Every year my school does a Christmas extravaganza concert with full orchestra and about sixteen hundred thousand singers. We, the students, universally complain when we’re assigned to play this concert, but we also universally agree that this arrangement of O Come All Ye Faithful makes the whole affair worthwhile.
It’s something of a tradition for people to get drunk before at least one of the performances, and one of my favorite college memories is of looking up during the key change at 3:02 and seeing a member of my section (who had, an hour and a half previously, consumed no insignificant amount of boxed wine) straight up, red-faced, mascara-running SOBBING while trying to also sort of play viola.
This, my friends, is the sound of not one musician giving a single fuck about balance. This is the glorious sound of an array of industry-standard recording equipment being utterly overpowered by three hundred people singing, blowing, and bowing their brains out. This is the sound of an auditorium full of students thinking they’re oh so refined, artistic, and sophisticated – and being PROVEN WRONG by the MAJESTY OF THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Bask in it, my friends. Bask.
And, like… As much as I love to make fun of this, I’ve been listening to it for the past hour, and feeling really freakin’ grateful that I get to do this. I wish that all of you could have the amazing blessing of being able to look up and see violists drunk crying at key changes. Or something just as special. Happy holidays!
In previous years, Scholastic asked me to do a short 300 Fox Way holiday piece. This year, I decided I’d do one for Gansey. Like the 300 Fox Way piece, it takes place the December before The Raven Boys begins.
There shouldn’t have been carolers, but there were.
It was not that Henrietta wasn’t the sort of place to produce carolers on Christmas Eve. It was one of those small Virginia towns that expressed holiday spirit by delivering food to the elderly and decorating fire trucks for the under-aged and filling every public venue with seasonal programming. For a month, the downtown was made festive with shaggy old tinsel stars wired onto street signs. “Jingle Bells” wavered over loudspeakers by the drug store. Church groups offered egg nog at every turn. One didn’t have to sign up for any holiday performances. Henrietta was the holiday performance; one was volunteered to participate by virtue of breathing.
Carolers fit perfectly into that general world-view.
But it didn’t seem to Gansey that the carolers should have been here, standing outside in the overgrown parking lot of Monmouth Manufacturing, and it didn’t seem like they should have looked the way that they did. Despite the fact that his old orange Camaro was parked directly below the window he stood beside, the old factory did not appear remotely inhabited. And carolers in Henrietta should have been dressed in holiday sweaters and Santa hats. The van that brought them should have been parked nearby. They should have been singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
This was not that. These carolers played diligently beside the factory’s side door, certain someone was inside to hear them. They wore strange, elaborate headpieces that increased their height by several feet: here an odd pyramid made of straw, here a twisted burlap mask with fibrous antlers above it, here feathers fixed round a yellowing deer skull. Bells tied around their legs shrilled with each step. A fiddle and skin drum sawed a raucous tune.
Gansey stood at the top of the stairs and shoved the window open. The glass was already cracked, and the window popped as the crack deepened. It held, though. The pane would probably last another year; he had time to fix it. Cool air and fuzzy fiddle music seeped into Monmouth, everything scented with the ordinary odors of damp asphalt and the cheap burger place a few blocks away. Then the wind gusted and brought the smell of wood smoke and dead oak leaves and wet moss. This was the smell of the mountains that had drawn him here.
He had half a thought the carolers weren’t real.
The thing was that there always seemed to be carolers.
He’d spend the last seven Christmases in seven different places, and it had become a bit of a private joke. Some years it was more obvious: the carolers knocking on the door of Malory’s home or playing outside the window of a German flat. Some years he heard them and turned just in time to see the edge of a fiddle or a woven horn disappear around the corner of a South American street. Last year they had come to his parents’ D.C. house while he was there, much to their delight. The Ganseys adored anything that could be loosely titled regional flavor.
It was hard to say what region these carolers came from. Not here.
“Oh,” said Noah, standing beside Gansey.
Gansey jumped. “Jesus. I didn’t know you had come back.”
