1. Christmas Gifts
"Boy, git in here before you freeze yer behind off!" Lann, barely more than seven years old, startled and turned from the pile of snow that he had been packing into a big lump at the loud call coming from the direction of his house. His eyes lit up at the sight of the man leaning against the doorway with a wrapped gift under his arm.
"Uncle!" Lann sprinted over and attached himself to the man's leg, sending them both nearly toppling over to the snow covered ground. "Who's that for? Is that for me? Is it? Please tell me it is!"
"I see your mother still hasn't managed to beat some manners into your head yet!" Lann stuck out his tongue and reached for the package with his short arms, but the man teasingly held it high above his head. Eventually, after he managed to stumble inside the warm house with Lann clinging to his leg like an octopus, the man relented and handed over the gift.
Lann's Uncle gave a toothy smile and reached down with calloused fingers to affectionately tweak his nose, which was numb and flushed from the cold. "Merry Christmas, kiddo."
2. Fruit Cakes
"Papa, why do we have to make these... fruit cakes? Wouldn't it would be better to use to fruit to make jam and store it for the rest of the winter?" Fiona eyed the brick-like cakes that were slowing baking in the clay oven with a seriousness that was comical on her eight year old face.
Fiona turned to look at her father when he let loose a roaring laugh that made her ears and cheeks flush from a mixture of indignation and embarrassment. "You know what?" Papa's eyes shined with mirth as he fondly ruffled her hair with his gentle, bear-like hands, "Why don't we do both? While the cakes are baking, we can get started on that jam. The best of both worlds, as your mother would've said."
Fiona would've rolled her eyes at her father's overly-exuberant behavior if he hadn't crouched down and whispered into her ear with a hint of mischief in his quiet rumble, "If we work hard and finish early, we can get started on the fireworks, eh?"
Evie made a face at the scene in front of her and tugged on the thick sleeve of her Brother's evening wear, "Brother, why're they kissing... like that? And why're everyone cheering and clapping for them?"
She pointed at a couple kissing passionately under a doorway, surrounded by a crowd of possibly drunk adults whistling and egging the two on. Her Brother made a noise akin to a choking cat and covered her eyes with his hand before leading her in the opposite direction while stuttering his way around an explanation that would satisfy the curiosity of a six year old.
"Um, well, it's the... uh... mistletoe. Right, yeah, the mistletoe!" He babbled and took his hand off her face after they were a good distance away. They ended up right next to the table with all the younger cousins, nieces, and nephews. Her Brother was about to escape once he had dumped her at a seat at the table, but the iron-grip on his sleeve and Evie's puppy dog eyes made him sigh in resignation.
"Okay, so well there's this tradition where, uh, if you walk under a doorway with mistletoe at the top with someone you really like you can kiss them. Alright, stay here and don't wander off. Again. Or Mom'll get mad at you. Again." Her Brother quickly disappeared into the large crowd, leaving Evie all by her lonesome at the table of children, most of who were slumped over and snoring through a food coma.
Evie eyed the group of woozy and possibly insane adults at the other side of the dining room before shrugging her shoulders in dismissal. It was well known to the children that adults were very weird, after all.
4. Christmas Trees
Karok stared at the brightly lit Christmas tree, stupefied and uncomprehending of the human tradition that involved putting lights and shiny baubles on a specific kind of tree. The tree was just like any other fir tree in the forest that he and the rest of his nomadic family was passing through at the moment, but a traveler before them had taken the time to decorate a random tree in the middle of the forest.
Frankly, it was a strange sight to behold.
"Intriguing, isn't it?" Karok blinked himself out of his confused stupor and turned to look at the Historian, a wizened man-giant that was responsible for keeping the history of the giants alive through stories and songs shared around the campfire.
"Do you know the significance of this tree decoration, young one?" Karok shook his head slowly; in all of his nine years of age, he had never seen something like this before in his life. It was fascinating to watch the dark branches, weighed heavily with tinkling objects, sway as the cold wind blew ice and snow all over the place.
