Celebrating the Yuletide Season at Castle Vexstein by Jemima Pett
Day 10 Advent 2017, 2nd Sunday of Advent
Jemima Pett offers Solveig’s readers a glimpse into the society of her Princelings of the East series this Advent. The books feature two princelings who leave their home castle, Castle Marsh, to have many mysterious adventures, mostly involving time travel, pirates, and new inventions.
All seven books in the series are on sale during the December-January period, leading up to the publication of book 8 on 30th January. For details see the series on the Princelings website.
The first piece (2nd December) is by Queen Kira, who plays a major part in books 2 and 3 of the series. George and Fred are the original Princelings of the East. Fred is now King, and George is an engineer, flying ace, and inventor of new machines.
The second piece (10th December) is by Sir Pogo, who lives in a very different castle, Castle Vexstein. Their main industry is brewing the drink Vex, which has a monopoly in brewed drinks throughout the country. It’s a complete contrast from Castle Marsh, the focus of the Princelings series, and increasingly the source of most of the troubles that are brewing.
Celebrating the Yuletide Season at Castle Vexstein,by Sir Pogo
The Yuletide season is one of relaxation and happiness for all who belong to Vexstein, from the lowliest to the highest, currently my uncle, Baron Smallweed, who succeeded a few years ago following the death of my other uncle, the late Baron Darcy.
The relaxation stems in part to the fact that we close down production at the brewery for the ten day holiday. This allows everyone to have a good break and for all the equipment to be thoroughly cleaned and overhauled. So Solstice really starts with the end of the last shift, and to mark that, we have a firework display over the brewery, and a street market with vendors selling hot drinks and snacks, playing music and dancing, on the streets outside the castle walls.
The next morning we have our formal ceremony to mark Solstice, with the elders of the family processing in their correct order through the streets of the second level to the Great Hall. We invite our best workers to the event and also, to be democratic about it, hold a lottery for the rest of the tickets among the castle inhabitants. I have heard that these tickets are sold to others wanting to attend, but we encourage free enterprise so do nothing to spoil our citizens’ enjoyment. It’s good to know that people are willing to pay to attend, but I dissuaded Lord Smallweed from making it a pay-to-attend event some years back.
We have a formal dinner in the evening of Solstice with Family and any visiting dignitaries, together with the Marshals of the Castle. Marshals are the order of people who deal with the day to day running of the castle, under Lord Smallweed’s direction, of course. It is our main way of thanking the Marshals for their hard work during the year.
Over the next few days we have a number of family get-togethers, usually involving food and wine, and some entertainments, often encouraging talent from our citizens to show their skills. We also have a narrating competition that is held somewhere in the first or second level for the citizens who wish to attend. I gather it’s quite popular. Actually, it is very popular, or at least it was when I slipped away from my family duties to watch it when I was much younger. But I don’t know that officially, you understand.
When the cleaning of the brewery is finished, we inspect it and congratulate the workers with a special party for them and an extra pack of Vex to take home to their families. Oh, I forgot to mention the children’s party we arrange for the families of all the citizens on one of the days between Solstice and Green Willow Day.
Finally we get to Green Willow Day. We walk the circuit of every level of the castle accompanied by all those who live on it, and those above, until we have the entire castle population walking round the lowest level. Well, not the slums outside the castle but inside the walls, obviously. I’d like to clear those out and get everyone decent accommodation, but my uncle says it’s a waste of time. The walk around the castle levels is fun, though. We finish with an open air fire and hot drinks and some food, and speeches to remind people of their duty in the new year, and everyone renews their oath to serve the Baron. Then we go back upstairs for our formal meal and a ball, and I believe the citizens have a party too. Then we start up production at 6 am on new year’s day and get back to normal.