The eighth bawk is completed. I have now spent three months knitting these things (well, admittedly, I have knitted other stuff — a jacket, hats, Fuzzy Feet, and whatnot — in the interstices, but still). It is good that this is completed, because today is the HGP deadline for “adults only” crafts.
This doesn’t mean that we should put away our knitted willy warmers (you know I am not making that up), but that we should stop the projects that we are making by ourselves. If a homemade gift is not finished by now, we should put it away for next year and buy something instead. This leaves time for us to do family crafts and baking and candy-making and so on, without any stress.
I used to disagree with this (and I will admit that I am not as strict about the deadline as I might be — I usually extend it by a day or so to finish up anything I have near completion). At the very least, I figured that it wouldn’t apply to me because I knit all the time, not just when I am making holiday gifts.
But over the years that I have been doing the HGP, I have come to agree. You know what happens when you don’t have a deadline. You think it is still two weeks till Christmas, plenty of time to make something, so you go ahead and begin another project (or six — there are knitting bloggers out there who still have that ambitious a list left). Then you begin to skip stuff that you might otherwise enjoy doing, in order to get that pair of mittens completed. You begin to overlook errors and wonky stitches because you are running out of time. The kids have to do their crafts alone. And Christmas Eve is spent in feverish last-minute knitting in hopes of not having to wrap up an unfinished scarf with a note.
That’s not the way to celebrate the holidays. But you can see that I still have a mysterious something on the needles. It is in bulky yarn — a departure for me — and so it may be finished today, sliding under the wire of the deadline. However, today I intend to do the grocery shopping, go to the movies with #2 son, attend the annual store potluck luncheon, ring the Salvation Army bell for an hour and a half, and finish decorating. I also have to practice my music for tomorrow, get to the bank and the post office, and perhaps get the fact-checking done. So it might well be that this will carry over to tomorrow.
A peaceful song for a busy day, “See, Amid the Winter’s Snow” is properly a Christmas carol rather than an Advent one, but I am sure you will like it. The tune, by Sir John Goss, is a Victorian tune that many people who dislike Victorian tunes single out as the exception to their rule. You can hear it in a bell-like midi without lyrics on this page.
The lyrics are, according to The Penguin Book of Carols, controversial. In fact, they are rarely printed as their author, Edward Caswell, wrote them. For one thing, his song began with a verse containing the line “see the tender lamb appears,” which makes Britons think of Sunday lunch rather than Christmas. Jesus is also presented in the original words as “meek and mild” and a good example of humility for us to follow. I think humility is a virtue worth striving for, but I also know that such an attitude is not only not shared, but positively disapproved of by most of my countrymen and women here in Hamburger-a-go-go-land. And of course there are those spoilsports who dismiss the whole genre of Victorian snow carols on the pedantic grounds that there would not have been any snow in Bethlehem when Christ was born.
Do not let these issues keep you from singing this song. Polish up your trumpet if you’ve got one. If not, at the very least sing out the “Hail” parts in your most trumpetesque voice. There are some really beautiful traditional harmonies for this piece, too. And, while it is a wonderful choral piece and has often been recorded in that way, it is a good solo one, too. Maddy Prior has recorded this with Steeleye Span and with the Carnival Band, and there is a snippet of it on this page. Debbie Zepick has also recorded it in Celtic style, and you can hear the first verse of it here.
The tune has also apparently been used for a protest song about Canadian fisheries. If you fall in love with the tune (as you should) and don’t observe Christmas, you might prefer that version.