Steve entered his home in the quiet Boston neighborhood, a fine powdering of snow on his military cap and coat.
He immediately was hit with the strong scent of pine, evergreen, and aromatic oils. Rosemary, sandalwood, and patchouli fragrances filled the room. Carols were softly playing on the CD player.
He entered the living room, a veritable twinkling Winter Wonderland brought inside. The tree’s lights were shining as the tinsel, garlands and ornaments glittered in the reflected light, the silver-and-gold star on top. Garlands of dark-green holly, ivy and red berries festooned the ceiling and mantel, and candles were lit all around the room, of every color imaginable. The coffee table was cleared of any objects except for another set of unlit violet candles and a fragrant evergreen wreath. The fireplace was unlit, but a huge, round log was set on the brick hearth. Something very good was cooking in the kitchen.
“Angel?” Steve called.
Diana emerged from the hall, clad in a simple white gown of medieval fashion, the bodice and neckline trimmed in gold and tiny jewels of every color and wearing her Amazon gold belt. Her tiara was made of diamonds, sapphires, and topazes, glittering in her dark hair, and she wore long, diamond earrings that swung lightly as she moved. A single crystal pendant on a gold chain was around her neck, the pendant resting comfortably in her cleavage. Her feet were bare. Music swirled around the two of them.
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la.
Troll the ancient Yule-tide carol
“Tonight is the Winter Solstice, my love.” Diana’s blue eyes were shining. “I wish to celebrate, and I wish for you to celebrate with me.”
Steve smiled. This was going to be their first Christmas together, and now Diana wanted him to celebrate her religion’s holiday. Touched and honored, Steve nodded and took her hand. She smelled faintly of sandalwood.
“I have laid out clothing for you, and will tend to the meal while you change.”
Steve smiled and kissed her, happy to do as she asked.
In the bedroom he fingered the soft dark-brown pants and dark-green velvet shirt, cut simply and with thin gold trim around the neckline and hem of the sleeves. A white flat square box was placed on top of the shirt. Reining in his curiosity, he decided to save opening the box until he’d showered.
An examination of the bathroom found a bottle of sandalwood oil and he smiled, rubbing it into his skin after he showered. He combed his wet hair and went out into the bedroom, pulling on a pair of boxers and opening the box.
A crystal that matched Diana’s was nestled on a dark blue velvet lining. Smiling, he put the pants and shirt on, then the gold chain around his neck. He smoothed down the velvet, enjoying the sensation against his skin, and didn’t put on socks or shoes, going barefoot like he’d seen Diana do.
He padded out to the living room and joined Diana on the couch.
“Yule is the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year,” she said, lifting a match and matchbox. He could smell the scent of the candles: bayberry. “It is the time when the Sun God dies and is reborn. The Old Germans had a saying, ‘A bayberry candle burned to the socket brings food to the larder and gold to the pocket’.” She lit the candles. “They are lit as a charm to bring prosperity and growth for the New Year. I have anointed them with Magnetic Oil, the oil having soaked in a magnetite crystal from New Moon to Full."
Steve inhaled the strong scent of bayberry. “It’s beautiful.”
Diana smiled serenely. “Time to light the Yule log.” The CD looped over to start again.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly
'Tis the season to be jolly
She rose and picked up the log by hearth, handling it easily with her strength as she placed it in the fireplace. “It is made of oak, to symbolize the Oak King, who is born as the Holly King dies.” She lit the log and it blazed to life. Straightening, she touched the ivy on the mantel. “The ivy is the female element, and the holly with bright red berries represents the Holly King.”
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la.
Troll the ancient Yule-tide carol
See the blazing Yule before us.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
“What is this?”
Steve could smell cinnamon and clove and tasted apple as he drank. “Mmm, this is delicious.” He took another sip. “Orange and lemon?”
Diana nodded and she drank. “Also nutmeg and ginger.” Her eyes were sparkling. “Many of the traditions of the Christian holiday were taken from the Pagan religions as you can see.”
Follow me in merry measure.
While I tell of Yule-tide treasure.
“Ah, so they understood.”
Steve grinned. “A Puritan always lives in fear of someone somewhere having a good time.” Diana laughed with him. “But I’m glad that the holiday I grew up with has so many Pagan elements to it.” He reached out and took Diana’s hand. “It’s a wonderful blending of traditions.”
