Welcome to the 12th edition of Cabinet of Curiosities, where today we're tossing out the milk and cookies and leaving Santa some legs and lox instead. This is how curious holiday traditions begin, you see, so that nowadays we think nothing at all of dragging trees indoors and festooning them with chintz and tinsel to celebrate the birth of the son of God and the arrival of his secular avatar in the red suit. 'Tis the season when even the most irreligious among us are steeped in ritual, be it our evergreen curiosity cabinets or that handed down recipe for coffeecake without which whatever Holiday you adhere to just wouldn't be right.
M. Diane Rogers of CanadaGenealogy decks the halls with some of her Christmas Curios, including "any number of chipped, cracked, broken, or otherwise unwanted items that I've saved for Christmas over the years." My grandfather had a name for the moth-eaten angels, armless porcelain cupies and bedraggled feathers from Easter bonnets that my grandmother gave second lives as ornaments. "Shmelts!", he would snort, and banish them to the dark side of the Tannenbaum. There are Shmelts on every tree, and even when they do not make it out of the box we cannot bear to part with them.
Midge Frazel of Granite in my Blood tells the wonderful story of the Norwegian paper cut-out of girls dancing with trollsthat has a treasured, if incongruous place in her holiday display. Our Skandi friends are open minded sorts, and would not begrudge a Tomtin a little merriment with the merry maids. They also are open to museums that take on such uninhibited subjects as homosexuality among non humans, or so we learn from Dr. Martin Rundkvist of Aardvarchaeology who notes that the Stockholm Museum of Natural History has an ongoing exhibition that includes a model depicting nasal intercourse among two presumably consenting male dolphins. Really. I wonder if you can get it as an ornament from the museum gift shop?
Gay dolphin statues are not yet part of any known Christmas tradition, but there are even more curious sculptures that apparently are. Daylife asserts - and offers photographic evidence for the claim - that "Statuettes of well-known people defecating are a strong Christmas tradition in Catalonia, dating back to the 18th century as Catalonians hide [them] in Christmas Nativity scenes and invite friends to find them." Rather makes the case for Catalan nationalism.
When Lorine McGinnis Schultze thinks about holiday fare, it features Christmas Toast in a Victorian toast rack which belonged to her English great-grandmother.
Brian at Ancestors at Rest turns to a very special bowl full of goodies that was a wedding gift to his great-grandparents in 1904. "The poor old thing may not look like much, the flowers are faded and worn, the rim has a large chunk that was broken and then glued back (with not too much success) by my Great-Grandfather. It has no monetary value whatsoever. But to me it is priceless."
Over at Caroline's Miscellany, there is magic in a cup, for she has a a treasured collectionof lithophanes! "In the bottom of each cup is a picture. In fact, the bottom of each cup is a picture. When you first look inside, it just appears to be a bumpy surface, but the moment you hold the cup to the light, an image appears. The different thicknesses of porcelain provide the light and shade."
Melody Lasalle of The Research Journal has the story of a Christmas curiosity of an entirely different sort: her grandmother's lost pajamas! The December holiday season spawns countless family legends that we delight in dusting off through the years as if they were ornaments of blown glass and finest crystal. In our family, we have the tale of the Christmas Eve when my cousins drove all the way to Boston from Chicago, and ten minutes after they arrived their station wagon and all it contained had been stolen. Boston was then - and may still be - a contender for the car theft capital of the country, but nevertheless my father immediately went from block to block with the notion that he could find it and save Christmas. And he did. Except for the hot wired ignition, nothing had been taken.
For those of a pagan persuasion, Gil of Gilocafe offers up a tale from Aztec Mythology and the star-crossed lovers Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl who the gods covered in snow and changed into mountains.
Here's wishing you and yours all the joys of this curious season, and if you happen to find meat-flavored cologne in your stocking this year, it probably has no bearing on whether you've been naughty or nice. Just that bags featuring Carla Bruni in the buff were unavailable at Burger King.