“I was always here,” Noah said.
“Right.” Both boys watched them play. One of the carolers had begun to chant. The sound was not particularly lovely. It was the uncomfortable hybrid of a drinking song and a funeral march. Gansey’s skin crawled agreeably.
“What do you think they want?” Noah asked.
It was a peculiar question, Gansey thought. No one asked what the firemen who decorated their trucks wanted. He shivered; it was colder outside than he’d thought when he first opened the window. Maybe they wanted money. Were you supposed to tip carolers? Or — what was the real name for what they were? He knew it; he’d seen them in Wales. Something mumbly. Mumblers. No. Mummers. He called down to them: “What’s the name of that song?”
The singing did not pause, but the deer skull wheeled up to look at them in the window, feathers fluttering blue and black around the bone.
“Creepy,” Noah said.
“Regional flavor,” Gansey said.
“ ‘The Raven King’,” said the deer skull. Maybe the deer skull. It was hard to tell when they were all wearing masks. Any of them could have said it. All of them could have said it.
Gansey’s heart double-tapped excitement. Months before, he’d come to Henrietta for a clue in his search for Glendower, and slowly, he’d been running out of material to keep him here. It had weeks since he’d had even the slightest suggestion that he was on the right track. If it had been anywhere else, he would have already left, off to pursue some other lead in some other state or country or hemisphere.
But he didn’t want to leave Henrietta.
“Did you say Raven King?” Gansey called out the window. “Hold up — Noah, tell them to hold up, I’m going to get my journal and talk to them. I think—”
A tremendous bang interrupted him: the sound of a sports car’s suspension under duress. A charcoal gray BMW entered the overgrown lot at a great rate of speed by way of the sidewalk. The carolers music tripped to a stop as the car scuffed to a stop beside the Camaro, the driver’s side door flinging open. All other odors were replaced by the smell of brakes and clutch after torment; the BMW had been ridden hard and put up wet.
Ronan got out of the car. Even from the second floor, Gansey could still see the puckered brown scars up and down his forearms.
Gansey was full of the knowledge that he needed to do something about Ronan Lynch before Ronan did something about Ronan Lynch. Christmas was a dangerous time to be a broken thing; the weight of tradition and history could too easily sink a lethargic swimmer.
In the parking lot below, Ronan eyed the carolers. “Take a walk, you freak-sacks. Don’t just stare at me. Do I look like I’m joking?”
There was no way that Gansey was going to make it down to the carolers before Ronan scared them off; not much could withstand Ronan when he was choosing to look malevolent. Gansey satisfied himself by pulling out his phone to snag a photograph of their strange departing forms. He’d show them to Adam later. Coincidence, Adam would say, knowing full well that Gansey didn’t believe in coincidences.
“They freak me out,” Noah said.
“I like them,” Gansey replied. He liked being freaked out. The prickle of hair on his arms, the curl of anticipation in his gut. He liked that sense that magic was coming for him, instead of the other way around. The door down below slammed as Ronan entered the warehouse. “Don’t come up, Lynch. We’re going out.”
“To do what?”
“What do we ever do?” Gansey replied. “To find a king.”
