Disclaimer: I do not own Moonlight or anything Moonlight related.
A/N: I took the few traditions Josef mentions from the old traditions of the German holiday. I learned it only by reading the few pages I could find on the subject, so if anything is incorrect, I apologize. Also, I only used a few of the traditions, not everything that is done to celebrate the holiday. Please excuse any inaccuracies if anyone is more in the know on the matter than I am. But you're welcome to fill me in privately, because I am interested in how the German Chrismas is celebrated (all cultures, really) whether modern or not so modern.
A Distant Christmas
"Hey, Josef", Mick greeted his friend, then chuckled when Josef gave a startled jump and Mick's voice. It wasn't often that Mick could get the jump on the older vampire.
"Hey," Josef returned, but Mick halted on way to seat himself in his usual chair across from Josef's desk. Josef's business office was as luxurious as his home, and as comfortable.
There was a look on Josef's face, an evasive air with an almost sheepish undertone. It was far removed from Josef's usual composed expression. And of course, Mick had manage to startle him, which was previously unheard of. Josef was up to something that he didn't want Mick to know about. Of course, that meant Mick had to know.
"What's going on?" Mick asked, not quite achieving the casual non-nonchalance he was going for. Probably because he couldn't hide the suspicious smirk.
"Not much," Josef said, trying for casual, but Mick wasn't fooled.
Mick let his eyes wander and he didn't need his investigator's eye to see the small thins in Josef's office that made it different than usual. Josef tensed where he was standing but he said nothing as he observed Mick taking stock of the room.
Ah, there.....in the corner. A small tree, about three feet tall. It stood on a small stand in front of the plate glass window that overlooked the city. The tree was not adorned with the modern popular choices; there were no twinkling lights, no bright ornaments of thin glass, not lighted angel or star atop it. But there was no mistaking it was a Christmas tree. The limbs were laden with small fruits, small, lit candles placed strategically, even some small cookies and candies. It had quite an old fashioned air about it, far beyond his own time, but Mick rather liked the effect.
Scattered about the room were more flickering candles, bigger than those on the small tree, and Mick wondered how he'd missed them upon first entering. He blamed the crackling fireplace that Josef was still standing in front of; the smell of the burning wood and the crackling flames would have covered the scent of melting wax, the stark light and shadow would have detracted from the tinier ones around the room. That was as good an excuse as any.
The fire itself was telling; it was a new thing, so far as Mick knew. The fireplace had always been there, of course, but Mick had never known it to host an actual fire. And above it, on the mantel, was the strangest thing.
"Is that a boot?" Mick asked in bemusement.
"Yes," Josef said simply, resignedly. Mick waited for more but it seemed Josef was going to make Mick drag it out of him.
"Okaaaaay.......why is there a boot on your mantel?"
"Because, Mick, it holds more than a shoe."
Mick blinked, at a loss. Holds more of what? And what would one put into a boot besides a foot anyway?
"Josef.....what is all this? What's going on?"
"Absolutely nothing, Mick. Did you need something?"
"I was just gonna ask if you wanted to go do something," Mick answered, but he didn't give in to Josef's attempt to dismiss him. "Somethings going on. Josef, did you.....uh......decorate for Christmas?" Mick tried to keep his question neutral so as to not put his friend off, but he couldn't keep the incredulous humor from seeping through.
Josef finally gave in to the resignation that Mick would not be gotten rid of so easily. His face said it all as he waved a hand to Mick's usual seat. "Fine," he said.
Mick took his seat as Josef took his own behind his desk.
"Soooo.....you decorated?" Mick asked again, grinning hugely. Josef doing something so mundane, yet so touching, as decorating for Christmas was making it hard for Mick to maintain his composure. But it had it's prospects for future teasing.
Josef's eyes narrowed dangerously and glowed with their frost white as his fangs slipped down.
Mick winced at the obvious threat to teasing. He lost his smile- most of it- and gave a nod to his friend. Point taken. Josef would not appreciate Mick making light of this matter.
