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Title: Surprises of Yule
For DreamFlower02 for Yule 09 Gift Exchange
December 18th, 3018 TA
Pippin was delighted that Master Elrond gave him formal permission to be in the Fellowship, and yet he was dismayed by how soon they had to depart. Seven days! If only they could remain in Rivendell two more weeks instead of one— then, then everything would work out properly. He understood that Frodo's ring was very important, of course, but at the same time leaving at the end of the year without some sort of proper acknowledgment just seemed wrong.
Every year he celebrated Yuletide, and every year the six days of celebration were, other than his birthday, the best days of the year. He fondly recalled the constant merrymaking within the Great Smials, the large Yuletide log that burned throughout the festivities, the wonderful feasts with the great Yuletide boar...
The young hobbit sighed. Not this year. This year there would be no wassailing nor gift-giving. There would be no great feasts in decorated halls lit by a great fire. There would not even be any mentioning of good health and a happy new year, not when the new year would pass by in the middle of the Wild. He glanced gloomily into the distance, uncharacteristically untouched by Rivendell's beauty.
"Greetings, Master Perian."
Pippin, startled out of his unusual reverie, glanced about and saw Boromir approaching. "Lord Boromir," he greeted politely with a short bow.
"No formalities, please," said the tall man with a kind smile. "Boromir suits me well enough, for we are to be companions, or so I have been told."
"Then please call me Pippin," responded the hobbit. "It is what my friends call me."
"Pippin," the man remarked. "It fits you well." Pippin smiled and nodded in thanks, but his mind was still on his previous thoughts, and Boromir was quick to notice. "Why is there such sorrow in your eyes?" He suddenly frowned. "Have you changed your mind concerning the Quest?"
"Oh, no!" Pippin was quick to reassure him. "I still want to go with Frodo. It is just..." He paused. Did Men even celebrate Yuletide? "Well, at the end of the year, we hobbits have a large celebration called Yuletide."
"In Gondor we also celebrate the last day of the year," said Boromir, "though it is known to us as Mettarë."
"Oh!" exclaimed Pippin delightedly. "So you do celebrate the coming of the new year! What do you do at your home?"
"When I am in Minas Tirith on Mettarë, which is less often than not in recent years," he started, "I attend various state functions, the most important being the Great Feast in the Merethrond and the festivities afterward. Every year, my father delivers a speech about the past and new beginnings with the new year before we feast. The festivities tend to run late into the night."
The hobbit nodded, but when no more information was forthcoming, he said, "It only lasts for one day? That is so short! Yuletide lasts six days, running through the last two days of Foreyule, the Yuledays, and the first two days of Afteryule. And while we feast— and feasting is a very important part of Yuletide— we also do so much more!" Pippin then went on in a long explanation about the customs of Yuletide, speaking quickly and throwing in so many strange terms that Boromir nearly forgot his original question.
"I see," he replied carefully after the younger's detailed explanation, "but what has this to do with your sorrow?"
"Well," Pippin dragged the word for a long moment, leaving the captain of Gondor to wonder if he was going to answer. "I've never not celebrated Yuletide, and by the time it comes around this year, we'll be long gone from Rivendell."
"Ah," said Boromir with sudden comprehension. "You wish to celebrate this year as well."
The other nodded. "I do wish Master Elrond could have set our date of departure a few days later— not that I don't understand how important this quest is," he was quick to clarify. "And I am still going with Frodo."
"I never thought less," replied the man with a kind smile, "nor do I think less of you for the wish to celebrate. The road will not be easy, and cheer may be hard to come by in the following days."
"Yes," Pippin sighed, sounding uncertain. "I— sorry for bothering you," he said suddenly, effectively ending the conversation. The hobbit bowed and quickly went off, Boromir watching the hobbit's back thoughtfully. He turned around and headed in the other direction, the sudden ideas in his mind sorting themselves quickly as if they were some detailed battle strategy from one of his campaigns. It was not five minutes later when he bumped into another hobbit— Meriadoc, if he remembered correctly, though his kinsmen called him by another name that he could not recall at the moment.
