Among the gods who were no longer regularly worshiped, very little was more annoying than the sight of all the mortals getting excited for a religious festival. Which one was most frustrating had changed with the years, of course. Just at the present, Christmas was the most aggravating of all, even though it was — in large part — no longer religious in nature, being celebrated by any number of mortals who had little or no affection for Christianity.
While the period surrounding Christmas was frustrating for them all, it was worst to the Greek gods, because all their Roman counterparts inevitably came by, rubbing their noses in the continued popularity of Saturnalia. After a few decades of that, Kronos started getting involved in the self-satisfied gloating, making it all the worse. Most of the Greek gods tried to deal with it in an appropriately Stoic fashion — what Nietzsche would have called an Apollonian fashion, despite that Apollo was actually one of the ones least capable of Stoic reserve — but Hermes had never gone in for any of that self-denial nonsense. If he didn’t like something, he didn’t deal with it.
So when the Roman gods came by to gloat, he usually went elsewhere. He could count on his Roman counterpart to get distracted by the first pretty girl he saw — not that Hermes was any different — so he didn’t have to worry about being chased down to be gloated at elsewhere.
Usually, he went to hang out with other gods like himself. Coyote was a favorite, even though he was still believed in, if not worshiped as such. Still, in the past few centuries he was often standoffish, what with the European people coming in and oppressing his own people, and in the last few decades, he had started to become downright testy, because the white people were so rapidly destroying the natural world. It was hard to blame him for his anger, but it certainly made him less pleasant company. So Hermes had tried spending a few holiday seasons with Anansi, but such terrible things were happening in his part of the world that it wasn’t much fun to be around him, either.
This year, Hermes had hit on a good plan. He would go to the frozen north and visit Loki. The lands formerly inhabited by the vicious Vikings were now one of the most pleasant and peaceful regions of the world, and the other Norse gods still hadn’t forgiven Loki, so there wouldn’t be anyone pestering them. Sure, there wouldn’t be any pretty girls — apart from Loki’s lovely wife, of course — but Hermes could go for a month or so without girls.
When Hermes arrived at Loki’s wooden hall, his wife Sigyn answered the door and greeted him kindly, bringing Hermes into the jarring interior of the place. Loki — like the other Norse gods — lived in a hall built in the Viking style, but where the others kept an interior in the style of their vanished people, Loki lived in modern comfort. It was like entering the hall of Theoden, King of Rohan, and finding a posh apartment ripped straight out of the most fashionable and expensive building in Manhattan. But Hermes appreciated the good life in all its forms, so he didn’t see any reason to complain about it.
Sigyn led him into the den, where Loki was lounging on a recliner in his fluffy bathrobe and pink bunny slippers as he watched television. “Pull up a chair, kick off your shoes, make yourself at home,” Loki said, giving him a friendly smile.
Hermes sat down on a nearby recliner, but declined to remove his sandals. He knew Loki better than to take off his precious winged sandals within a hundred miles of the fellow. It wasn’t, after all, as if he could ever replace them now that he was no longer worshiped. “What’re you watching?”
“Any mortals in particular?” Hermes asked, peering at the television curiously. Looked like a crazed shopping mall…
“Not at the moment. Just enjoying the chaos.”
Hermes sighed. “I’d enjoy it a lot more if it wasn’t in honor of the god that dethroned my father.”
“Please. The only god involved in what I’m looking at is the Almighty Dollar Sign.”
“Well, yeah.” But there were so many angels and such in the decorations… “Really, though, it doesn’t bother you at all?”
Loki laughed, and picked up a remote control. “This is my favorite time of year. Has been for centuries. Here, look at this!” He pressed a few buttons, and the live feed on the television changed to a recording from the 19th century.
An attractive young woman in a maid’s costume was bustling back and forth in a crowded kitchen, but as she paused in a doorway, looking for someone, a fellow dressed as a footman or valet (or something) coughed to get her attention. “You’re standing under the mistletoe, m’dear,” he said.
The maid looked up and saw the sprig above her head, which had three little white berries on it. She smiled tiredly, and nodded her head. The man leaned down and kissed her with considerably un-Victorian relish. As he was about to walk off again, she cleared her throat. “Don’t forget the berry,” she said sternly.
With a sigh, the man reached up and plucked a berry off the mistletoe, then went about his business.
Loki glanced over at Hermes as the maid, too, continued her day. A frown crossed his face. Apparently Hermes’ confusion was showing on his own face. Loki began to mess with his remote some more, and the picture on the television screen split into so many separate images of people kissing under mistletoe that the television had to double its size to accommodate them all.
“So you get off on watching mortals kissed against their will?” Hermes concluded. That sure didn’t do it for him, but to each their own…
Loki let out a noise of disappointment. “Of course not! But look at the instigator in all these cases! Even those Victorian prigs let themselves be conquered by my mistletoe! Ultimate revenge on my ungrateful colleagues.”
“Oh…” Well, that hadn’t been something Hermes had expected. He’d thought that if Loki was going to gloat over anything, it’d be his recent surge in popularity with mortal maidens. Being proud of his role in instigating Ragnarok hadn’t really seemed like a possibility. Then again, the idea of being dead — even temporarily — was automatically repellent to a proper immortal like Hermes… “So you spend the whole season watching them kiss?”
“That would get dreadfully dull,” Loki chuckled. “I like watching them subvert their own upstart religion, too.”
“Ah, now you’re speaking my language!” Hermes exclaimed.
“I’ve got all sorts of delightfully inappropriate uses of their religious symbolism on tap,” Loki assured him. “What are you in the mood for? Murderous angels, pornographic Santas? You name it, and I promise you, some mortal’s done it. Their will to chaos is almost as great as ours.”
Hermes laughed, and settled back in his chair, stretching out his legs along the recliner. Sigyn brought him a mug of warmed mead — it was no ambrosia, but it wasn’t bad, either — and as the television began to broadcast a particularly salacious misuse of the symbolism of the season, he could feel his tensions slipping away.
It turned out to be one of the best winters he had enjoyed in centuries.
Wrote this over the past couple days on my lunch break at work. Sorry it turned out to be more “Hermes at Christmas Time” than “Loki at Christmas Time”. Just sort of worked out that way. But it was the whole mistletoe thing that set the idea in my head…
(I couldn’t help throwing in the Nietzsche reference ’cause I’m currently reading his The Birth of Tragedy. Which is not turning out as fun to read as Also Sprach Zarathustra, I’m sorry to say. Despite that it’s about ancient Greek literature, one of my favorite topics.)
BTW, my apologies to anyone who clicked on this post expecting it to be about the movie version of Loki.