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Showing posts from December, 2014

When did January 1st become New Year's Day?

A more complex question that it first appears. January was first declared the beginning of the year by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE. This New Year Dayto celebrated the God of Janus - whose two faces looked back into the past and forward into the future.

Like many Pagan holidays (e.g. Christmas/Midwinter Festival) it slowly became incorporated into the Christian calendar, though from a Christian perspective the 12th Day of Christmas (January 6) might be the more logical transformation point from old into new. 

Throughout the medieval period there was sporadic resistance to what was generally thought to be an alien, pagan anniversary

A desire to standardise calendars eventually made NYD  the official beginning of the year. In 1066 William the Conqueror declared that January 1st a holiday. In the same 'I'll show you who's boss' spirit Pope Gregory XIII used the 1578 New Year's Day celebration to  decree 
that all Roman Jews, under pain of death, must listen attentively to the …

When was the golden era of Christmas songs?

A very long time ago you might think as you hurry away from I wish it would be Christmas Every Day and So Here It Is Merry Christmas, currently blasting out of every shopping mall in the western world.

In fact less than thirty years before Roy Wood and Noddy Holder were doing their worst, Christmas was the catalyst for some magnificent songwriting. Sleigh Ride, White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) and many other standards were written during the mid 1940s and early 1950s.

Many have identified the trauma of the Second World War as the inspiration - an idea made explicit in Hugh Martin's wistful Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
Make the Yule-tide gay.
From now on our troubles
Will be miles away. Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more. Someday soon we all will be together If the Fates allow. Until then we'l…

What is figgy pudding?

We want some figgy pudding
Please bring it right here! We won’t go until we get some
We won’t go until we get some
We won’t go until we get some
So bring it out here! The pudding that the (apparently drunk) guests singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas demand so rudely is a variant on the tradition Christmas Pudding. 

If your guests 'won't go until [they} get some' you could try a recipe here. Personally, I'd show them the door but I always did  prefer Scrooge's Bah Humbug take on proceedings to his later foolishness.

What is Frankinsense? And Myrrh
A Paul McCartney story about the young John Lennon's late night encounter with a Nativity scene inspired this fun Fred & Rita playscript. Christmas Carol Teaching Pack More Christmas-related posts

Most famous Merry Christmas?

"A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!" Which all the [Cratchit] family re-echoed. "God bless us, every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.



What is Frankinsense? And Myrrh

A Paul McCartney story about the young John Lennon's late night encounter with a Nativity scene inspired this fun Fred & Rita playscript.
Christmas Carol Teaching Pack
More Christmas-related posts

Where does the word Oz come from?

According to legend, L Frank Baum was stuck for a name for his magical land. Looking up from his desk for inspiration, he saw a filing cabinet with tow drawers. One was labelled A-L and the other O-Z.  Baum wrote down OZ,  meaning  to replace this later.

What is Frankinsense? And Myrrh

A Paul McCartney story about the young John Lennon's late night encounter with a Nativity scene inspired this fun Fred & Rita playscript.
Christmas Carol Teaching Pack
More Christmas-related posts

Most popular Christmas poem in the English language?

 "A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "The Night Before Christmas" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and generally attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, although the claim has also been made that it was written by Henry Livingston, Jr. The poem, which has been called "arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American",[1] is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today. And no doubt, either, as to the most popular reading. Take it away, Sachmo.

Where does the word nativity come from?

The word derives from the Latin 'natal' meaning birth (1200–50; ME nativite < OF nativité < LL nātīvitās). Natal is also the source of several other English words, including native and nature.

While pre-natal is the standard medical term and in common use, nativity (the Nativity) is almost exclusively used in the religious/iconic sense, defined in the Oxford Dictionary as follows:
 the birth of Jesus Christ/a picture, carving, or model representing Jesus Christ’s birth:
[as modifier]: a little crib surrounded with nativity figures: the Christian festival of Christ’s birth; Christmas.
What is the cultural significance of the Nativity?For Christians Easter rather than the Nativity is not the central event in the church calendar. Nonetheless, Advent - the four Sundays leading up to Christmas - is a very important period because represents: 
the beginning of the church year. the time when the the religious and the secular worlds are most closely alignedan opportunity to reach out…