"Master Perian," he greeted.
"Lord Boromir," replied the other with a short bow. "Have you seen my cousin, Pippin?"
"I just spoke with him, though I am afraid I do not know where he is headed. And please call me Boromir; we are to be companions, after all."
"Then call me Merry, please, for that is what my friends call me."
Ignoring the strange sense of déjà vu, the man nodded and said, "Very well then, Merry. But please, before you go in search of your kinsman, I would have a word with you." Merry straightened and gazed seriously at the captain. "Do not fear, it is not serious," he reassured him, "but I would have you aid me in some matter."
"How may I be of assistance?" the hobbit asked, unable to completely mask his puzzlement.
"I need to organize a Yuletide party."
He was not quite sure how this had happened. One minute he was asking Merry for some information about Yuletide, and within the next few hours the whole Fellowship, sans Pippin, was gathered in Elrond's library discussing what was looking to be a great celebration. Even the heir of Isildur and Mithrandir had come to be of assistance. The master of the house looked on the gathering with ill-contained amusement.
"Right," started Merry matter-of-factually. "Lord Glorfindel has already found Pippin?"
"Yes," replied Aragorn, "and he has agreed to see that he is kept out of the way for the next couple of days."
"I doubt Pippin will mind; he has a taken a great liking to Lord Glorfindel," said Frodo with a smile.
"And his horse," Sam added.
"And Pippin believes I've come down with a cold, so he won't miss me," Merry declared. "Master Elrond, perhaps you could help me maintain this facade and send me something that looks like medicine for a couple of nights?"
"If you wish," replied the peredhel, his eyes twinkling in delight.
"Wonderful," Merry replied with a grin. He turned to Frodo and Sam. "Help me out here, we should cover as many things as possible. We'll need a Yuletide log, and some sort of decoration would be nice."
"Decorations of what sort?" asked Legolas.
"Wreaths and garlands made of leaves and flowers," said Frodo.
"And mistletoe," said Sam, turning slightly red as he realized he said it aloud. Frodo glanced at him knowingly.
"What is the mistletoe for?" Gimli asked, not missing the look between them.
Merry grinned. "If two people are standing under a bough of mistletoe, they must kiss."
"It was a game among the lads of Brandy Hall to see who could stand under the mistletoe the longest before running off; the girls loved to tease them," Frodo recalled.
"They still do," Merry remarked.
Aragorn smiled. "Arwen and other ladies of the household can collect the needed materials and weave the garland and wreaths; I am sure there will be many volunteers."
"I will cut down and bring in this Yuletide log," stated Gimli.
"I will send some of my household to aid you, Master Gimli," said Elrond. "Did you not mention earlier, Meriadoc, something about a Yuletide boar?"
"Oh, yes!" the hobbit exclaimed. "There must a Yuletide boar, though in Brandy Hall we had several since there were so many of us. There are many wild boars in the Shire; are there any around Rivendell?"
"Boars are plentiful," said Elrond, "and tomorrow a hunting party being led by my sons is to leave to restock our stores. I will have them bring back some boars for the feast."
"Great," said Merry. "Now, there are also many Yuletide dishes that go alongside the Yuletide boars, so Frodo, Sam, and I will be busy in the kitchens the moment the hunting party returns. Pippin must be kept out of the house that whole day."
"I am certain Lord Glorfindel can handle Peregrin," Gandalf remarked, "though I still commend him for volunteering for such a position." His voice was gruff but the light in his eyes betrayed his amusement. "If you will excuse us, Aragorn and I have some further things to discuss before supper." He glanced at the rest of the Fellowship before his gaze ended with Boromir. The wizard winked and, before the man could comprehend this fact, both Mithrandir and the heir of Isildur were gone. Soon Legolas, Gimli, and Elrond left the room, leaving him with the hobbits.
"How was that?" Merry asked.
