Books: Festive Branch
Door 1: Winter Solstice
Book: Read a book that takes place in December, with ice or snow on the cover, where all events take place in a single day or night, that revolves around the solstice, set in Persia / Iran, China or the American Southwest or prominently featuring Persian / Iranian, Chinese or Native American characters, or a collection of poetry.
=> Donna Andrews: The Gift of the Magpie
Task 1: Burn a Yule log – or if you don’t have a fireplace, light a candle to chase away the winter and welcome in the longer days. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, light a candle to mourn the slow but inexorable retreat of the sun.
=> Yule Candles (and Candy).
Task 2: Bibliomancy — ask an author! Pick out a book with at least 350 pages and answer the following questions:
- Will I read all the books on my TBR? (page 20, line 21)
- Will any of my 2021 reads be 5 stars? (page 102, line 14)
- Will I discover a new favorite book / author / series? (page 309, line 5)
- Will I discover that a major twist (hopefully, for the [even] better) has occurred in one of my favorite series? (page 189, line 10)
- Will I finish all of my reading challenges in 2021? (page 269, line 17)
- Will I stay within my book budget in 2021? (page 236, line 8)
Bonus Task #1: Tell us: What book did you read this year that felt like it was never going to end?
=> 2 Seemingly Neverending Books: Anne Perry: Defend and Betray, and Gladys Mitchell: Death Comes at Christmas (aka Dead Man’s Morris).
Bonus Task #2: Stay up all night reading a good book (or at least stay up past your usual bedtime).
=> Reading Past My Usual Bedtime.
Door 2: Guy Fawkes Night
Book: Read a book set in the UK, a political thriller, a book involving any monarchy or revolution, a book about arson or related to fires and burning, or a book that is self-published.
=> Paul Doherty: The Nightingale Gallery
Task 1: Start a (publishing) revolution! What would you change / reform / get rid of in the book world?
=> Book Editions and Licensing: A Matter of Regional Profit Centers.
Task 2: Many of us would probably like to burn the whole year of 2020 in effigy. If that’s true for you, now is your chance! Tell the world (or us, anyway) what you hated about this year and why it should be blasted off the calendar forever.
=> Reasons to blast all of 2020 off the calendar.
Bonus Task #1: Post pictures of past or present bonfires, fireworks (IF THEY’RE LEGAL) or sparklers.
=> St. Martin’s Day Procession: Germany’s November Bonfire Tradition.
Bonus Task #2: Host a traditional English tea party, or make yourself a nice cup of tea and settle down with a good book to read.
=> Christmas Tea, a Book, and a Candle.
Door 3: Saturnalia
Book: The god Saturn has a planet named after him: Read any work of science fiction that takes place in space, or a nonfiction science / popular science book. Or read a book revolving around a large party, ball, or festival, or a story where roles are reversed, or a book celebrating free speech, or a book featuring a utopian society.
=> Susanna Gregory: A Killer in Winter
Task 1: According to imperial Roman sources, the Saturnalicius princeps (“Ruler of the Saturnalia”) ruled as master of ceremonies during the holiday. His role was possibly a satire on that of the emperor; and he has been compared to the medieval Lord of Misrule at the Feast of Fools: his capricious commands had to be obeyed by the other guests … he created and (mis)ruled a chaotic and absurd world.
Appoint a character from one of the books you read this year “Ruler of the Saturnalia” and name a funny / capricious command you think (s)he might give!
=> A Henpecked Husband’s Revenge.
Task 2: Saturnalia was originally a celebration in remembrance of the “Golden Age” of Graeco-Roman mythology, ruled over by Saturn (Kronos in Greek), and during which humanity existed in a utopian state of innocence, living off nature’s bounty without having to work.
Name a book describing / set in a fictional society in which you might want to live or tell us, what — in your view — are 3 elements that you consider indispensable to a well-functioning society in real life?
=> Fictional and Real Societies.
Door 4: Japanese Culture Day
Book: Read a book that is set in Japan or featuring Japanese characters; or read a graphic novel or a book set in a school or academic setting.
=> Deborah Crombie: Dreaming of the Bones
Task 1: Have some Japanese food!
Task 2: Japanese Culture Day was first held in 1948, to commemorate the announcement of the country’s post-war constitution on November 3, 1946, which was to make a new start for Japan. Which book did you read this year where someone was searching for or starting a new job, moving far away from their previous home, or otherwise making a new start? (Alternatively, is there one such book among your all-time favorites?)