She nodded and squeezed his hand, smiling as she put down her cup and pointed to the tree. “The robin ornament symbolizes the Oak King and the coming of spring.” Her eyes danced. “I’m sure Dick would be pleased to hear that.”
“His Gypsy blood must understand,” Steve said with a smile.
“As does your Celtic blood, my love.”
They exchanged heartfelt expressions for a long moment, then Diana squeezed his hand and said, “It is time to feast. Come.”
The dining room table was set with the finest china, and red and green candles burned around a centerpiece of a holly/ivy wreath. Together Steve and Diana brought in several dishes: rosemary-sprinkled roast chicken; a simple salad of lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes; cinnamon-sprinkled Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, shrimp and haddock.
“My friend Tony Alveretti’s family always had fish on Christmas Eve,” Steve observed, happily taking a bite of shrimp.
Diana nodded. “It is a Catholic tradition among the Italians, and other cultures further North.”
The snow was a beautiful backdrop as they ate, Steve smiling as Diana produced sparkling champagne. The fire crackled in the hearth, casting muted shadows on the tree as ornaments, tinsel, and garland glittered.
They talked of traditions and holidays, and Steve said, “Christmas Eve was always so magical for my sister and me as kids. We were excited about Santa coming and tried to get to sleep so morning would come faster.”
Diana’s eyes sparkled. “A fine tradition, this of Santa Claus bringing gifts to children all over the world.”
“All in one night.”
She laughed. “A man who dresses in red and lives at the North Pole and flies to millions of children’s houses in one night? Why does that sound familiar?”
Steve grinned. “Does Santa borrow a cup of sugar from Clark at the Fortress?”
Diana smirked. “That reminds me, let us clear away these dishes and I shall bring dessert.”
Steve helped with the clean-up, then sat in the living room on the couch dutifully awaiting Diana and the dessert. Though, truth be told, Diana was dessert enough for him.
Diana entered the living room with a plate of cookies that she set down on the coffee table. They were vanilla, molasses, and gingerbread, frosted with vanilla icing and red and green sprinkles.
“Yule cookies?” Steve asked with a laugh.
Steve chose a molasses cookie and took a bite. “Oh, Angel, you’ve really come far with your baking lessons!”
“Thanks to your family.” Diana settled on the couch. “They have much patience with a novice in the art of cooking and baking.”
Steve finished his cookie and took another, the gingerbread this time. “Well, Angel, you’re a good student.”
She smiled and took a vanilla cookie.
The carols were a nice background as they ate and talked quietly, then Diana hopped up and went to the tree, picking up a present. She handed it to Steve as she sat down. “A Yule gift, my love.”
“Ah.” Steve hadn’t bought a specific Yule gift for Diana, but he could use one of the Christmas gifts already under the tree. It was given in the same spirit, after all. He unwrapped the shiny gold wrapping paper on the small, square box. When he opened it, he exclaimed, “It’s beautiful, Angel!” Steve lifted out a thick gold bracelet studded with jewels of various colors: red, green, yellow, blue, purple and white. Another one was still in the box, and Diana slipped the one he held on his right wrist.
“They are Amazon bracelets,” Diana explained. “They are worn to emphasize the special status of a Beloved of a royal.”
Steve swallowed. “Th…thank you, Angel.”
She put a hand on his cheek. “You are most special to me, my love.”
He smiled as he put the other bracelet on. “As you are to me, sweetheart.” He drew her into a kiss, her lips sweet and soft. “Mmm.”
Diana’s laughter trilled around the room when they separated, and Steve jumped up. “I have a gift for you, Angel. I think it’ll fit Yule quite nicely.”
He brought the box back to the couch and handed it over. She eagerly tore off the red wrapping paper and silver bow, tossing it on the coffee table. It never failed to amuse Steve that his usual methodical Angel loved to open presents this way.
She opened the box and a smile spread across her lovely face. “They are beautiful, my darling!” She lifted out the pair of crystal earrings. “A perfect match to my necklace.”
Diana immediately took off her diamond earrings and replaced them with the crystals, and she’d been right: they were a perfect match.
A kiss sealed the deal, and Diana whispered, “Come, the other part of celebration must be experienced.”
A little thrill running through his body, Steve happily followed his Princess to the bedroom, pausing under the mistletoe for a deep kiss.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Music, Old Welsh Melody
Lyrics, American 19th Century C.E.
Let It Snow
Sammy Cahn, Lyricist
Jule Styne, Composer