Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As we head into the holiday season it is well worth exploring the peculiar parties and curious celebrations of fairy tales, especially as we plan our own festivities. These tales twinkle with fun, so remember their verve as you launch your own dinner party. I think this tale illustrates quite well that the key ingredients of many fairy tale Christmas parties include bread and knives (but not to forget lovers).
The Lover Invited to Dinner
There once lived a woman who earned her living as a tax collector. Secretly this woman had fallen in love with her bookkeeper. She wanted to win his heart through magic and so she had a fresh loaf of bread baked on Holy Christmas Eve. She then stuck two knives into the loaf, cross-wise while murmuring quite a few words of incantation. The bookkeeper came to her from his sleep, completely unclothed, sat down at the table and looked at her severely. She stood up and ran away but the bookkeeper pulled both knives out of the bread and hurled them after her, almost wounding her. Then he returned home. The woman’s aunt, who was present in the chamber, was so violently frightened by the whole ordeal that she lay in bed for several weeks unable to move. The next day the bookkeeper was heard to inquire of the household servants about the identity of the woman who had scared him in the past night. He was so exhausted that he could barely speak, he should have escaped easily but could not help himself. Try as he may, pray as he may, he was instead driven out into the night.
The same old woman, who told this tale, also related the following: On Christmas Eve in Coburg it was the habit of several young noble women to keep a portion of their food from their dinner meal. After going to bed they then got up at midnight and sat down once more at the table. Soon, their dearest one appeared; each suitor brought a knife with him and wanted to sit down beside his girl. But the noble women became frightened and fled. One of the maids in her terror took the knife and flung it back at the swains. Turning around she looked at her lover picking up the knife. Another time, instead of the invited swains, death itself came to the dinner party. He placed an hour glass next to one of the girls, who then died during the year.
In Silesia three ladies of the court sat down at a bedecked table on Christmas Eve and waited for their true loves to arrive. They had set a place for each gallant at the table. Soon the lovers arrived in response to the maids’ invitation, but only two had come and each sat down next to his lady. The third fellow did not appear. The maid who was left out became sad and impatient and finally got up after waiting some time in vain. When she went to the window and looked out, she viewed a coffin across the court. A young woman was lying in it and she looked just like the maid herself. The young lady became ill immediately and died soon thereafter. According to oral tradition, instead of the maid looking through the window, a death chest came into the room, the girl approached it, the boards of the chest fell open and the maid fell dead inside.