=> Book Characters Turning Over a New Leaf.
Door 5: Bon Om Touk
Book: Read a book that has the moon, or an ocean, river, lake, or other body of water (larger than a puddle) on the cover, read a manga, or read a book set anywhere in Asia.
=> Ian Rankin: A Song for the Dark Times
Task 1: Bon Om Touk takes place on the end of the rainy season with the change of the water’s flow on Tonle Sap River. The flow direction changes twice a year. The change in November symbols the calm of the earth that is no longer under the water. – To bring some calm, upgrade and enjoy a bath: candles, bath bombs, flowers; and of course, a book to read while relaxing.
=> A Bubble Bath and Books.
Task 2: Post a picture from your most recent or favorite vacation on the sea (or a lake, river, or any other body of water larger than a puddle), or if you’re living on the sea or on a lake or a river, post a picture of your favorite spot on the shore / banks / beach / at the nearest harbour.
Bonus Task: List / tell us about your favorite rainy day reads.
=> Favorite Rainy Day Reads.
Door 6: St. Nicholas’ Day / Sinterklaas
Book: Read a story involving children or a young adult book, or set in the Middle Ages, or a book whose cover is primarily orange (for the Dutch House of Orange) or red (for St. Nick’s robes / cloak), or a book with oranges, tangerines, walnuts, chocolates or cookies on the cover.
=> The Medieval Murderers: The Deadliest Sin
Task 1: Create a book wish list for one of your favorite book characters, or pick 3 books for that character to receive from St. Nick.
=> A Short Book List for Jonathan Harker.
Task 2: Share with us a paragraph / quote / description / image of your favorite Santa Claus / St. Nick depiction in popular culture, and then tell us why it resonates with you?”
E.g., here is the description of Father Christmas from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:
“It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. But they were far bigger than the Witch’s reindeer, and they were not white but brown. And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world—the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn’t find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.
Bonus Task: You are King / Queen for the day and can have 3 wishes (not book related): one for yourself, one for your community (any version) and one for the world: What are they?
=> Three Wishes.
Door 7: International Human Rights Day
Book: Read a book featuring a strong female character (or characters), by an author from any minority group, a story about a minority overcoming their oppressors, or revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused, a book set in New York City, or a book originally written in a language other than English and / or your mother tongue or by anyone not Anglo-Saxon.
=> Barbara Neely: Blanche on the Lam
Task 1: Nominate a (fictional) character from one of the books you read this year for a Nobel Prize – regardless which one – or for a similarly important prize (e.g., the Fields Medal for mathematics) and write a brief laudation explaining your nomination.
=> Posthumous Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Sherlock Holmes.
Task 2: Cook a dish from a culture other than your own or something involving apples (NYC = Big Apple) or oranges (for the Netherlands, seat of the International Court of Justice & International Criminal Court).
=> Red Thai Curry.
Door 8: St. Lucia’s Day
Book: Read a book set in Scandinavia / Northern Europe, by a Northern European / Nordic author, with a predominantly white cover (or white with red lettering), newly released in November or December of this year, or set in the candle-lit world (i.e., before the discovery of electricity – roughly, that is, before the late 19th century).
=> Michael Jecks: The Mad Monk of Gidleigh
Task 1: Get your Hygge on — light a few candles if you’ve got them, pour yourself a glass of wine or hot chocolate / toddy, roast a marshmallow or toast a crumpet, and take a picture of your coziest reading place. Post a picture.
Bonus Task: Nominate someone for sainthood. Who? Why?
=> COVID-Year Everyday Saints.
Door 9: Calan Gaeaf
Book: Read any of your planned Halloween Bingo books that you didn’t end up reading after all, involving witches, hags, or various types of witchcraft; or read a book with ivy or roses on the cover, or where a character’s name / the title of book is / has Rose or Ivy in it.
=> Arthur Conan Doyle: The Leather Funnel and The Brown Hand (from Round the Fire Stories)
Task 1: Make a dish with leeks.
Task 2: One Calan Gaeaf tradition involves single women peeling an apple skin and throwing it over their shoulder, believing that the shape it made when it lands will reveal the first initial of their true love:
Pick a fictional character (male or female) who is single or who is involved in a neverending or otherwise thoroughly bothersome / annoying love triangle. Peel an apple, throw it over your shoulder, and take a picture with a caption with your guess at what letter is formed, using the initials of another character in the same book / series / world who will turn out to be the first character’s true love, or the hero(ine) in shining armour rescuing the first character from their love triangle.
