Why is coal threatened to appear Christmas stockings for bad little boys and girls? The backstory is a holiday sweet wrapped around a horrific little nugget in the long history of human cruelty. And it has an interesting tie-in to a beloved Christmas carol.
There are those who will try and tell you that the coal is one of two gifts (along with bread) held by angel tree toppers in Victorian England. Bread and coal represented food and warmth for the poor. How sweet. And untrue.
Coal actually represents the charred remains of children sacrificed in flames by proto-Druids as the highlight of their fell Solstice eve revels. The children were blindfolded then marched one by one into an enormous figure of a man made of sticks and wicker. Once this wicker man was filled, the door through which the children entered was bolted shut and the effigy was set alight. The screams of the innocents creating a ghastly descant soaring above the throbbing drums and primitive skirling of drone and chanter as the adults danced around the flames, wearing nothing more than lamb’s blood and holly leaves.
The next morning, the remaining children of the village were marched out to the still-smoking pile and forced to gather the cooling coals – all that now remained of their friends – and carry them back home. The children were told their friends had left them gifts of coal to warm their houses through the long, bleak midwinter. None the wiser, the children would set their friends’ charred remains alight for the Kriyftsmaff meal and sing the Druidic carol that we now know, sanitized of course, as “Deck the Halls,” but whose lyrics read, in part, at the time:
“See the blazing hearth before us / made of coals our friends left for us”
Poor little ones. They had no idea. Until the next year rolled around.
So yeah. Coal. A whimsical reminder of our self-destructive heritage.
So instead of brooding in our seemingly innate propensity to destroy our young to stay warm, why not come out and rage against the dying light of the year with laffs, funny video films, friends, and holiday quaffs. December’s Luxury Prestige 3 tickets are on sale now.