Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Victorian Christmas

Would you like to know what Victorian Christmas was like?
If so, see the 10-minute film from the BBC Victorian Farm series.

For more ideas, visit the BBC site!

By the way, which Christmas activity would you like to do for your Christmas-New Year celebration?

Victorian Christmas Cards

What do you think about Victorian Christmas cards?
Are they better than modern ones?
Which card would you like to get and why?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Queen's Christmas Broadcasts

                                         The Queen's Christmas Broadcasts                                       

After the death of George VI in February 1952, The Queen broadcast her first Christmas message. She spoke of carrying on the tradition passed on to her by the late King:
"Each Christmas, at this time, my beloved Father broadcast a message to his people in all parts of the world ... As he used to do, I am speaking to you from my own home, where I am spending Christmas with my family ... My Father [King George VI], and my Grandfather [King George V] before him, worked hard all their lives to unite our peoples ever more closely, and to maintain its ideals which were so near to their hearts. I shall strive to carry on their work."
A BBC report at the time also noted the continuation of tradition:
"She used the same desk and chair as her father King George VI and his father King George V had done.
In clear, firm tones she thanked her subjects for their "loyalty and affection" since her accession to the throne 10 months ago and promised to continue the work of her father and grandfather to unite the nations of the British Commonwealth and Empire.
She asked them to pray for her on coronation day next summer.
Throughout her reign The Queen has made a Broadcast every year except one. No Christmas Broadcast took place in 1969 because a repeat of the documentary Royal Family was already scheduled for the holiday period.
Public concern at this apparent break with tradition prompted The Queen to issue a written message of reassurance that the Broadcast would return in the following year, so popular had it become.
The first televised message was broadcast live in 1957. The advent of television during The Queen's reign has given an added dimension to her Broadcasts. It has allowed viewers to see The Queen in her own residences, decorated for Christmas like many homes across the world.

The Queen's Christmas Broadcast of 1957:

The location is usually Buckingham Palace, but recordings have also been made at Windsor and Sandringham. In 2003 the message was filmed at Combermere Barracks in Windsor - the first time the address had been shot entirely on location. Footage from the year's Royal events is often shown, enabling the public to see the highlights of the Royal year.

From 1960, Broadcasts were recorded in advance so that the tapes could be sent around the world to 17 Commonwealth countries, to be broadcast at a convenient local time.
Although technology has advanced, the workload for all involved, including The Queen, is still considerable.
Planning starts early with The Queen's choice of a theme which she wishes to address. Appropriate footage is then filmed during various public engagements - and occasionally private events - during the remainder of the year. Since 1997, the BBC and ITV have alternated in filming and producing the Broadcast every two years; the 2009 Broadcast is being filmed by the ITV.
The actual message is recorded a few days before Christmas, and lasts up to 10 minutes.
This year marks The Queen's 58th Christmas Broadcast. Over the years, the Broadcasts have chronicled both the life of the nation and of The Monarchy; the Broadcast is one of the rare occasions when The Queen does not speak on Government advice. Instead, The Queen gives her own views on events and developments which are of concern both to Her Majesty and her public, in the UK and wider afield in the Commonwealth.
In 1966, for example, during a decade which saw great changes for women, The Queen spoke about the important role of women in society:
"This year I should like to speak especially to women.
In the modern world the opportunities for women to give something of value to the human family are greater than ever, because, through their own efforts, they are now beginning to play their full part in public life."
Whilst in 1983, when the computer age was in its infancy, Her Majesty spoke of the very modern technologies which were helping to transmit her Broadcast, but warned against allowing these technologies to replace human interaction and compassion:
"This mastery of technology may blind us to the more fundamental needs of people. Electronics cannot create comradeship; computers cannot generate compassion; satellites cannot transmit tolerance."