Back to himself, Josef leaned back in his chair. "I just started feeling nostalgic," Josef explained, almost defensively. "The building is having a Christmas party for the employees and their families tomorrow. That's all everyone's been talking about for a week. I just wanted to do my own thing. Is that okay?"
The last words were snapped sharply and Mick realized Josef was, indeed, quite defensive about the matter. He wondered if this was the first time since being a vampire that Josef had celebrated a holiday. Surely not.
"Of course it's okay, Josef," Mick soothed, but casually. Too mushy and that would put Josef off for sure. And anyway, Mick was genuinely curious about how Josef perceived the holiday. He'd seen almost four centuries, after all, and the holiday as Josef knew it would be of a different culture, as well. "I've never seen a tree decorated like that. It's really nice."
Josef peered at Mick across the desk, obviously searching for signs of insincerity. Seemingly satisfied, Josef relaxed into the chair and nodded his head. He reached down into a side drawer and pulled out a half full bottle. "Scotch?" he offered Mick. At Mick's nod Josef produced two shot glasses and filled both, sliding one to Mick.
"Much better ambiance than all those garish lights, blinking and twinkling," Josef finally said, his tone conveying his opinion of modern Christmas lights.
"I think so too," Mick agreed. "But aren't the candles dangerous?"
"It's happened," Josef admitted. But the trick is to keep the tree watered and the limbs moist. And back then, there were special ways to hold a candle on a tree. They don't sell the holders any more."
Mick nodded and swallowed down is drink, ending in an ungracious choke and a grimace. He'd never know Josef to keep anything but the most high quality.
"Yeah," Josef agreed as he drank his own shot down. "This stuff is crap. Don't even know how it got here. Keep forgetting to replace it." Josef stowed the bottle, two shots lighter, back into the drawer and the two glasses followed.
"I get the candles and the tree, Josef, but why the boot?" Mick resumed the topic.
Mick was surprised at Josef's wide grin. "I loved the boot when I was a kid. We all did. Usually the kids used shoes, but if we could get away with it we used a boot because it holds more. Our Christmas started on the sixth. Well the night before, really......that was when we put our shoes out."
"Yeah.....we used to leave cookies and milk for Santa," Mick remembered with a smile.
Josef cocked his head quizzically. "I never understood that part."
Mick just shrugged. He didn't know where the American tradition had come from either.
"Well, for us, the sixth is when St. Nicholas-"
Josef shrugged at the interruption, but went on "-when St. Nicholas hopped from house to house filling the shoes or boots. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and he carries a book of all the children's sins-"
"The list of naughty or nice," Mick pointed out the similarity.
"- and if the children were good we got lots of goodies in the shoe. Candies and cookies and cakes. But if we weren't good we got a shoe full of twigs."
"It's like our stocking that we hang. If the kids are good, we get goodies, but if kids are naughty, we get coal. Josef....did you ever get twigs?" Mick asked mischievously.
"Did you ever get coal?" Josef asked pointedly.
"Uh.....you said the shoe gets put out on the sixth?" Mick asked hastily to divert the subject and Josef smirked triumphantly. "But it's way past. It's Christmas Eve, Josef."
"Yeah, I know, but.....we celebrated the holiday throughout the month, doing different things on different days, and Christmas Eve was when Mother decorated the tree then revealed it to us right before the evening meal. It was very festive and warm." Josef's voice took on a tone of fond remembrance. "Lots of fruits and goodies on a plate for each of us......we'd sing, open presents. Sparklers, even."
It all sounded wonderfully happy and cozy to Mick. He wanted to hear more, and not just because it all sounded so....nice, but also because Mick so rarely heard anything about Josef's past. But Josef shook himself from the distant memories and went on briskly.