Door 10: First Day of Carnival
Book: Read a book that involves costumes / fancy dress / mummery, that has masks on the cover, or that is set in Germany; or read a book that involves a character whose profession is often used as fancy dress (e.g., a policeman, doctor, nurse, soldier, clergyman, or virtually any other profession associated with some sort of uniform or professional robes / wardrobe).
=> Ngaio Marsh: Off With His Head (aka Death of a Fool)
Task 1: Carnival – including its first day in the Rhine Valley (Nov. 11; officially beginning at 11:11 AM sharp) – is essentially one big party; fuelled, wherever in the world it is celebrated, by traditional local food / snacks and drinks. In the Rhineland, these include special local varieties of potato pancakes / latkes (Reibekuchen or, in the local dialect, “Riefkooche”) and donuts (Krapfen) as well as, of course, the local brew (Kölsch). Also, while there are typically no parades on Nov. 11, the Rhineland Carnival finishes – in February / March, immediately preceding Lent and at the same time as the rest of the world has its versions of Carnival – with a series of huge parades featuring music bands, dance companies, and floats (often with supersized papier mâché figurines satirizing recent political or otherwise significant events or public figures). From atop those floats, the crowd of onlookers are showered with bound bouquets (“Strüssche”), caramel candy (“Kamelle”), chocolate, and other sweets by the bucketful.
So: Post a picture of your Carnival meal of potato pancakes / latkes or donuts and your local brew of choice (alcoholic or non). Caramel candy or chocolate for dessert and flowers as table decoration are optional.
=> First Day of Carnival Dinner.
Task 2: Burn a few calories from the meal above and have a dance party. Tell us what songs / artists get your toes taping. Let’s build a playlist!
=> A Retro Playlist for a First Day of Carnival Party: 1970s-80s Disco & Dance Music.
Bonus Task #1: In the Rhineland, the first day of the “main” carnival celebrations (in February or March, preceding Lent) is called “The Women’s Carnival” (“Weiberfastnacht” or, in local dialect, “Wieverfastelovend” – don’t even try to pronounce that; not even German native speakers get it right). It is celebrated nowhere more vigorously than (and is in fact believed to have originated) in the part of Bonn that TA calls her home, a district on the right (Eastern) shore of the Rhine. On this day, the mayors of towns, cities, and the cities’ administrative districts hand over the keys of their respective town / city hall to that year’s local Carnival princess for a day’s worth of government. (Read: For a day’s worth of wild partying inside city hall.)
Tell us: For what 3 things do you think the women might use their “day of government” on Women’s Carnival (in addition to or other than for partying)?
Bonus Task #2: Any man unwise enough to be found wearing a necktie during Women’s Carnival will have his tie cut off, as a symbolic curtailment of male rule. Obviously, men who don’t want to play along don’t wear a tie on that day in the first place, but those who want to be good sports about it wear … what? Tell us 3 things you think they might put on in order to spare their tailormade best silken neckware the indignity of being mutilated by a woman’s scissors and still give those scissors something to cut off.
=> Women’s Carnival: Sacrificial Neckties.
Door 11: International Children’s Day
Book: Read a middle grade book (any genre), a book written by an author under 18 years old at the time of publication, or a book prominently featuring a child, juvenile, or young adult character.
=> Julian Symons: The Progress of a Crime
Task 1: Get out the crayons / colored pencils / markers and color. Or, if you live in your own home or in a building where this is permitted, get out some chalk and send a positive message to anyone passing your driveway / sidewalk.
Task 2: Get out and play any children’s game: hopscotch, jump rope, tag, yo yo – anything.
=> Children’s Games, the Feline Version.
Door 12: World Philosophy Day
Book: Read a book about philosophy or a philosopher, or a how-to book about changing your life in a significant way or suggesting a particular lifestyle (Hygge, Marie Kobo, etc.).
=> Dorothy L. Sayers: The Lost Tools of Learning.
Task 1: What is your reviewing / rating policy? Do you accept book review requests?
=> My Reviewing and Rating Philosophy
Task 2: How do you stay zen / sane over the holidays or in other stressful periods? And / Or: How did you manage to stay (more or less) zen throughout 2020 … if you did?
=> Staying Zen in Stressful Times.
