Disclaimer: I do really wish they were mine, but they're Tolkien's.

An Evendim Yule

"Now, you must promise me to be well-behaved," said Samwise Gamgee, as the cart turned into the straight road leading to the King's house at Annúminas. "I'm sure we'll all have a lovely Yule, but you're not to go annoying Strider, nor Lady Arwen."

"But we can play with the baby?" asked Elanor, from the back of the cart where she was looking after little Primrose.

"If the Queen says you can," Rose Gamgee agreed. "Carefully."

Hamfast was more worried about other matters. "Will there be nice things to eat?" he queried, solemnly.

"It's the King's house," Pippin said with authority. "Of course there'll be nice things to eat."

"I hope they've thought about how much a whole family of young hobbits eats," Rose said, to her husband.

Sam laughed. "Strider knows about hobbits. I reckon you'll all go home so stuffed you won't eat for a month."

The enormity of this possibility kept the little Gamgees quiet as the cart rolled up the road.

The King's house, set back in green grounds from the rippling waters of Lake Evendim, was built of ancient stone clad with ivy. To the hobbits it seemed a very palace. Bright light spilled from the

many windows and the doors opened even as Sam halted the ponies and the cart came to a halt. Smiling, a tall Man appeared in the doorway, dressed in simple green.

"Sam!" he exclaimed, holding his arms out in welcome.

Climbing down from the cart, Sam hurried to greet him. "Strider!"

"Welcome to Annúminas," said the King. "A safe journey, I trust?"

"Perfectly," Sam said. Rose came up carrying baby Bilbo in her arms, and seemed to be about to attempt a curtsey despite her burden until the King put out a hand to stop her.

"None of that, Mistress Gamgee. We're all friends here, I hope. Now, do you need help unpacking your cart?"

Within moments the courtyard was busy with Men carrying the Gamgee's boxes and parcels into the house. The King shouldered a trunk with ease and led the way into a comfortable parlour, where the Queen was sitting watching a baby crawl unsteadily across the floor.

"I'll have your things taken to your rooms," the King said, sweeping the baby up to rapturous chuckles from the child. "Meanwhile, sit down, and how about some tea?"

It was agreed by all that tea would be an excellent idea. The baby was put down again, and Bilbo was deposited on the rug by its side. The smaller Gamgees began investigating the contents of a box of toys in the corner, while Sam and Rose settled themselves into chairs.

"How is Eldarion?" Rose asked, a little shyly.

The Queen looked at her baby. "He's a handful. Aragorn will indulge him, and he moves so fast! I am constantly chasing him around the room."

"He's a Ranger," Aragorn said. "Or he will be. He already likes exploring, in any case."

They turned to the children, to find Eldarion and Bilbo solemnly examining each other and Rosie-lass umpiring a game of snap between Merry, Pippin and Goldilocks. All games halted as tea – with plenty of cake – arrived.

Tea was followed by a tour of the house, baths for the children and bed for the younger ones. Elanor and Frodo were allowed to stay up for dinner before also being packed off to bed, with promises of Yule treats for the morrow.

Once some sweet, rich wine and light cakes had been brought in Arwen dismissed the servants and the four of them settled down in the parlour with a fire burning brightly. "So, Mayor Samwise, how is Hobbiton?"

The conversation ranged widely, from the green hills of the Shire to the mountains of Gondor. Finally, after Rose had stifled several yawns and the fire was burning low, they retired to their comfortable beds.

Sam and Rose were woken as the cold light of dawn peeked through the curtains of their room and three small hobbits bounced excitedly on the bed. "Merry Yule, mama! Merry Yule, papa!"

"Merry Yule, Goldi," said Sam, catching his daughter in a hug and trying to calm her down. "Morning, Pip. Did you sleep well, Hammy?"

"Until I woke up because it was Yule," said Hamfast. "It is Yule, isn't it?"

"It is indeed," said Rose, turning back the cover and climbing out of the bed. "Sam, I'll go and see after the little ones."

"When are the presents?" asked Pippin. "Do they have presents for Yule in Gondor?"

Sam thought about this. "I don't rightly know," he admitted. "But I can tell you there'll be presents here, because we're near to the Shire, and because Strider's from the North too."

"And because I saw papa putting them in a trunk before we left," added Rosie-lass, appearing in the doorway. "Merry Yule!"

It took a little while, but eventually all the Gamgees were gathered downstairs around a groaning breakfast table with the King and Queen of Gondor at either end. The meal was long and good and even Pippin's voracious appetite was sated by its end. Afterwards, there were indeed presents in true hobbit style, given and received by the guests and hosts alike.

