Wednesday, 30 April 2008

A little research

When I sat down to write my pitch for the book that was to become What is Myrrh Anyway? I thought, 'Yeah, Christmas. I know a bit about that.'

But now that I'm nearly done writing it I realise how little I actually knew for certain and, as a result, how much research I was going to have to do.

These are just some of the books I've been using for that selfsame research. So, when you finally hold the finished volume in your hand just bear in mind how much work went into writing it.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Dalek Day

Tomorrow, Saturday 26 April, I shall be appearing alongside a Dalek as part of Borders Books' Dalek Day, taking place at Grays Library, close to the Thurrock Lakeside shopping centre.

I'll be there signing copies of my Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny adventure The Horror of Howling Hill and visitors will also be able to have their photograph taken with a genuine Dalek from the TV series.

The organisers of the event have designed a 'Draw your own Monster' competition sheet to tie in with my book, and there will also be opportunities to win prizes throughout the day.

So, if you're in the area, why not come along?

Maybe see you there.

And here's something both Dalek and Christmas-related to tide you over until tomorrow.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Think you know the carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'?

I know I thought I did. I grew up with the version which has nine pipers piping, ten drummers drumming, eleven ladies dancing and twelve lords a leaping.

Then, as I'm writing What is Myrrh Anyway I find there's some confusion over who, and how many did what on which day!

And then there's this version...

The Original Christmas Tree?

Whilst delving into the history of the Christmas tree I was reminded of the connection that the legendary Glastonbury Thorn has with the festive season.

For those of you not in the know, the Glastonbury Thorn is a hawthorn, of a type which originates in the Middle East, that grows in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England. Legend has it that it grew from where Joseph of Arimathea (supposedly Jesus's uncle) laid his staff, flowering every Christmas Day.

A cutting from the Glastonbury Thorn was sent to the monarch each Christmas by the Vicar and Mayor of Glastonbury. However, the tree was pronounced dead in June 1991, and cut down the following February.

Fortunately, plenty of cuttings were taken from it before its destruction so that a new Thorn could be planted. In fact, the hawthorn growing in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey before 1991 was itself supposedly a cutting from the original plant, planted in secret after the original was destroyed.

Only hawthorn trees that budded or grafted from the original exist. The plants actually blossom twice a year, in May as well as at Christmas. The blossoms of the Christmas shoots are smaller than the ones the plant produces in May and do not produce any haws, the small, oval, berry-like fruit of the hawthorn, which are dark red in colour.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Wassail! Wassail! All over the town

Today I have been mostly discovering what it means to wassail. I'd like to say that I've been travelling from house to house, demanding food and drink in return for a few verses of whatever carol I can remember at the time. However, I have instead been doing it from the comfort of my home and am (you'll be pleased to hear) completely sober.

Did you know, for example, that wassail comes from the Old English 'waes hael' meaning 'be healthy'? Or that the expression 'to drink a toast' originates with the custom of wassailing?

Of course, I can't reveal all the secrets of the wassail here - you'll have to wait until What is Myrrh Anyway? is published to discover the truth behind our best loved Christmas traditions. But, once again, in the meantime I've found a (I admit, slightly twee) treat for you to tide you over until Christmastide, when wassailing can begin again with a vengeance!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Would you like to appear in a novel?

If you have always secretly harboured a desire to appear as a character in a novel, then follow this link to to find out more about our Pax Britannia competition.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Yule never guess what

Apologies for the pun, but guess what I've been researching today. That's right - Christmas crackers... No, no, no, only joking... Yes, Yule! Or more specifically the traditions surrounding the Yule log.

Did you know that the Yule log was once associated with the Norse god Thor, who had a mysterious connection to oak trees, or that in Devon and Somerset it was known as the Great Ashen Faggot?

No? Well there's lots more where that came from in What is Myrrh Anyway?

But as the book's not going to be available for a few months yet, if you've been suffering during the recent unseasonably cold snap, why not curl up in front of your own warming Yule log, right here?

Friday, 11 April 2008

We three kings of Orient are...

One in a taxi, one in a car...

Yes, you've guessed it - today I have been mostly writing about the three kings. Ah, but were they? Kings I mean. And were there really three of them? And how did they manage to hail a cab in 1st century Palestine?

Well, to find out the answers to those questions* you will have to wait until What is Myrrh Anyway? hits the shops this October.

However, for the time being you can content yourself with these two treats that I dug up on YouTube.