Bonus Task: Half star ratings or not? Tell us what you think and whether you use them.
=> Use of Half Star Ratings
Door 13: International Day for Tolerance
Book: Read a book about tolerance, or outside your comfort zone, set in Paris (seat of UNESCO), by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker.
=> Ellis Peters: The Raven in the Foregate
Task 1: If you have kids or pets, tell us about something “bad” they did that was so funny you couldn’t help but forgive (“pardon”) them. If you have neither kids nor pets, was there such an event in your own childhood – or with kids or pets in your family or circle of friends?)
=> When Charlie Tried to Rearrange My Office Shelves …
Task 2: Name a redeeming trait of a book that you DNF’d this year.
=> Redeeming Isabel Allende’s Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna).
Door 14: Diwali
Book: Read a book about a homecoming or set in India or with Indian characters.
=> Ellery Queen: Calamity Town
Task 2: Goddess Lakshmi in her eightfold form is referred to as the Ashta-Lakshmi. Vidya-Lakshmi is the 7th of her 8 forms. “Vidya” means knowledge as well as education, not just degrees or diplomas from the university, but real all-round education. Thus, this form of Goddess Lakshmi is the giver of knowledge of the arts and sciences. – Which character from a book that you read this year could be a non-Indian version of Vidya-Lakshmi?
=> Brother Cadfael: An Ideal Teacher.
Bonus Task: Cleaning is a big part of this holiday: Choose one of your shelves, real or virtual, book or other shelf, and tidy / organize it. Give us the before and after photos.
=> Wardrobe Decluttering.
Door 15: Día de los Muertos / All Saints’ Day
Book: Reread a favorite book by a deceased author or from a finished series, or read a book set in Mexico or a book that either has a primarily black and white cover or all the colors (ROYGBIV) on the cover, or a book featuring zombies.
=> Agatha Christie: The Secret Adversary.
Task 1: Create an epitaph for the worst book you read in 2020.
=> Epitaph for Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone.
Task 2: Have some Mexican food!
=> Mexican Food: Chili and Cheese Nuggets, and Beef Enchilada.
Door 16: Melbourne Cup Day
Book: Read a book by an Australian author, set in Australia, or a book that involves horses.
=> Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar
Task 1: Pick your ponies! Pick the top 3 horses of this year’s Melbourne Cup race (and, if you want, 1 alternative.) As always, the horses in this year’s running will be announced 1 day ahead of the race (this year: Nov. 2) and the outcome as soon as the race is run (on Nov. 3).
=> My picks: Sir Dragonet, Prince of Arran, and Anthony van Dyck. Got 2 bonus points — 1 Prince of Arran, 1 in memoriam Anthony van Dyck, who broke down in the final stretch and, alas, later had to be put down.
Task 2: The odds-on favorite to win this year is Anthony van Dyck, with a betting amount of $8.50. If given that amount of money, what anticipated book(s) coming out in 2021 would you spend it on?
=> 2021 Book Buying Plans.
Door 17: Armistice / Veterans’ Day
Book: Read a book with active military or veteran characters, about or set during WWI or WWII, or with poppies on the cover.
=> Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (Kenneth Branagh audio).
Task 1: Post a quote or a piece of poetry about the ravages of war.
=> Quotes and Poppies.
Task 2: Create the flag of one of the countries that fought in either World War out of book covers. If your country was one of the participants, make it the flag of a country other than your own.
=> Belgian Flag.
Door 18: Thanksgiving
Book: Read a book with an autumnal cover, set in New England, where a turkey shows up in the story, with a turkey or pumpkin on the cover, or with the theme of coming together to help a community or family in need.
=> Paul Doherty: Bloodstone.
Task 1: Be thankful for yourself and treat yourself to a new book – post a picture of it. (This can be a library book.)
=> The New Pride and Prejudice Edition, and Other Lockdown Book Haul Entries.
Task 2: List your 5 favorite books of 2020.
=> Favorite Books of 2020.
Bonus Task #1: 2020 was a difficult year for many of us – all the more reason to appreciate the good things in life. List of 5 things that you are grateful for, either this year or generally.
=> 5 Things I am Grateful For
Bonus Task #2: Post a picture of your Thanksgiving feast.
Bonus Task #3: Post your favourite turkey-day recipe (or just your favorite turkey recipe).
Door 19: Hanukkah
Book: Read a book about light, miracles, featuring Jewish characters, set in Israel, that is the second book in a series, with the word “two” in the title, or with a light on the cover.