<b><p></b> <b>Gryffindor:</b> Waking up early to open presents. Drunken caroling. Stockings overstuffed with sweets. Mistletoe in every doorway. Elf on a Shelf. Terrible Christmas puns. 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas.' Animated Christmas films. Ugly sweater parties. Handmade gifts. Sledding down the steepest hill in town. Staying up late and trying to catch Santa. The smell of cinnamon. Indulgently flavored coffees. Taking a nap after Christmas dinner. Brightly colored wrapping paper. 'Elf.'<p/><b>Slytherin:</b> Midnight Mass sung entirely in Latin. Classy Christmas parties. Breaking out the good china for Christmas dinner. Twinkling white lights that line the roof and doorway and windows. Sneaky mistletoe kisses. Driving around the neighborhood on Christmas Eve to see all the decorations. Extravagant gifts. Ice sculptures. A perfectly harmonized arrangement of 'The Carol of The Bells.' A wine bottle Advent calendar. Snowman building competitions. The quiet crackling of the fireplace. Eggnog-spiked coffee. Shoving handfuls of snow down the back of your best friend's shirt and then running for it. 'A Christmas Carol'.<p/><b>Hufflepuff:</b> Making snow angels with your friends and then helping each other up so there's no stray hand prints. Working the soup kitchens on Christmas Eve. Super thoughtful gifts. The smell of freshly baked cookies and fudge. Reciting 'Twas the Night Before Christmas from memory alone. Setting out treats for Santa and the reindeer. 'O Come All Ye Faithful.' Santa hats. Eskimo kisses. Candy canes in mugs of steaming cocoa. Curling up in front of the fire with your sweetheart and a heavy blanket. Building gingerbread houses. 'Miracle on 34th Street.'<p/><b>Ravenclaw:</b> Late-night stargazing on Christmas Eve. The way the morning light shines through hanging icicles and casts prisms of rainbow light across the snow. Candlelight in windows. Perfectly hung tinsel on the Christmas tree. Personalized Christmas cards. 'The Little Drummer Boy.' Practical gifts. Building the perfect igloo in the front yard. Waking up to a fresh later of snow on Christmas morning. Sprigs of spearmint in your morning cup of tea. A family photo where everyone's smiling and no one blinks. Shimmering, decorative bows on all the gifts. Artfully arranged stockings. 'It's a Wonderful Life.'<p/></p><p/></p>
*grumbles about Christmas music at the end of November*
*smacks* BITCH PLEASE I GOT HANDED THE MESSIAH, O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL, SEE DAT BABE, AND DECK THE HALLS IN 7/8 ON THE FIRST DAY OF FALL TERM. EITHER GET ON THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN OR STAY IN YOUR LANE.
Me on 22nd of May at 12am KST: 🗣🗣📢📢🔔🔔O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL PEOPLE ITS OUR LORD AND SAVIOR’S BIRTHDAY JOY TO THE FUCKING WORLD OUR PRECIOUS BUN HAS OFFICIALLY TURNED 27 IN HIS COUNTRY‼️🎉🎉May Suho, born Kim Junmyeon, continue to bless us with his bomb ass highlights atop his glowing apple cheeks, 💖his heavenly jokes, his adorable baby smiles and laughters 💕💕did I mention the adorable and outta this world eyesmile? That too and of course may he never stop posting his A+ 💯selfies and featuring in so many boys’ instagram. May he never stop singing with his angelic ass voice and blessing us with his soft bf aesthetic he puts out every goddamn day✨✨Bless him with all the happiness and the best things in the universe 🌈AND I PRAY FOR HIM TO GET WASTED AF AND GET ALL THE HUGS, CUDDLES, AND KISSES 💋AMONG OTHER THINGS AND ESPECIALLY THE LOVE AND APPRECIATION HE FOREVER DESERVES ALWAYS AND FOR ETERNITY ❤️❤️❤️
The early church never came to a definitive understanding of the ‘atonement’, and neither have any of the most ancient churches. None of the early councils or heresies were about how to understand the nature of Christ’s redeeming death. Instead, all of them, one way or another, dealt with the incarnation and its nature and effects. For the early church, this was the defining doctrine of Christianity. And this is because our primary problem is not forensic, but existential. We are marked by a triple division - man is divided from God, from his fellow man, and from himself. We are de-humanized, and the message of the incarnation is one of re-humanization, the restoration of the image of God and an invitation to the likeness. True Godhood and True Manhood, revealed in the innocent fragility of a poor child and in a life of suffering love, the beginning and the end of all things. “Come, O ye faithful, inspired by God; let us arise and behold the divine condescension from on high that is made manifest to us in Bethlehem. Cleansing our minds, let us offer through our lives virtues instead of myrrh” (Sticheron of the Sixth Hour, Christmas Eve).