"Well, the origin of this human tradition is unclear, but it is usually part of a larger celebration involving many grandiose feasts and gift-giving between friends and family members. Akin to, say, the Spring Feast, am I right?" Karok nodded, the significance in the similarities between the traditions of his race and the strange humans making sense to his young mind.
The mesmerizing baubles and flickering candles that adorned the proud tree made it become almost like a beacon in the unforgiving cold of the long and dark nights that were to come. Karok stiffened when the heavy hand of the Historian came down on his shoulder with a firm but familiar grip.
"Time to go back to camp, no?"
The forest was silent as a grave as the snowflakes drifted slowly to blanket the mounds of snow that had already made its home on the frozen ground. A rabbit, fur as pale as the snow it trod on, scrambled over a dead tree log as it searched for a glimpse of vegetation peeking through the thick snow. After a moment of hopping, the rabbit froze, its nose twitching, before relaxing and creeping over to a surviving patch of greenery next to a gnarled and blackened tree.
A heartbeat. A nearly-silent twang of a bowstring. An arrow had ended the life of the brave rabbit that had ventured out to search for food.
From behind the dead thicket, a quiet rustle and crunch of snow sounded like a gunshot in the silent forest. A tall woman, clothed in layers of leathers and furs, emerged from the thicket like a shadow, barely making a noise as she crept over and picked up the dead animal. She removed the arrow with efficient motions, wiping the blood off with her sleeve before storing it into the quiver that was slung over her shoulder.
"Mom?" The whisper was quiet, but still audible from behind the thicket. The woman turned, the catch held firmly in her hands. The thicket crinkled once and Kai, also clothed heavily in furs but not much more than seven years old, cautiously peeked over the hedge. The woman motioned for him to come closer, so he steadily clomped his way through the snow, each practiced step sinking an inch or so into the soft and powdery snow that would otherwise swallow him whole if he didn't know how to tread carefully.
When Kai was close enough, the woman knelt down and put her hand on the top of his head, the slight weight familiar against the thick fur of his hood. She whispered quietly, as if the forest would collapse from a noise any louder than a twang of a bowstring from unsteady fingers, "Nice shot."
6. Hot Chocolate
"What is this? It looks like... poop." Sure, Vella was six years old, but even children knew not to drink something that looked like it came out of the dog's behind, like that one time she had secretly fed him some vegetables that she didn't want to eat and the result had been amusingly explosive.
"Why don't you try it, first? I guarantee you that you'll like it!" Sister's mouth twitched into a frown, whether from anger or dismay Vella didn't really know or particularly care, and her eyebrows drew together like she was going to spontaneously set the Christmas tree on fire with the power behind her glare.
Vella glanced distrustfully at the mug of steaming brown liquid before sniffing it. It smelled sweet, but she still wasn't sure. "Why don't you drink some, and if you don't throw up I'll drink it." Sister rolled her eyes and took the mug back.
Sister grumbled, "My cooking's not that bad, is it?" before taking a generous sip and swallowing. She held out the mug again. "See, I'm not dead. Now, drink it before it gets cold! Then it's not as good..."
Vella took a sip and the rich flavor of chocolate and sugar flooded her taste buds. It didn't take more than a few seconds until the mug was empty and Vella was sticking her tongue out in an attempt to lick the last drops. Sister, with a smug smirk on her face, ruffled her hair before wrenching the mug away from her with an exasperated, "Well, you're welcome, you little monster!"
Vella's reply was to stick out her tongue before scampering away, laughing as Sister chased after her with a napkin to wipe the brown mustache off her face.
A/N: Uh, whoops, Kai didn't really celebrate Christmas, did he? I just couldn't really think of something Winter-y to fit him, and then... that little story came out. Sorry.
Happy holidays, Vindictus community!