The Queen is ever conscious of her role as Head of the Armed Forces in her Christmas Broadcasts. British and Commonwealth troops serving overseas over the Christmas period and their families are uppermost in Her Majesty's mind.
In 1990, she spoke of the threat of war in the Middle East:
"The servicemen in the Gulf who are spending Christmas at their posts under this threat are much in our thoughts. And there are many others, at home and abroad, servicemen and civilians, who are away from their own firesides."
And in 2003, with conflict again in the Middle East, a special Broadcast from the Household Cavalry Barracks in Windsor was arranged at The Queen's request:
"I want to draw attention to the many servicemen and women who are stationed far from home this Christmas. I'm thinking about their wives and children and about their parents and friends."
As the Christmas Broadcast is Her Majesty's own personal message to the nation, The Queen has occasionally shared personal concerns with her listeners. Her Majesty's personal experiences are always related back to those of the public to whom she is speaking.
In her 1990 Christmas broadcast, for example, she spoke of the happy family events which had taken place that year:
"My family ... has been celebrating my mother's Ninetieth Birthday, and we have shared with you the joy of some of those celebrations. My youngest grandchild's Christening, two days ago, has brought the family together once again. I hope that all of us lucky enough to be able to enjoy such gatherings this Christmas will take time to count our blessings."
In 2002, another Jubilee year, Her Majesty spoke of her grief at the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, thanking the public for their messages of support:
"At such a difficult time this gave me great comfort and inspiration as I faced up both to my own personal loss and to the busy Jubilee summer ahead."
In both of her Jubilee years - 1977 and 2002, The Queen has used the Christmas Broadcast to thank the public for their part in the festivities. In 2002 she said:
"The celebrations were joyous occasions but they also seemed to evoke something more lasting and profound - a sense of belonging and pride in country, town, or community."
With technological advances meaning that viewers have a choice of format - television, radio or internet, the Christmas Broadcast is more accessible than ever. The technology has changed but, at broadcasters' request, the timing remains at 3.00pm as a fixed point in the schedules.
The establishment of the Christmas Broadcast as an annual tradition creates a sense of continuity for many. Though each year's theme is chosen by The Queen and reflects her own interests, it is always motivated by compassion and concern for her people.
For The Queen, the Broadcast is not only a duty to be fulfilled, it is an opportunity to speak directly to the public, to react to their concerns and to thank and reassure them. In this way, the Christmas Broadcast helps to reinforce The Queen's role as a focus for national unity.

Christmas Holly.

Christmas Holly

Christmas holly and the approach of the winter holiday season don't hold the same meaning for everyone. For those of us keenly aware of the cycle of the seasons, the approach of Yuletide means the winter solstice is coming. In the snowy North, the winter solstice is the day on which the rest of the year pivots for lovers of landscaping and gardening.

"Things have to get worse before they can get better." Those of us in northern climes who enjoy seeing plants growing outside understand the wisdom behind this observation, when autumn draws to a close and the winter solstice approaches. On the one hand, with each passing day of autumn we are robbed of more and more daylight. On the other hand, we know that, when the winter solstice does arrive, we'll turn the corner: the shortest day will have been reached, and from then on we can only gain daylight -- imperceptibly, to be sure, but also inexorably.

Ancient peoples, who spent more time outdoors than we do, were acutely aware of this annual ebb and flow of daylight, the two poles of which are the winter solstice and its summer counterpart. For the Celts, what we know as Christmas holly trees had a place in their rituals marking these two poles, each of which indicate when the sun is at its greatest distance from the equator. Here are the essential facts about the summer and winter solstice:
  • In the Northern Hemisphere the summer version occurs approximately on June 21, when the sun is in the zenith at the tropic of Cancer.
  • The North's winter solstice occurs around December 21, when the sun is over the tropic of Capricorn.
  • The summer event is the longest day of the year (most daylight hours).
  • The winter solstice is the shortest (fewest daylight hours).

