Bird Milk and Crayfish Honey

Die Hard, Schmie Schmard.

Want to up your quirky seasonal film buff game? Let me get my wand. Twinkle-twinkle-pop!

I give you Tři oříšky pro Popelku, or Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel, or Three Nuts for Cinderella,1973, Barrandov Studios/DEFA. It’s a traditional, heirloom Christmas movie in Germany, Norway and the Czech Republic. Use it well!

Here’s how to use it well: sit down in front of a black-and-white television, wait for the film to be broadcast without commercial interruptions, Soviet-style, and munch on a confetto after confetto which you sneak from the bag of candy you received from Grandpa Frost at the New Year’s Tree Ball at you preschool, or elementary school, or at your parents’ workplace, or at the city theater, or at the Kremlin, if you are a fancy kid.

Contents of the bag may vary.

If you went to the Moscow Kremlin Kids’ New Year’s Ball, you might now be munching on crunchy pink Crayfish Necks, crispy golden-brown Goose Feet, chocolatey Pineapples with wafers inside, nutty Grillages, and moussey Bird Milks. I don’t know. I’ve never been. There’s probably all kinds of cool candy in your polyethene bag, a confetti of confettos. Lucky you!

If you went to the Tree Ball at the Chita Machine-Builders’ House of Culture, like I did, you will probably get a handful of boring throwaway karamelki the sugar caramelli with jammy centers, a couple of cheap raspberry-fudgy Radiums, a couple of Little Batons rolled from soybean paste, a couple of suckety Barberries, a couple of high-rent chocolate Kara-Kums, and man, if you got a Gulliver — brag to all your friends before you eat it!

Besides candy, your New Year’s gift is likely to contain an apple, a few whole walnuts (drei Walnüsse) and a tangerine, which you may wave at ghosts of Christmas oranges past through your black-and-white TV window sparkling with picturesque snowbound Bavarian castles ’round which a Prince in fancy dress gallops on his trusty steed toward his one true love, so sent forth by Bozena Nemcová and Brothers Grimm.

Eat the tangerine first. It’s the law.

By the way, don’t throw away the throwaway karamelki. Save them for when you run out of good candy. If you gleaned your candies and nuts at several New Year’s Balls — your preschool, your parents’ workplace, the municipal one — it may take you up to a week to run out of the good candy, but trust me, that black day will come.

It is mauvais ton to put really cheap candy in New Year’s Gifts, as is widely known. I hope they don’t give you any multicolored Dragée or sad Little Pillows. Those don’t even have wrappers and are sometimes called Dunka’s Joy. Dunka is a poor ignorant peasant girl. No one wants to be a Dunka. I hope that the responsible adults in your province have enough class and money not to make a Dunka out of you.

You dress up in costume for the New Year’s Tree, Grandpa Frost and the Snow Maiden; they pay you for your fancy dress in candy. It’s the law. It’s just how it is.

In the movie you are watching with chocolate on your face, Cinderella’s fancy dresses come from three magic Christmas hazelnuts. Your fancy dress comes from mom.

In preschool, the teachers decide what your fancy dress will be. If you are in a special New Year’s Matinee Tree Ball skit, you may get a special, one-off costume, like that of a Wily Fox or a Grey Wolf. In the corps de ballet, boys will be uniformed as Bunnies or Clowns, girls as Snowflakes or Firecrackers.

Preschool Snowflake dresses are beginner outfits for princesses-in-training. Every winter, in many Soviet homes, moms sew Snowflakes out of white cotton, white curtain tulle, white cheesecloth embroidered with loose paillettes, trimmed in tinsel garlands and, often, sprinkled with a fairy dust of choice words.

Moms may be too busy for seamstressing, but one must keep up with the Ivanovs. Mama’s little Snowflake must look as nice or nicer than all other little Snowflakes at the Ball.

In elementary school, costume requirements are laissez-faire. Come in costume, any costume. Still, it’s your mom’s job to make it.

You may want to be a Princess for the New Year’s at your elementary school. If you are now watching the Czech/German Cinderella movie with a hungry glimmer in your beady little eye cast toward the gauzy gowns roped out of the three magic hazelnuts, you just might be a princess-in-training, or a princess-in-exile, or a plainclothes princess. Or a princess-in-denial.

Pop a Bird Milk in your mouth and dream.

You know what?

You’ll get your dress.

I got mine from my mom in third grade, after much nagging, and sighing, and dreaming. She made a princess dress for me out of my white gym T-shirt, old kitchen curtains, and a green-and-silver tinsel garland. Sparkle-sparkle! Rustle-rustle!

If your mom is indisposed, we can try magic.

You see, I practiced. In preschool, I wanted to be a Good Fairy more than I wanted to be Cinderella. In addition to sparkly fancy dress, nearly as good as Cinderella’s, the Good Fairy has a magic wand. That’s one advantage. Two: the Good Fairy is so, so good. People always tell you to be a good girl, right? Well, the Good Fairy is so completely good that she is already The Goodest! She doesn’t need to worry about all that being-good stuff. Tinsel, tulle, magic powers and unimpeachable moral character, check — a-a-and mate!

That’s why my best friend Oksana and I spent countless hours in our preschool playroom flitting from chair to chair, tremulating with pink cotton-candy voices and gesticulating with graceful swan arms toward objects we wished to transform — twinkle-twinkle-pop!

The spinsterhood of Good Fairies was immaterial to us then.

Does Snegurochka the Snow Maiden have a boyfriend or a husband? Nah. Is she fabulous? Yes. She has all the candy and all the tinsel; she is pretty, and nobody can ever claim she is bad.

Now, hide all your good candy from your thieving evil sisters. Hide the three walnuts too, just in case.

Let me pop a Bird Milk in my mouth and get my wand.

I’m a little out of practice. We’ll start with a minor spell.

We’ll start you as a Snowflake.


You can thank me later, after you dazzle all your hipster friends with your supreme knowledge of arcane world Christmas cinema.