Friday, December 23, 2011

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Large families are difficult to miss. One vacation my mother lined us all up to take a picture, and other tourists stopped and took pictures as well. Inquiring minds would want to know, “Are all these kids yours?” Those who were not as strong in mathematics would ask, “How many of you are there?” When we would tell them, they’d say, “You could be your own baseball team!” We’d smile and nod even though we didn’t know how many people were needed for a baseball team. What we did know was that we had enough people to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Like many of our traditions, it began with Shakespeare Club. More specifically, it began with our Shakespeare Club’s Dickens Christmas Party. Junior high and high school students wearing an assortment of crushed velvet ball gowns, bonnets, top hats, and false side whiskers sat around our living room caroling. Dawn, the only adult I’ve ever known willing to organize a Dickens Christmas party for twenty-five teenagers, divided us into twelve groups to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas. One brave soul sang “A partridge in a pear tree” solo. “Two calling birds” was sung as a duet by an aspiring soprano who stood up and enthusiastically belted it out and a reserved young man who looked down and mumbled it uncomfortably under her warbling.

This performance became epic in our house. It didn’t take us long to begin to perform it ourselves during car rides. Starting with the oldest we’d each take a line and all sing “five golden rings” as loudly as we could. Every verse ended with Mom singing “two turtle doves” and Dad bringing it home with “a partridge in a pear tree.” Once in a while Mom would surprise us and pay tribute to that Dickens party by belting her line out in a shaky vibrato.

My senior year of college, I was home in time for the annual church caroling. Riding in our red van between houses, someone suggested we sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The wife of our assistant pastor was riding with us, but an audience did not deter us. Rather, she was one more reason to sing. When we dropped her off at the church, the look on her face made me think that in the future she would not be so quick to accept rides in fifteen-passenger vans.

We still sing it. A few have to double up on a part. And there is always some confusion on who is doing what after we get past the nine ladies dancing. But there are always twelve Judges singing.

Enjoy some cocoa for carolers (from Alton Brown) -

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Hot water

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.
Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine. Seal the rest in an airtight container, keeps indefinitely in the pantry. This also works great with warm milk.   Makes five cups of powder. 

Victorian clip art courtesy of Averyl's Attic: http://www.averyl.com/attic".


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