There was a little while until it was the lunch hour, so Aragorn suggested a walk. The children, more interested with their new toys, were resistant to being bundled up in warm clothes, and said so.

Rose, horrified at the King being opposed by her children, tried to persuade them differently, but it was not until Aragorn himself sat down on the floor that they listened. "Presents and food and family are your Yule traditions," he said, adding a wooden brick to Hamfast's growing pyramid, "but going out into the Wild is a tradition of the Dúnedain. Even on this shortest day of the year, we always walk a while. If you come, I'll tell you a story of Yule in Rivendell as we walk."

"All right," said Frodo, speaking for all of them. Aragorn smiled at him, and got to his lanky legs.

"Excellent."

In the end a party of 10 set out. Rose had opted to stay behind to watch Bilbo, Primrose and Daisy, all too young to walk far, and had offered to keep an eye on little Eldarion too so Arwen could accompany her husband. Aragorn was carrying a thrilled Hamfast on his shoulders and the rest of the little Gamgees scampered along by the side of the adults.

The walk was not strictly in the Wild, but rather through the dishevelled gardens of the house. Still, for the hobbits, it was a world away from the Shire, and Aragorn took them further with his tale of a long-ago Yule night in the house of Elrond. Elanor in particular was fascinated by the depiction of the music and festivities and asked enough questions to keep the King answering them until they were back at the house.

When Bilbo had been settled for a nap and Eldarion was strapped into a high chair at the table lunch began, an even longer and merrier meal than breakfast. There was beef and chicken and potatoes enough to satisfy even Sam's Gaffer; pastries and carrots and peas; three different sorts of pudding and five types of cheese from Gondor and the Shire. While Arwen coaxed vegetables into Eldarion the hobbit children tried a bit of everything, and then had second helpings of everything for good measure. After that they went for third helpings of their favourite things as the King and Queen looked on with amusement.

Eventually the plates were empty. Outside the night was already drawing in and it was cosy to sit by the fire in the parlour.

"We've had a hobbit Yule, and a Dúnedain Yule," said Arwen, as the flames flickered high and bright, "and now I think a little Elvish Yule would be nice."

"Like Rivendell?" asked Elanor, eagerly.

"Just a taste," Arwen said, with a regretful smile. "Alas – that is all I can give you." She paused, and then began to sing. The song was soft and sad and rippled through the room, matching the firelight playing on the walls. The hobbits listened, spellbound, even though they could not understand the words of the song.

When it ended, Arwen closed her eyes for a second, before beginning a livelier melody. Aragorn joined in, his deeper voice complementing hers. Rosie-lass and Merry got up and started to dance, breaking the contemplative mood in the room, and the song ended with most of the children cavorting around and Eldarion chuckling in his cot.

"I liked that," Elanor said, when she had caught her breath. "What did they mean, Lady Arwen?"

"The first song was a song of passing," Arwen explained. "We sing the old year to sleep and mourn its departure. The second was a song of welcome. It's what we sing as midnight chimes on the first day of the new year, to celebrate the birth that will happen in the spring and the coming of the Sun."

"But it's not midnight," objected Merry.

"Well, I did not think your parents would let you stay up until midnight, nor that you would be awake after all the feasting!" said Arwen. "We can break the traditions for a good reason." The door opened, and a servant appeared with a tray of food and drink. "And now it's back to your traditions," she said, with a laugh. "I will never cease to be astonished by the hobbit capacity for food."

The evening passed in a pleasurable mix of more food, more drink, and several rowdy games of cards. And then, for the children, Yule was over. They were tucked up in bed with new toys scattered around them and sent to sleep off the excitement of the day.

Sam, Rose, Aragorn and Arwen stayed up talking until midnight passed. "Happy New Year," said Sam, as the clock on the mantlepiece chimed a gentle 12.

"And to you, dear friend," said Aragorn.

The Gamgees stayed another two days in Evendim in similar manner, but at last it was time to depart. The cart was loaded again with bags and boxes and hobbits. Farewells were taken and promises made that Sam and Rose and at least some of the children would visit Gondor.

The cart clattered away with the King and Queen and little Eldarion waving from the door and the Gamgees waving from the cart.

"Can we have more Yules like that?" Rosie-lass asked, as the house passed from view behind some trees.

"Can we sing?" added Elanor. "I did love the singing."

"I'd like to go for a walk every year," said Frodo, a little wistfully.

"We can do all of that," Sam agreed. "Make the traditions of the Big Folk a part of our traditions. I think Strider'd like that. And Mr Bilbo. Yule's not just about the old stuff, I reckon; it's about making it new every time."

The children fell silent, and Sam and Rose exchanged smiles. It had, truly, been a Yule to remember.