Dec 21, 2015
Your Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth (and, by your grace, 'Highness' between us two),
I was honored to receive your missive at this Christmastide, and humbled by your care for a mere subject of your great and prosperous realm. That you take interest in my life here on the outskirts of London is a source of pride to me, and I recall each single time we have met over these many year with great joy.
You speak of growing old, but if I may respectfully disagree, Gloriana cannot age. You are our nation's shining light, and when light fades, the world grows dark.
You spoke of holiday preparations at Greenwich, and though I have not been there, I think I can picture the stonework hung with greenery and the many candles lit for evening festivities.
Things are simpler here, but since you asked, I will tell you of our preparations.
My son Henry cut some holly to put over the doors, and my wife tied it with red ribbon. Its bright green leaves and red berries add a festive air to our simple home. For our Christmas dinner, Hannah is planning brawn with mustard from some pork I received in barter from a local farmer. She will roast it all day in the fireplace, and my old nose can almost smell it cooking now.
Susan is married now, but she and her family will help with the meal. Along with the roast I know we shall see souse, cheese, apples and nuts, and of course plum pudding.
After dinner we will have music. If it is too cold outside, Henry will push the tables in my shop into the corners so there can be dancing as well. Though I am too old and brittle to dance, I love to see the young ones whirling and twirling and hear the pipe and tabor.
It is my sincerest wish that your Christmastide will bring joy to you, for I know it is a burden on you to care for your subjects as much as you do. Know that we love you, and that your old subject (dare I say friend) Simon Maldon prays for your good health and great contentment, always.
Dec 19, 2015
My old friend Simon,
I have thought of you often in recent days. It has been some years since we last met and I sent you off to Scotland. I am certain you have grown ancient, for I myself am old. It came to my mind to write to you of my days in Christmastide. Perhaps you will in turn tell me of yours.
We are keeping Christmas now, since it is December 24th. The next twelve days will be busy ones, with parties each day until the last and largest one on Twelfth Night. Much of it is silliness, with men dressing as women and women as men. There is also gambling, which some abhor, but I believe life must offer good times to balance the bad ones we cannot avoid.
I have ordered the cooks to spare no expense in feeding the household, so we shall dine on meats of all kinds, marchpanes, pies, custards, frumenty, plum porridge, and much else. I look forward to the Christmas pie of neat's tongue, eggs, sugar, lemon, orange peel, and spices. As I told you when last we met, sugar is a wonderful food, and very healthful, too, I'm told.
It was suggested to me that this year we might set an image of the Christ child on the chapel altar. I see nothing wrong with that, for we must be reminded that despite all the banquets and dancing, this is a time for reflecting on God's gifts to us all.
Write me if you can, Old Friend, and tell me news of your family and your activities at Christmastide.
Her Royal Highness Elizabeth
(though you, of course, may call me "Highness")
So now is come our joyful'st feast,
Let every man be jolly.
Each room with ivy leaves is drest,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.
George Wither (1588-1667)
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