56 and other village manufacturers), the role of department stores in Christmas (displays, Santalands, and parades), how Dickens and Washington Irving contributed to Christmas nostalgia and thus to Christmas charity, the rise of the Christmas tree from family "toy" to public display, Santa Claus' evolution from "a right jolly old elf" to the hearty man portrayed in advertisements, American fascination with "different Christmases" including the portrayal of people of color, how Christmas cards came for a while to substitute for Christmas gifts, and the intriguingly-titled "How Bing Crosby and the Grinch Almost Stole Christmas" (and how a season run mainly by women is so male-centric).

Marling cites vintage magazine articles, advertisements, and illustrations (many included) to make her point, and I found it enjoyable that many of her cites came from my old favorite "St. Nicholas" magazine, where many of the Christmas tropes (children on trains experiencing a happy Christmas due to charitable passengers, poor children doing good deeds and receiving a Christmas reward, children learning to contribute to worthy causes rather than obtaining gifts themselves, etc.) were so popular. The illustrations (all in black and white, alas) are as enjoyable as the text.

Very happily recommended!

"Crown of Thorns"

Sulamith Wulfing's Madonna and Child

26 December 2018

"A Christmas Prayer" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Loving Father,
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus' sake.

Five Things People Get Wrong About the Nativity

25 December 2018

An Uncommon Christmas

Ever since James has been able to telework, he's been volunteering to work Christmas. In past years he has gotten holiday pay, but with the reorganization, that isn't happening anymore. So with the mandate from right before Thanksgiving still in place—with him only working 24 hours a week—it was essential that he work anyway to assure three days' pay.

So we were in bed early Christmas Eve, and James was at his desk promptly at eight. He had no calls, not even a person who had called the wrong number and was looking for support for his new Lenovo laptop, which would have been transferred because James works with blade servers. We basked in the Christmas lights, listened to Christmas music, I watched The House Without a Christmas Tree, and a little after noon, started cooking a turkey.

Now previously when he's teleworked at Christmas, James had ended work at five, we would have already been dressed, and we would have headed to the Butlers for Christmas dinner. But Lin had been in the hospital over Thanksgiving, so Pat and Alex volunteered to do Christmas dinner instead. They live in Lawrenceville, nearly an hour's drive away. By the time we had gotten out of the house and there it would have been 6:30, enough time to gobble and run so James could be ready to work the next day. What use was going all that way to have to stuff your face quickly and not get to spend any time relaxing and chatting.

So we had already planned our dinner: we would buy turkey thighs, have them with potatoes. I found a package of huge thighs that would provide us with Christmas dinner and even enough leftovers to make a sandwich or two later on. This changed when we took a trip to Sam's Club and found an 11.5 pound turkey I dubbed "Clifton" (after Clifton Road where CDC headquarters is located). Okay, so James would monitor the phones and I would get my first turkey-cooking lesson.

Anyway, back up a few days. We went to Hair Day, and found out that Mel and Phyllis were not going to Christmas dinner either; they are in their 70s and driving that far in the dark was daunting. Mel was wondering if we wanted to go out somewhere to eat with them on Christmas evening. So impulsively I invited them to Christmas dinner and we changed the time to evening.

Yes, we had our Jewish friends over for Christmas.

It was very informal. We completely forgot to cook the carrots we added to the menu. I started the turkey early because even being in the refrigerator for three days it was still frozen. I started it uncovered and had to tent the wings after just an hour and the breast after two hours. It was basted and rebasted in wine. However, the oven came through again and the bird was thoroughly cooked and ready by the time our guests arrived. We ate on paper plates and had Christmas music on softly in the background, and were talking about the old days when we were in school. Tucker mooched food, and Snowy sang happily in the background.

After they left James put up the rest of the carcass and only then did we exchange gifts. Because money was short this year we only bought one thing for each other, and knew what we were getting. I bought James an organizer for his modeling desk. It's specially made for modelers and has a ruled workspace and places to put paintbrushes and other accessories. He gave me a Cricut lightbox (which, thankfully, was on sale at Michael's on Black Friday). I've been wanting a lightbox for some time now.

And so we wandered off to bed at the usual time, full of Christmas and friendship and lots of turkey.

Today's Christmas Gift

Despite what the title on the video says it is, it is the classic Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid."


24 December 2018

More Christmas Reading!

Santa Claus: A Biography, Gerry Bowler
Bowler, whose World Encyclopedia of Christmas is a classic, has tackled a smaller field in this history of "jolly old St. Nicholas." The original Nicholas was a Christian Bishop who was born in Turkey; he ended up being the patron saint of children, sailors, pawnbrokers, students, repentant thieves...and more. How he ended up delivering presents in a sleigh drawn by eight reindeer (two named after "thunder" and "lightning") and wearing a red suit is a convoluted tale that includes Holland, Spain, wooden shoes, and a New York society devoted to the good saint.