First there is the sublime We Three Kings (instrumental version) by power metal band Kamelot...

And then there's this frankly ridiculous rendition by Hugh Jackman, David Hobson and Peter Cousen. I never knew Wolverine had such a lovely singing voice.

One on a scooter, blowing his hooter,
Following yonder star!

* Except for the last one, that is.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Only 260 shopping days 'til Christmas

Are you anxious that Christmas could creep up on you this year? Worried that you'll be caught unprepared? Then have no fear, for Santa himself has entered the information age and has his own countdown to Christmas running.

You can even send him an email or check, online, whether you've been naughty or nice! Don't believe me? Then check it out for yourself here.

Where do turkeys come from?

Did you know that turkeys don't originally come from turkey?

No, they actually come from Mexico. The confusion arose due to the fact that they were introduced into central Europe by Turkish merchants.

Just to add to the confusion, because America had been discovered by explorers seeking an alternative route to India and the East, other nations named the bird assuming it was of Indian descent.

In France the turkey was called coq d'Inde, (now corrupted to dindon). In Italy, turkey was galle d'India, in Germany the name was indianische henn, while throughout the Ottoman Empire it was called the hindi.

Other tasty morsels of information like this can be found in 'What is Myrrh Anyway?' out this October from Icon Books.

But to keep you amused until then, why not take part in a festively-themed turkey shoot, by clicking this link?

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Imagnie the electricity bill

Christmas, the season of peace and goodwill, is responsible for many wonderful things in this world. And then there's this...

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

It is 6th April. I live in London. It should be spring and yet this morning I woke up to this...

At least it's spurred me on to keep going with 'What is Myrrh Anyway?' Have a Happy... April, everybody!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before...

If you're sitting there, reading this blog and thinking, 'I'm sure that title sounds familiar', or equally, if you have no idea where the quote 'What is myrrh anyway?' comes from (and yes, it is a quote), then check out the video clip below from Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Only 264 shopping days 'til Christmas

Here is some timely sage advice (not) from the 1950s for those of you who are already starting to think about what to get those nearest and dearest to you this coming festive season.

Dear Santa...

Christmas novelty records. Everybody hates them but they still sell by the bucketload. However, there is one Christmas record which just doesn't get the recognition it deserves, so I am going to try and do my bit to rectify that right here, right now.

So, check out 'I Want An Alien For Christmas' by the Fountains of Wayne.

Friday, 4 April 2008

When Sprouts Attack!

Love 'em or hate 'em, Christmas dinner just wouldn't be the same without them. But why do sprouts taste so vile? And why do people insist on having them with the main meal of the year?

You can find the answers to all of these questions inside 'What is Myrrh Anyway?' but what you won't discover is what happens when the little green devils launch an offensive strike on your turkey with all the trimmings.

However, you can see for yourself what happens when sprouts attack by following this link instead.

Good luck, and may the brassicas be with you!

Only 265 shopping days 'til Christmas

Welcome to the blog for the book 'What is Myrrh Anyway?'

For those of you who might be wondering, it's a book about the Christmas traditions which we take for granted, and partake in every year, without necessarily knowing why we're doing so.

Through this blog, as well as letting you know about develops regarding 'What is Myrrh Anyway?' I will also be publishing unique content linked to the book, and posting other snippets of festive cheer... even though it's still only April at the moment.

To get a better idea of what you'll find inside the book, here's the blurb that the publishers Icon Books have put out.

This is a hugely enjoyable, festive excursion through the history, science, music, culture and traditions of everyone's favourite winter holiday.Why is Christmas celebrated on 25 December? Why is turkey the traditional festive meat? Why are stockings hung up on Christmas Eve? What is figgy pudding? Who were the three kings? And did Coca-Cola really invent Father Christmas as we're all told?

Just like the perfect Christmas stocking, "What is Myrrh Anyway?" contains all manner of delightful surprises and delicious morsels of information. Jonathan Green uncovers the truth behind such familiar festive traditions as carol-singing and cards, and demystifies the origins of Christmas.

If you've ever wondered how to cook the perfect roast turkey, what mince pies should really taste like, or why you are forced to endure the cross-dressing antics of a traditional pantomime every year, then simply open this Christmas cracker of a book and discover the answers to all those questions you've been too afraid - or embarrassed - to ask.

That's it for now, but I look forward to engaging with you here again soon, and until next time... Ho, ho, ho.