"I've finished my sewing, Mamma. May I go now?" Astrid asked, standing in the doorway of her mother's small sitting room.Lady Sigrid looked up with a smile. "Yes, you may."
Astrid took the basket from Brenda and as she stepped out the door, gave a piercing whistle. From a stable behind the cottage, flew a small white dragon.
"Are you ready, Ronald?" asked Astrid. Ronald gave a snort and flew towards the surrounding woods with Astrid running lightly behind humming a happy tune. This was her favorite day of the year. The first snowfall had come in the night and today, after all her lessons were done, she was allowed to go into the forest and pick holly and mistletoe to decorate the cottage for Yuletide. She always took Ronald with her not only for protection, but also to gather mistletoe from the trees. He was very good at finding the best branches of it. When they reached the forest, Astrid gave a happy little squeal and fell to picking holly. Yuletide always made her feel like a little girl again. Tomorrow, Brenda and some of the menservants would join her with a wagon to pick more, but today was her special day. While she picked, with Ronald on the ground behind, her mind flew ahead to the decorating. The small amount of greens that she picked today would be for her bedroom and sitting room. Then they would decorate the rest of the cottage and when Pappa came from the city next week, bring with him the first of their guests, they would all go to bring in the tree. While it was more fun to pick the holly and mistletoe by herself, bring in the tree was a lot more fun with a large party of people. The first snowfall signaled the beginning of so many happy times. Pappa would finish up his business in the city. Cook started making delicious things. The stable master and his grooms began preparing the extra stables. The holiday from all lessons began and best of all, the decorating.
Her basket was soon full and she turned around with a little sigh that quickly changed to a smile at the eager, expectant look on Ronald's face.
"Ready, Ronald?" she asked and with a happy snort he flew into the first tree (he had chosen it while waiting for her). Knowing how much he enjoyed it, Astrid made a big ceremony of accepting the first piece of mistletoe. Ronald seemed to sense how much she enjoyed this time in the forest and enjoy it just as much, he prolonged it, being very picky about how he pulled the mistletoe from the branches.
Dusk was falling by the time they were finished and the trip back to the cottage was quickly made. After giving Ronald a hug, Astrid hurried inside calling for her mother to look at her harvest. Lady Sigrid was waiting in the small back parlour as usual and when her mother had 'Ooo-ed' and 'Ahhh-ed' over the greens to her satisfaction, Astrid hurried off the show the staff and then up to her room to decorate as much as possible before Dinner.
That night, before falling asleep, Astrid thought happily of the good times ahead. This Yuletide would be a special one. She was sixteen this year, and would be allowed to take her place among the grownups. Not only would she be allowed to eat all the meals with them (instead of only Tea), but she was also old enough to attend the balls and stay up late dancing. She gave a contented sigh and snuggling down into the cozy bed, drifted off into the wonderful world of dreams.
The links to the pictures that inspired this story.