"That was... brilliant," he admitted, a smile splitting across his face. "When I asked for your assistance, I was not expecting so much!"
"Well, we need as much help as possible in such short notice if this is to be a proper Yuletide celebration," Frodo pointed out.
"Usually we start preparing weeks in advance," Merry added. "There are all the hunting parties to organize, the invitations to send—"
"All the food to prepare," Sam pointed out.
"And the gifts!" Frodo said suddenly. "We did not mention the gifts! I suppose it does not matter; I do not believe we have enough time for finding gifts for everyone."
"We can exchange stories instead, Mr. Frodo," suggested Sam.
"Or songs, since we cannot do any proper wassailing," added Merry. The hobbit turned to Boromir. "One day, when you come to the Shire, we can show you how Yuletide is properly celebrated, but for now this will make do."
Boromir smiled. "Because of your aid, I am sure this will be a wonderful and very proper Yuletide for young Pippin."
December 21st, 3018 TA
When the hunting party arrived around noontime with their bounteous catch, Merry called everyone into action. Pippin was already in Glorfindel's company on a time-wasting trip around the valley, and so they had a few hours to prepare everything for the evening. The remaining hobbits immediately headed towards the kitchens while the others had been ordered to "do the rest". Boromir somehow found himself hanging long chains of leafy garland around the feasting hall with none other than the heir of Isildur. He looked on in ever increasing amaze as the other man unwound the long chain.
"How many chains of garland are there?" the Gondorian asked.
"A few," Aragorn answered. "There were many volunteers," he added to Boromir's disbelieving look. "Elves will take any reason to celebrate and gladly help in any preparations needed."
"Verily," cried a voice in agreement, and Boromir turned to see Legolas behind him, holding a couple of wreaths. "Even in Greenwood's dark days do we Wood-elves enjoy many feasts throughout the year."
Even without Legolas' confirmation, Boromir was able to see this for himself. Elves were darting in and out of the great hall, carrying with them various decorations to be hung or placed upon the tables. At one point he saw Lady Arwen with Frodo looking over the progress approvingly before darting out once more into the Hall of Fire.
By the time all the decorations were hung and the food was prepared, the sun had set and the last light of day was nearly faded away. It was when Gimli, with the aid of several elves, came into the feasting hall with a log over a dozen feet long and a near three feet in diameter that caused Merry, newly come from the kitchens, to grin.
"Now that is a proper Yuletide log!" he exclaimed. "All now seems to be in order."
"Lady Arwen, when does your father wish for the feast to begin?" asked Frodo.
"Whenever you are ready to begin, Master Frodo," said the lady with a smile.
"An hour should be enough time to freshen up, should it not?" asked Merry.
Frodo nodded. "It should give Pippin enough time to come back to the house and refresh himself before we begin."
"I shall send someone to inform your kinsman and bring him to your rooms," said Arwen. She nodded her head in farewell and went to find a messenger.
"We should be going now. Mr. Bilbo is expecting us to be telling him when the feast is," Sam pointed out.
"Right you are, dear Sam!" said Merry. "If we hurry, we may just be able to bathe before the feast begins." With that in mind, they hurried to their rooms to prepare for the upcoming Yuletide celebration.
Pippin was not completely sure what compelled Lord Glorfindel to spend so much time with him recently— perhaps he heard that Merry was bedridden— but whatever the reason, he was certainly glad for the attention. After all, not everyone could boast that they have gone through weapons training with Lord Glorfindel, even if it was only a couple of lessons.
Once a messenger arrived and informed him of the dinner hour, he headed straight to the room that he shared with Merry. To his delight, Merry was out of bed and very lively.
"Merry! You're feeling better!"
"What? Oh, yes, I had a long nap and after that I felt as right as rain," Merry said. "Someone brought us hot water, and since you're covered in filth I'm going to take the first bath. I won't be too long, and afterward you can get the bathwater as dirty as you wish."
"Very funny, Merry," Pippin remarked as he rolled his eyes. "Go on then, be quick; I don't want to bathe in cool water!"
