Thursday, 31 December 2009
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Q: What is green, slimy and romantic at Christmas?
A: A mistle-toad!
Q: What game do cows like to play at Christmas?
A: Moo-sical chairs!
Q: What do you call a cat on a beach on Christmas Day?
A: Sandy Claws!
Q: What's a hedgehog's favourite food?
A: Prickled onions!
Q: What do you call two robbers?
A: A pair of nickers!
To find out more about the origins of the Christmas cracker - and the hopeless attempts at humour usually found within - follow this link to get hold of your own copy of What is Myrrh Anyway? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas.
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
... and to find the rest, follow this link...
Monday, 28 December 2009
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, three feastive tipples for a cold and frosty morning
I recommend three recipes in particular, those for Clarrey, Bishop's Wine and Glogg - and you can find all of them in What is Mrryh Anyway? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas, which is still available!
And here's how I got on when I made some Bishop's Wine for friends and family last year...
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Saturday, 26 December 2009
The Hunting of the Wren, was an old ritual once performed on St. Stephen's Day by the children of the village who would go out and find a wren out in the woods, kill it, and then put it in a box. They would then drape the wren in purple cloth and decorate the box with cloth and flowers and carry it from door to door, often singing a song like this one:
By your leave we will sing concerning our King.
Our king is well dressed in silks of the best... etc, etc...
There is some speculation as to where the tradition comes from but it may well date back to the Celts and the druidic practice of using wrens to divine the future.
Anyway, whatever you're doing today - whether it's hunting wrens, or otherwise - have a good one!
Friday, 25 December 2009
Here's hoping that Father Christmas brought you everything you hoped for and that you and yours have a happy and memorable Christmas.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
And, in case you missed the post earlier in the week, here's a present from me.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
The story of the Nativity is told in the familiar words of the King James Bible, along with Christmas poems by Cecil Day Lewis and Ted Hughes.
The famous chapel choir sing carols old and new, including favourites such as O Holy Night, The Sussex Carol, We Three Kings, God Rest You Merry Gentlemen and O Come, All Ye Faithful.
This post's title isn't a personal confession, but a reference to a brilliant parody of Black Sabbath's Iron Man track. So, in expectation of the fat man's house invasion on this not so snowy Christmas Eve, sit back and enjoy this existential treatise on the nature of the gift-giver the Chinese call 'Christmas Old Man'...
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
With Christmas on its way the carol singers will surely be out in force.
But if you thought this seasonal tradition was as simple as singing and tin-rattling, you couldn't be more wrong.
As it turns out, there are issues that have, for too long, been left unaddressed – which is why this year's festive singers now have a health and safety leaflet to guide them.
To read more about this story, click here.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
The dramatisation is noted for its yuletide atmosphere (it is set during Christmas, after all) and has become something of a nostalgic treat for followers of cult TV. The seasonal theme music is Victor Hely-Hutchinson's wonderful orchestral arrangement of "The First Noël" from his Carol Symphony.
If you've never seen it, it's worth looking it out, and if you remember it fondly from your childhood, as I do, enjoy the following clip as you take a trip down memory lane and recall a creepy children's Christmas classic...
Well, apparently now. According to supermarkets, it's the sale of one item more than any other that announces the arrival of Christmas. And it's not mince pies, or turkey, or even Christmas pudding. It is in fact... quilted toilet paper!
You can read more about the Hyacinth Bucket phenomenon here.
You can follow Santa's progress across the globe on Christmas Eve via NORAD's official Santa tracker here.
But while you're waiting for the night of 24 December, why not enjoy this short video of Santa's 2008 journey around the world?
Monday, 21 December 2009
Apparently bookmakers William Hill have slashed the odds of it being a White Christmas, worried that they'll be facing a massive pay-out.
Did you know...?
It can actually get cold enough that it doesn't snow! Because snow is frozen water, if there are not enough water droplets in the air it can't snow - simple as that. As a result, the driest place on Earth isn't in the Sahara Desert or the Arizona Desert. It's actually a place known as the Dry Valleys and it's in Antarctica. The area is completely free of ice and snow, and it never rains there at all! In fact, parts of the Antarctic continent haven't seen any rain for around 2 million years! But Antarctica is also the wettest place in world, due to the fact that 70% of the Earth's water is found there in the form of ice.
For more fascinating facts like these, check out Match Wits with the Kids - available now - as well as What is Myrrh Anyway? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas.
And if you're feeling the cold, why not sit down in front of the fire tonight and enjoy a Snowball? Of the slightly alcoholic variety...
2 oz Advocaat
Top up Lemonade
1/2 oz Fresh Lime juice
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And while you're sipping your Snowball, why not listen to this ode to the cocktail, celebrating the fact that you can enjoy all your favourite drinks in the same glass?
Those very generous people at Abaddon Books have a seasonal gift for all eBook readers this year - a FREE Pax Britannia short story, by me, entitled Christmas Past. This special edition also has a couple of extras tucked away inside, including news of some upcoming titles.
Go to www.abaddonbooks.com/download and you can be the proud owner of a little seasonal madness from the world of Ulysses Quicksilver and Pax Britannia too!
Yo, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!
The pagan celebration of the solstice was one of the most popular holidays of the year before the coming of Christmas, Hanukkah and other cultural celebrations that are now celebrated in December. Many of the participants observe the solstice because they believe it is connected to something real in nature rather than just an arbitrary calendar date.
Technically, the Winter Solstice occurs exactly when the earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26'. although the Winter Solstice lasts only an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used like Midwinter to refer to the day on which it occurs.
The Winter Solstice Festival or The Extreme of Winter is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the dongzhi solar term on or around December 21 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. The philosophical significance of this is symbolized by the I Ching hexagram fù (復, "Returning").
Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. One activity that occurs during these get togethers (especially in the southern parts of China and in Chinese communities overseas) is the making and eating of Tangyuan (湯圓, as pronounced in Cantonese; Mandarin Pinyin: Tāng Yuán) or balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize reunion. In Korea, similar balls of glutinous rice (Korean: 새알심) (English pronunciation: Saealsim), is prepared in a traditional porridge made with sweet red bean (Korean: 팥죽)(English pronunciation: Patjook).
Did you know...?
Patjook was believed to have a special power and sprayed around houses on winter solstice to repel sinister spirits. This practice was based on a traditional folk tale, in which the ghost of a man that used to hate patjook comes haunting innocent villagers on the winter solstice.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
The aim of the game was to pluck the raisins out of the burning brandy and eat them, at the risk of being burnt. Other treats could also be used. Of these, almonds were the most common alternative or addition, but currants, candied fruit, figs, grapes, and plums also featured. Salt could also be sprinkled in the bowl. In one variation a Christmas pudding is placed in the centre of the bowl with raisins around it.
Did you know...?
In The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare used the word 'snapdraon' as a verb, to describe a moment when a ship at sea is instantly swallowed up by a storm.
Snapdragon is also mentioned in Alice Through the Looking Glass where Alice meets the peculiar Looking-Glass insects. One of them is the Snap-dragon-fly, with a body made of plum-pudding, its wings of holly leaves and its head a raisin burning in brandy. It lives on frumenty (a traditional Christmas porridge) and mince pies, and nests in a Christmas box.