Monday, December 03, 2012

Tiz the season

Crow II by Simon Brooks, (c) 2012
Recently I have spent a lot of time working on voice over work and learning new stories and rehearsing some of my old favourites.  Last night I told some of these tales for teens and grown-ups in Amherst, NH.  There was a wonderfully warm crowd there and the atmosphere was cozy, I thought.  I was telling Winter Holiday stories. Although I am not a practicing Christian, I am Spiritual and my upbringing was Christian.  So most of the stories reflected that.  I always feel a little odd telling Jewish tales, not being Jewish! Almost all of the stories were folktales, although I also told the true story of the unofficial truce on Christmas eve, December 1914.  Although the Pope himself could not stop the war or get a cease fire, and although the suffragettes could not petition for the war to end, the fighting soldiers themselves began truce. On Christmas Eve the Germans set up trees they had been sent, and lit candles along the trenches and  when the Germans sangs hymns and carols the British sang their own, not to be outdone! It had been raining up to Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day the weather was good.  Together, on Christmas, they swapped gifts and buttons, exchanged cigarettes and rations, and played football (soccer), in some places along the front, as many as 50 soldiers on each side.  No-mans-land being the pitch (field) they played on.

Raven by Simon Brooks, (c) 2012
All of the stories I told, although featuring Christmas, have a strong message in their own right.  The message is about sharing, looking after each other as well ourselves, of giving to those in need - because no matter how badly off we might find ourselves, there are always people worse off than yourself.  The stories are about fairness and caring and most of those I told were about family.  These things are not ties to any religion, but are tied to all.  And you do not need to be religious or spiritual to practice these traits!  So whilst we are shopping for those we know and love, do a little shopping for those you don't know and give to those in less than comfortable circumstances, and please consider dropping food off at food banks.  If you can't afford to do this, then maybe volunteer somewhere.

I will be telling more winter stories at a couple of other venues before the year is out, and one of the stories I will be telling will be a Siberian version of this tale:  I remember watching a lot of Canadian short films growing up (it's the Commonwealth thing!), but never saw this one!  I love it though, and wanted to share it.  The differences between the version I found in James Riordan's Siberian Folktales and the one above on YouTube told by the Native speakers themselves, is the Siberian Raven paints Owl with ash from a fire and not oil as in the Inuit tale.  And the reason Raven gets painted black is slightly different, although both tales blame Owl for one thing or another - lack of patience, or vanity, although in the Inuit tale Raven is being his usual bouncy self which don't help Owl!  What are YOUR favourite winter/holiday tales? Tell me in the comments, or shoot me an email!  I would love to hear from you.

One last thing before I go!  Over this season folks often try to get together with family.  This would be a great time to record tales our parents and grandparents tell, either personal stories about themselves and a time and place all but forgotten, or their favourite stories from childhood.  If you need help coming up with ideas to start a 'story time', there are some great resources at:  and there is a wonderful PDF here: that StoryCorp have put out.  And here is a link to why we should be recording stories our families tell from an earlier date on my blog:

None of us are going to be around forever, so catch those stories for our later generations and give them a piece of your own family history.


which is the same site as:!

PS, the images used in this blog are original art done by myself.  Please do not copy, cut and paste, or redistribute in any manner or form. It is not cool, AND it's illegal!


Karen Chace said...

Thank you for the great newsletter Simon. I echo your sentiments about collecting those family stories. I have two hours of film, interviewing my uncle about growing up in a family of 12 during the depression. More to do but I have caputured some wonderful tales.

If you would permit me to share a link to my website, which offer a number of Oral History sites, including help with story prompts, that I have collect thru the years. Your readers may find it here:

Karen Chace said...

P.S. Simon, I know there are a number of books about the Christmas truce. The newest one I know of is by singer/storyteller John McCutchehon.