Saturday, December 24, 2016

The twelve days of Christmas

Images of gifts in the song the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The Photo: The twelve days of Christmas song poster showing the twelve different gifts. From Wikipedia. The illustration is by Xavier Romero-Frias. The song, published in 1780, tells of a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas.

The twelve days of Christmas: To Help bond with the villagers in village that supplies most of the staff that works at Blackthorn Castle and a large part of the goods and services needed to keep the estate running smoothly especially during holiday celebrations I decided, with the help of my Chamberlain and his events coordinator, to have a performance of the presentation of the gifts given in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas over those the twelve days.

The staff and villagers have been working for months to get all the bits and pieces; personnel, birds, musical instruments, costumes etc. necessary to put together and rehearse a simplified presentation of gifts over the twelve days from Christmas to Twelfth Night. By simplified I mean that there will be only a single representation of each day’s gift, rather than duplication of the preceding days gifts for each succeeding day (as there is in the song) which even for me is quite enough! The eleven pipers and the twelve drummers have been the most difficult and time consuming with rented flutes, drums and uniforms and repeated practices to play a very simple tune on the flutes and rolls on the drums.

The gifts over the twelve days are:

Day 1 partridge in a pear tree (to be carried in a cage)
Day 2 turtle doves (to be carried in a cage)
Day 3 French hens (Image knitted into a warm woolen sweater)
Day 4 Calling Birds (Image knitted into a warm woolen sweater)
Day 5 Gold Rings (Image knitted into a warm woolen sweater)
Day 6 Geese a-Laying (Image knitted into a warm woolen sweater)
Day 7 Swans a-Swimming (Image knitted into a warm woolen sweater)
Day 8 Maids a-Milking (Image of milk pails knitted into 8 warm woolen sweaters)
Day 9 Ladies Dancing (9 teen girls from the local dance school - costumes from London)
Day 10 Lords a-Leaping (Young adult men in costumes from a London costume shop)
Day 11 Pipers Piping (Villagers in costumes from a London costume shop)
Day 12 Drummers Drumming (Villagers in costumes from a London costume shop)
        57 total villagers involved on the 12th day.

The villagers have taken to “the Twelve Days project” as it’s become known with enthusiasm. It has already been a success in that more of the villagers are getting to know me from my being deeply involved with the project especial the dance students in the “nine ladies dancing” production in which they will be wearing tutus and pointes.  

Logistics for the Twelve Days performances: The performers are being picked up at 9:00 AM each day from the village. A large drawing room has been converted into dressing rooms for the performers and there are two male and two female dressers to help the performers with their costumes which are being stored at the castle. The partridge and turtle doves are being cared for here during the run of performances and the musical instruments are being stored at the castle as well to prevent a performer from forgetting his or her instrument. Up through day seven (7 Swans a swimming) a thirteen-passenger van can handle the performers and their equipment.  For days eight and nine (8 Maids a milking and 9 Ladies dancing) a bus will be used for the twenty-four performers and equipment. For days ten, eleven and twelve a second bus is added. Fortunately, the weather is forecast to just be rainy with the temperatures in the high 40s and mid-50s. With the castle access road improvements made last year the busses haven’t and shouldn’t have any trouble and as a precaution the road will be sanded as well. There was a great deal of interest by the villagers in being in the performances, especially by those who had never been to the castle before which is about a third of them and the performers enjoyed tours of the castle. Even so, to deepen the commitment of the performers a noon meal and a modest daily stipend is being provided.

The dance floor: In the great hall, where the Twelve Days performances will be held a sprung Marley floor has been laid over the stone floor so the “9 Ladies Dancing” in pointe-shoes, Gaynor Mindens with sueded tips, are much less likely to have a fall or injury.

The Christmas trees decorated: The red cedar trees were put up and decorated several days ago, and presents for my guests have been placed around the main tree, the one in the library. The staff have their own Christmas tree below stairs. I love the scent of cedar and they look gorgeous!   

The castle’s Yule log lit: My predecessors at Blackthorn Castle, traditionally had the castle Yule log lit on Christmas eve. So, yesterday, Friday the 23rd I opened the doors to the great hall and the massive Yule log was hauled in by a team of horses. One end was inserted into the huge fireplace with the remaining eighty percent jutting out into the great hall where as it burns it will be winched slowly forward across the hearth and into the fireplace. It should burn for the twelve days of Christmas the last being Thursday January 5th. The end of last Christmas’ log was chopped up and placed under it as kindling and I lit it in a brief ceremony this morning. There is a twenty-four-hour fire watch posted in the great hall as long as the Yule Log is burning. 

Weather for Christmas: The weather service is calling for light rain for most of the day on the 25th with mid-day temperature in the low 50s (F) so at least there will be no snow.  All my guests have arrived and our celebrations will be inside. So, it will just be the Twelve Days performers who will make the one hour trip up from the village in chartered four-wheel drive vehicles each day with the last performance by the entire cast on January 5th.
Wishing all my friends (you know who you are) and readers a very merry Christmas, a happy New Year and the blessings of this holiday season.

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Powys , Wales, United Kingdom
I'm a classically trained dancer and SAB grad. A Dance Captain and go-to girl overseeing high-roller entertainment for a major casino/resort