=> Agatha Christie: Murder on the Links
Task 1: Time to play dreidel! Pick four books from your TBR that you want to get to in 2021. Assign each book one of the sides of the dreidel:
Now play the dreidel here:
Your result is the first book you will read in 2021.
=> Dreidel pick: J.J. Connington: Mystery at Lynden Sands.
Task 2: Read by flashlight or candlelight. Post a picture.
=> Reading by Flashlight … with Feline Accompaniment.
Door 20: Festivus
Book: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc., books with hilariously dysfunctional families (must be funny dysfunctional, not tragic dysfunctional), or anything else that makes you laugh (or hope it does).
=> Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest
Task 1: The Airing of Grievances: Which were the 5 books you liked least this year and why?
=> 5 Least Favorite Books of 2020.
Task 2: The Scale of Strength: Pick 3 of your weightiest tomes and place them on a scale. Tell us the total weight.
=> Festivus Scale of Strength: Weighty Books.
Bonus Task #1: Post your personal list of 3 Festivus Miracles.
Bonus Task #2: Battle of the Books: pick two books off your shelf (randomly or with purpose); in a fair fight, which book would come out on top? The fight can be based on the merits of the books themselves, their writing, or full-on mano a mano between two characters.
=> Battle of the books goes feline: Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management vs. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Door 21: Christmas
Book: Read a book whose protagonist is called Mary, Joseph (or Jesus, if that’s a commonly used name in your culture) or any variations of those names (e.g., Maria or Pepe), or a book with pines or fir trees on the cover, or a Christmas book.
=> Georgette Heyer: Envious Casca (aka A Christmas Party)
and Agatha Christie: The Christmas Pudding
Task 1: Post a picture of a holiday decoration that is unique to your Christmas celebration and tell us about it.
=> Treasured Christmas Decorations.
Task 2: Modernize the three gifts given to Baby Jesus by the Magi. Instead of myrrh, frankincense, and gold – what would the Magi give as baby shower gifts in 2020-21?
=> The Gifs of the Magi, Modernized.
Bonus Task #1: Christine PNW’s untraditional family tradition for Christmas dinner is to gather around the fondue pot with her husband and children after spending the entire day in her pajamas and watching movies, playing video games or reading. Do you have any “untraditional” traditions for the day? Post a short text or a picture to tell your fellow players about them!
=> An Untraditional Christmas Tradition: A Nighttime Stroll Through My Neighborhood.
Bonus Task #2: Watch a favorite Christmas movie.
=> Classic Christmas Mystery Movie Binge.
Door 22: Kwanzaa
Book: Read a book written by an author of African, African American or Caribbean descent or a book set in Africa or the Caribbean, or whose cover is primarily red, green or black, or with crops of the earth or a native African animal on the cover (lion, giraffe, cheetah, African elephant, etc.).
=> Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile (Kenneth Branagh audio)
Task 1: Make a corn dish.
Task 2: Create a stack of books in the Kwanzaa color scheme using red, black and green and post your creation and post a photo (or post a photo of a shelfie where black, red and green predominate).
=> Kwanzaa-Colored Book Spines.
Door 23: New Year’s Day
Book: Read a book about starting over, rebuilding, new beginnings, etc., or a book where things go “BOOM!”, or with fireworks on the cover.
=> Ngaio Marsh: Tied Up in Tinsel
Task 1: Tell us: What are your reading goals for 2021?
=> 2021 Reading Goals.
Task 2: Your 2020 reading year in review: How was it? All told, are you satisfied / happy or not? What worked – and what didn’t?
=> 2020 in Review.
Door 24: Hogswatch
Book: Read any Terry Pratchett book or a book with a pig on the cover.
=> Terry Pratchett: Hogfather
Task 1: Pick a Terry Pratchett quote that will be a (good?) omen for 2021.
=> Quotes from Guards! Guards! and Hogfather.
Task 2: A Cologne legend dating all the way back to the Middle Ages has it that once upon a time, there was a race of busy little household gnomes called Heinzelmännchen who would come at night and secretly do all your work: If there ever has been a supernatural being we’ve fervently wished into existence, it would be them … or, well, a god or a fairy doing the same thing. So, what one domestic or work-related chore would you want your Heinzelmännchen to do in your stead?
Blackout (= at least 1 task per square):
November 30, 2020
Points at Blackout: 45
Final Score: 84 points