Before the hour had passed both of the hobbits were ready, and as planned Merry and Pippin went to Bilbo's room, where with him, Frodo, and Sam they would walk to the feasting hall. The other four were sure to keep their expressions completely blank as well as avoid looking at one another; they did not want Pippin to be suspicious about anything unexpected.
As they approached the open doors of the feasting hall, they were sure to be behind Pippin when the hall came into sight. When the youngest hobbit first set his eyes upon the great opening, he stopped immediately in his tracks, his gaze roaming about the yards upon yards of flowery garland, the great wreaths above the doorways, the elaborate centerpieces, and even the discreet mistletoe within the corners. He soon caught sight of the large, single log within the great fireplace that lit up the room with a merry firelight bright enough to even compete with the everlasting flames in the Hall of Fire. Merry walked up to him and enjoyed his wide-eyed expression for a moment before saying, "Happy Yuletide, Pip!"
Pippin swiveled about to stare at his cousin. "You did this? For me? But— how did you—"
"Boromir told me," his cousin explained. "When we started planning, a few others volunteered to help us." The younger stared at him evenly. "Well, quite a few others," Merry admitted with a grin.
"And we have quite a feast prepared!" Sam said eagerly. "We have a batch of boars specially for Yuletide, alongside roast goose and roast duck, the proper stews and soups of course, and we have all the Yuletide treats: plum pudding, fruitcakes, gingerbread, mincemeat pies and figgy pudding!"
"Figgy pudding!" Pippin exclaimed. He began to sing:
Good tidings we bring, to you and to yours.
"Pippin!" Frodo admonished with a laugh, "you should not sing here; you can save it for the Hall of Fire, which is just as festive as this room. Besides, we are not out wassailing."
"Then we shall improvise!" He ran over to the nearest group of elves, speaking softly with one another before the beginning of the feast. Bilbo left the younger hobbits with a short laugh while the other three went after Pippin. Before they could discourage him, he cleared his throat and began to sing to the elves.
Here we come a-wassailing
On the other side of the room, standing just a few feet beyond the high table, Elrond and Gandalf watched the hobbits with amusement. Gandalf chuckled as Pippin's clear voice only rose higher with his cousins' half-hearted protests. He glanced at other members of the Fellowship scattered around the room; Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir watched the hobbits with delight, the usually reserved man chuckling at Pippin's antics.
"This was an unexpected joy for all of them," said Gandalf thoughtfully. "Unexpected, but perhaps the best for their spirits."
Elrond watched as his daughter discreetly led Aragorn into of one of the many narrower halls that led to the feasting hall. Within her hand he spotted a bough of mistletoe. "Perhaps."
The wizard followed his gaze and chuckled unsympathetically. "Let them have their joy; the days following will be dark, and for both of them it will be the little joy they have in a long while." If not the last, he left unsaid.
The other, if he knew his unspoken thoughts, said nothing about them. "Then happiness all in this hall shall have tonight, for you are right; I foresee many dark days before they become light again."
And so, even if only for that night, all within the Last Homely House forgot about their troubles and took delight in the celebration of Yuletide.
*Foreyule is December, the Yuledays follow, and Afteryule is January.
*Yule 1 is the equivalent to Mettarë, the last day of the year, and both are equivalent to our December 21st (and so this mini-celebration of theirs falling on their December 21st seemed right).
*Many of the traditions listed here, like the Yule log and Yule boar, are older traditions, some going back to early pagan times. Others, such as mistletoe, were popularized a few hundred years ago but have roots in older mythology.
*Wassailing (one of the definitions) is basically caroling, and has roots going back to pre-Christian times. Naturally hobbit wassailing does not have any of the negative connotations that some of the real world wassailing historically has. The snippet of the first song used is "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", though naturally Christmas was changed to Yuletide to fit with the context of the story. It originated about 500 years ago in England. The snippet of the second song is an old wassailing song, "Here We Come a-Wassailing", and has unknown origins.
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