"I just did a bit of an abbreviated version. I don't think St. Nicholas will mind. Besides-" and here Josef's tone softened into something unrecognizable but almost melancholy, "-I don't think St. Nicholas will think my boot warrants anything but twigs anymore. Not if I'm in his book of sins"
Soon after that the conversation turned to more mundane things and Mick took his leave, Josef declining a night out with his best friend. Josef stared into the fireplace for a very long time, reliving happy memories of his far off childhood.
He'd let himself be drawn in by the hustle and bustle of the modern holiday, all that talk and excited glee of the human employees and their anticipation of the family-oriented office party the next evening. Well, time to get back to reality. He was not a part of their world, nor did he want to be. His memories were just that, memories......and old and dusty ones, at that. Let the humans fool their children with Santa tales and superficial presents. Josef was beyond that, wanted no part, and he didn't even like kids, anyway. He would show his face for the thanks due to him for endorsing the lavish party, then he would enjoy some very old scotch in his office. Alone. Just the way he liked it. Josef stood from his chair and doused the fireplace. Then he made a systematic round of the room to blow out each candle one by one, ending with those on the small tree.
He locked his office behind him.
No one was present to see the creeping figure stealing into the dark office a few hours before dawn.
Josef detracted himself from the throng of overly gleeful adults and stick children and retreated, at long last, into his office. He shut the heavy door hard behind him, just grateful for the quiet and the peace. Whatever gave him the ridiculous idea to host a company party? Especially one that invited the employees' children. This has to be, by far, one of his worst ideas ever.
Josef left the lights dim and took his chair behind the desk. He swiveled, the back of the chair to the desk, to stare into his own reflection in the plate glass window. He could see a few of the city lights twinkling, but mostly the darkness reflected his empty office.
Just as Josef had decided to search for the last of his bottle of scotch that he kept in the bottom drawer, his eyes caught the reflection of something in the window. Spinning the chair quickly, Josef spun to face the fireplace.
It was still there. The boot. Only now it was filled.
Josef's mouth opened, his jaw dropping a bit in awe, and he stood slowly. Josef crossed to the mantel and stared at the boot. The dim lighting did not hinder his sharp nocturnal eyesight. Yep. The boot was filled. And not with twigs. The boot was filled with wrapped candies and cookies of all kinds.
"Unbelievable," Josef muttered.
He would never admit to a soul, living or undead, that he had been awed in that moment.
Josef reached for the boot and picked it up, heavy with it's loot of goodies. His fingers brush an object foreign to the boot leather, something cool and smooth, and Josef turned the boot to see that there was something tied to the boot with a ribbon, of all things. It was a bottle. A bottle of the finest quality scotch to be had, anywhere.
Josef did not think that St. Nicholas, patron saint of children, had left him a bottle of scotch.
Josef carried the boot to his desk and set it down on the polished wood, then reclaimed his seat behind the desk and booted up his computer.
A couple of official phone calls to security and Josef had what he wanted, and the video feed on his computer screen confirmed his suspicions. His benefactor, creeping through the hallway on silent feet, almost invisible in the darkness, then stopping before Josef's locked office door. Of course, a lock didn't stop him, just like security had never known he was there.
But the intruder knew he was be observed; before he disappeared into the dark doorway that was Josef's office- which had no cameras in it, of course- he looked up directly at the camera with a wide grin, and winked. He'd known Josef would see the footage.
Josef laughed aloud, unabashedly with no one to hear him.
St. Mick, patron saint of best friends.
Josef would enjoy that scotch, some of it with Mick. But that was for later. Right now, he had something else to do.
Josef cradled the boot in the crook of his arm and left his office. Entering the main room of the party, Josef strode to the middle of the room, ignoring the incredulous looks of the well dressed business associates.
Josef upended the boot, spilling it's sweet contents to the floor as everyone watched.
"Is there anyone here that likes candy?" he asked loudly to the room, with a smile none had ever seen on his face.
The gleeful screeches and cries resounded throughout the room and covered the music as children converged on Josef and his candy.
Josef knew his uncharacteristic and seemingly odd behavior would be the talk of the office for quite a while, but right now, he didn't care.