I really hope this Yule turns out to be better than the last one. I usually have some friends over for the solstice, but last year that didn’t work out, so my husband and I celebrated the solstice with just the two of us. However, I was invited to a Christmas Eve party. There were lots of people there, and a buffet of food laid out, and we watched Donald Duck cartoons, which the host explained to us is traditional to do on Christmas Eve in Sweden.
As usual, I spent Christmas Day with my husband’s family opening presents and having Christmas dinner. I brought some of the German Christmas treats that I made. Those recipes from that cookbook make A LOT of cookies. Then we went home to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special before going to bed.
However, while I was on the couch cuddled up with my husband watching the show, I suddenly had a horrible feeling come over me. I got some respiratory symptoms at first, which I tried to dismiss as allergies, but then the chills and aches started soon after that, letting me know that this was not allergies. As soon as the television show was over, I went to bed.
By the next day, I didn’t feel like getting out of bed at all. And then I couldn’t get out of bed for more than a few minutes at a time for the next three days. Remember that horrible flu outbreak that went around last year? The one that ended up killing thousands of people? I’m pretty sure that’s what I got, because I was dumb and didn’t get a flu shot. And I’m pretty sure I got it at that Christmas Eve party, because none of my family had the flu (except for my husband when he caught it from me later). I haven’t been that sick in a really long time. I had both respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms, but the worst thing was losing all control of my body temperature. I’d get up to use the bathroom or something, and then get horrible chills, shivering, teeth chattering. I’d rush back to bed and cocoon myself up in as many blankets as possible and shiver a while until I finally fell asleep. Then an hour or two later I’d wake up completely soaked in sweat and feeling like I’m cooking in there. I’d unwrap myself from the blankets, take off my soaking wet clothes, turn the fan on and stand in front of it to cool off, change into some dry clothes, and by the time I was about done changing the wet sheets and blankets on the bed to some dry ones, my teeth would be chattering again and I’d start the cycle all over again.
And that’s how I spent my winter vacation. My husband has a normal job where he gets Christmas Day off but that’s it, so I spent most of my time alone with my cats cuddled up with me either sleeping or watching the Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary series that I had recorded when it came on in November (and that gave me some very weird dreams!). When I told my husband about the cycling between being freezing cold and burning hot, he decided we should start taking my temperature, and it was 103. He thought maybe I should go to the doctor, but I asked Dr. Google “how high does a fever have to be before you should go to the doctor” and was told 104 . On the news they said that clinics were overwhelmed with flu patients, so please don’t come in unless it’s a true emergency, so I never did. Then again maybe it did reach 104 at some point and I just didn’t catch it.
I didn’t start feeling well enough to be up and around much until New Year’s Eve, right around when my husband came down with the flu by catching it from me and I had to take care of him as he used up all his sick leave. I was still weak by the time the Spring semester started and I had to go back to work. One of the symptoms that took months to finally go away was that my sense of taste/smell was off. Everything tasted and smelled weird. All coffee, even the high-quality stuff I usually drink, smelled like the ickiest cheap gas station coffee. I ended up throwing the rest of the Yule treats I made in the compost bin. The can of herring I got for Berchtaslaaf is still sitting in my pantry. For a long time I could only stomach bland food like oatmeal and chicken soup and green tea.
While all this was going on, I thought to myself, “I hope this isn’t some kind of omen of the year to come.” Well, looking back at 2018, I guess it was! There’s a good reason why I hardly blogged at all. Blogging was one of the last things on my mind during 2018. I was just trying to survive it. Not everyone did. Some had close calls. Most of the crap that went on is stuff I don’t want to post about on a public blog, though.
Preparing for the next Yule, I’ve realized that maybe one of the “reasons for the season” is to look around and go, “Wow, I survived another year,” and to see who else is left when you all get together for the gift-giving and feasting. I don’t really believe that people used to be afraid that the sun wouldn’t come up again after the longest night. It always does. It always will. We know that. But we never know for sure if we will. Sure, in modern times we’re less likely to starve or freeze to death during the winter, but you still never know when you or one of your loved ones will be struck down by cancer, or a car accident, or a heart attack, or even an especially virulent flu virus.
Doctor Who Christmas specials are just plain silly sometimes, but other times they can be incredibly well done and hit upon some really deep stuff (well, I guess that all Doctor Who is like that, actually). Anyway, there was a Christmas special from a few years ago called “Last Christmas” that I thought was one of the best ones. It had these creepy face-hugger type aliens that would suck out your brain, and while they were doing it they’d put you into this euphoric dream to keep you calm during the process. In a previous episode, Clara’s boyfriend Danny had gotten killed, so her dream was that Danny was still alive and they were spending Christmas together. Meanwhile, the Doctor is trying to get through to Clara and let her know that she needs to wake up before her brain gets eaten, and slowly Clara starts to realize that she is in a dream and actually Danny is dead.
Have you ever had someone die and then you have a dream where they’re still alive, and then you remember that they’re dead as you wake up? I sure have, and I’m assuming that must be a fairly common thing since they made a Doctor Who episode about it. Of course Clara doesn’t want to wake up, but you know how dreams work. The more you realize it’s a dream, the harder it is to stay in it.
Eventually even dream-Danny is trying to get Clara to wake up so her brain doesn’t get eaten, but Clara says she doesn’t want to because this is their last Christmas together. Danny replies, “Every Christmas is the last Christmas.”
It’s probably a good idea to keep this in the back of your mind during the holidays. Treat every Christmas like the Last Christmas you’re going to have with someone. Eventually one of them will be.
Well, I have lots of preparing still left to do for Yule, but so far it’s looking like this one will be better. I got my flu shot this year as soon as they were available way back in September. I spend most of Monday and Tuesday doing a thorough house cleaning complete with moving furniture around to get in all the nooks and crannies. I haven’t felt like cleaning the house in a very long time, so I knew I had to make hay while the sun shines and clean while I was actually in the mood for it. Hopefully that got rid of both the physical grime and also the spiritual bad mojo. Maybe I should burn some sage or juniper as well just to make sure. A few days ago one of my friends texted me asking if I was going to have a get-together for the solstice this year. I had assumed no one would be interested, so I wasn’t going to even try, but after she texted me I decided to go for it, so I guess I’m having people over for the solstice after all. I’m also invited to a Yule gathering at another friend’s house the weekend after that. I’m glad I already got my flu shot.
For treats, I’ve decided to make Dresden Stollen and Zimtsterne. I already made shortbread, but I brought it to the department Christmas party last week, and my coworkers devoured it all and there’s none left. I’m going to burn a Yule log as usual, and try wassailing my apple trees for the first time (I’ll probably do all my fruit trees, not just the apple trees, because they probably want some wassail too). The Yule tree is up and ready for gifts to be put under it. I’ve got all my shopping done and now need to start wrapping.
Everything seems to be going OK so far. I really hope I didn’t just jinx it by saying so. Cross my fingers. We’ll see how this goes.
[By the way, that Doctor Who episode also had Father Christmas, played by Nick Frost of Shawn of the Dead fame, entering people’s dreams trying to save them from the brain-eating space crabs. People start to realize they are in a dream because Father Christmas isn’t real, but he keeps insisting he is real, even though this is indeed a dream. Finally one of the characters, I forgot which one, scoffs and says, “so is that what you are? The dream that saves you?” And Father Christmas says yes, that’s exactly what he is. Which is probably one of the best descriptions of the Yule Father I’ve heard in a long time.]