Once the history lesson is over, Bowler gets into juicier territory with chapters about Santa Claus as an advocate for good causes, in advertisements, in wartime (with creepy little details about how Adolf Hitler made the holiday all about him), and in the media, with a final, wistful chapter about the future of his persona.

Bowler is, as always, a delight to read, and his final four-paragraph conclusion may leave you with tears in your eyes. If you're looking for a history of Santa Claus, this one is excellent.

Christmas Ideals 2018, from Worthy Publishing Group
Ideals annual Christmas is the usual cheery combination of simple poetry, cozy essays, and charming photographs mixed with nostalgic artwork. Of the poems, "The Colors of Christmas" is my favorite ("Little Lights" is also sweet). There's a breathtaking photograph of a red covered bridge in the snow, and two other familiar places popped up: a beautiful white church in Queechee, Vermont, and a shot of the Public Garden in Boston in the snow. Homesick now. I'm also partial to the lovely painting of the stable animals overlooking the baby Jesus, and the essays "Planting Hope" and "Christmas Photographs."

Lovely as always.

And the last two (unless I find a copy of Christmas in Puerto Rico) of the World Book Christmas books,
Christmas in Greece 
Christmas in Finland
These are lovely books of interest to both children and adults, with color photographs and text talking about how the people in that particular country (or, in the case of some of the books, region) celebrate the December and January holidays. The Greeks celebrate the Advent period (while so many of the rest of us are running around shopping) by fasting and do not start preparing for Christmas until Christmas Eve. Even then, the day is reserved for religious pursuits, and it's only then gift-giving preparation begins, because the Greeks reserve New Year's Day (St. Basil's Day) for that purpose. During the 12 days of Christmas everyone must beware of the kalikantzari, evil imps who will bring bad luck if you don't stay on your guard! The Greeks even have a version of "First Footing" on New Year's Day, like the Scots.

To the folks in Finland, Lapland is where Santa Claus lives, and you can indeed go visit him in Santa Claus Land and interact with his reindeer, but the Finns have other unique customs: a Christmas sauna, the making of complex ornaments out of straw (straw used to be scattered on the floors of home, to remind people of the child in the manger, but it's now considered a fire hazard), their version of Santa Claus having evolved from a goatlike character who now looks like everyone else's Santa (but still has a goat's name), and the Finns' fondness for St. Ann, the mother of the Virgin Mary.

There are insets about the Sami, the original inhabitants of Lapland, who believed in magic; the annual proclamation of peace that means Christmas can begin; the visit from joulekuppi (Santa) in person to the children. And in both books, as in all of the World Book Christmas volumes, there are crafts, songs, and recipes at the back.

"Christmas Eve is Here," an Old French Carol

Christmas Eve is here—see, the moon is waking!
Christmas Eve is here, clear and cold the night.
Trudging thro' the snow, go the quiet people;
Trudging thro' the snow, go the quiet people.
Christmas Eve is here, clear and cold the night.

People on the road carry lighted lanterns;
See their bobbing lights lead the way to church.
There they will keep watch 'til the hour of midnight;
There they will keep watch 'til the hour of midnight,
When the bells will ring joyous melodies.

Hear the ringing bells swinging far their music,
Hear the ringing bells playing merry chimes!
Christmas Day is here, day of joy and gladness;
Christmas Day is here, day of joy and gladness,
Bringing peace on earth, and goodwill to men.

Traditionally, the French people singing this song would then be joyfully going home to celebrate La Réveillon, a post-Mass feast featuring a beef roast wrapped in pastry, escargot, oysters, pate de foie gras, chestnuts, truffles, and of course a fine wine. Dessert will be a cake that resembles a Yule Log, the Bûche de Noël (usually chocolate, but can be any flavor).

"The Christmas Tree"

by Carl August Peter Cornelius

The holly's up, the house is all bright,
The tree is ready, the candles alight:
Rejoice and be glad, all children tonight!

The mother sings of our Lord's good grace
Whereby the Child who saved our race
Was born and adored in a lowly place,

Once more the shepherds, as she sings,
Bend low, and angels touch their strings:
With "Glory" they hail the King of kings.

The children listening round the tree
Can hear the heavenly minstrelsy,
The manger's marvel they can see,

Let every house be ready tonight —
The children gathered, the candles alight —
That music to hear, to see that sight.