Seasonal

I don’t imagine that Yashim, the Ottoman investigator, has a Christmas list.

His more devout Greek friends in Istanbul will fast through Advent: even George the greengrocer keeps a three day fast. Christmas is not a time of gifts for them – that belongs to the New Year, St Basil’s Day, when Christ was circumcised. Then a child – usually a boy – first foots his friends and relatives, bringing a ‘dog onion’ to each house. He goes away with a few coins.

Ambassador Palewski celebrates Christmas in his own way, naturally. On Christmas day he eats only what has been prepared the day before, and he lays an extra place on a white tablecloth in case someone turns up unexpectedly. That person is often Yashim. Under the tablecloth he puts straw. Otherwise, he watches the weather, according to the Polish tradition that the weather at Christmas foretells the pattern for the coming year. Once he invited Marta, his housekeeper, to pick a straw from under the tablecloth. A green straw for marriage, a yellow straw for spinsterhood, and a withered straw for more waiting; the short straw indicates an early grave. Inevitably the experiment led to misunderstanding, and tears.

Yashim visits the local orthodox church on Christmas Eve and lights a candle in memory of his Greek mother.

There’s a little more about her in An Evil Eye, which comes out this Summer.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Seasonal

  1. Andrew J.Fercowicz

    Ambassador Palewski would have Chrismas Eve supper named – Wigilia-.It did not changed in hundreds of years.Main dish is fish,a carp pan broiled,not wild but raised in pound.It is done same way whatever country Poles are in;be it USA or Afganistan.
    In present time blessing by President from Belvedere at 8 PM on TV.

    At midnight almost whole country goes to midnight Mass-Pasterka.

    Orthodox Christmas is celebrated about 2 weeks later after Latin.

    Happy New Year

  2. Sally Young

    The most exciting and long-awaited news in Seasonal is the small reference to the fact that there’s a new Yashim coming out in the summer of 2010. Too good for words.

    • thebellinicard

      What they say about death and taxes doesn’t, sadly, apply to publishing schedules – and it looks like An Evil Eye won’t be out until this time next year, after all. But thank you, Sally, for your enthusiasm! If it’s any good to you (or your friends!), The Bellini Card is just out in paperback in the US…

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