In Christian folklore the prickly leaves of Christmas holly trees came to be associated with Jesus' crown of thorns, while their berries represented the drops of blood shed for humanity's salvation. This symbolism can be found, for example, in the Christmas carol, "The Holly and the Ivy". Christian folklore also identified Christmas holly wood as the wood used to build Jesus' holy cross. In fact, some scholars think that the word, "holly" is simply a corruption of "holy," although there is no general consensus on this point.
But what there is a general consensus on is the diversity and versatility of Christmas holly trees, which is the subject o As noted on Page 1, holly plants are a diverse lot, being "one of the few genera that can be grown in all 50 states" in the U.S., as Andrew Bunting, curator of the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College, writes. There are hundreds of species, distributed amongst all the continents except for Australia and Antarctica. The plants come in all sizes, ranging from spreading dwarf shrubs 6" in height to trees 70' tall. Their shapes vary from rounded to pyramidal to columnar.

Holly is prized in Christmas decorations, and adds visual interest to a color-starved northern landscape. But also reports medicinal uses for holly. Herbalists traditionally used holly leaves to treat fever and other ailments. "The berries possess totally different qualities to the leaves, being violently emetic and purgative, a very few occasioning excessive vomiting soon after they are swallowed."

Christmas Poetry Winner!

Our winner is Christmas Bells

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Nearly 40 % of the voters have chosen it as the poem they like most!!!
A very comfortable victory!!!

Congratulations to Nastya Streltsova
who has shared it with us!!!
(5 bonus points!!!)

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


A bauble is a spherical decoration that is commonly used to adorn Christmas trees. The bauble is one of the most popular Christmas ornament designs, and they have been in production since 1847. Baubles can have various designs on them, from "baby's first Christmas," to a favorite sports team. Many are plain, being simply a shiny sphere of a single color.

The Origin if Christmas Baubles

The origin of Christmas Baubles relate to the custom of decorating indoor Christmas trees. This custom became extremely popular during the Victorian era when homemade baubles and trinkets were made to decorate the tree. At first the tree was hung with small toys, cakes, bags of sweets tied with ribbon containing bonbons  or candies like sugared almonds or other bonbons. 


The first decorated trees were adorned with apples, strings of popcorn, white candy canes and pastries in the shapes of stars, hearts and flowers. In Germany the tradition and Christmas custom of decorating the tree extended to commercial decorations like silver wire ornaments, glass baubles and ornaments. Germany were extremely fond of decorations and as early as the 17th century real wafer thin silver tinsel had been machine-made by German manufacturers. These soon became a popular trend and tinsel, glass baubles and ornaments were exported to England and the US. The fashion for decorating Christmas trees with glass baubles and other decorations was brought to England by Prince Albert, the German prince who married Queen Victoria. In 1841 Prince Albert set up the first tree at Windsor Castle - this custom soon became all the rage in fashionable, wealthy households. In 1850 Charles Dickens described trees as being covered with small dolls, miniature furniture, tiny musical instruments, costume jewelry, toy guns and swords, fruit and candy.

An early Christmas bauble

A Christmas tree hung with and-made baubles and candies

The first American made glass ornaments and baubles were created by William DeMuth in New York in 1870. Christmas Baubles and decorations were then adopted by the masses when, by 1880, Woolworth's sold inexpensive, commercially produced,  Christmas baubles and ornaments. F. W. Woolworth had discovered the Lauscha baubles during a visit to Germany and made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to America. As time went by the glass baubles were commonly replaced by plastic baubles. 

Post World War II

After World War II, the East German government turned most of Lauscha's glassworks into state-owned entities, and production of baubles in Lauscha ceased. After the Berlin Wall came down, most of the firms were reestablished as private companies. As of 2009, there are still about 20 small glass-blowing firms active in Lauscha that produce baubles. One of the producers is Krebs Glas Lauscha, part of the Krebs family which is now one of the largest producers of glass ornaments worldwide.

The modern Bauble

 A Christmas ball  (American English)
Although glass baubles are still produced, baubles are now frequently made from plastic and available worldwide in a huge variety of shapes, colors and designs. There is a large number of manufactures producing sophisticated Christmas glass ornaments in Poland.
Common thin blown glass ornament empty inside, a typical frosted glass bauble




Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner in the United Kingdom is usually eaten in the afternoon on 25 December.
The dinner usually consists of roast turkey, sometimes with roast beef or ham or pork. Served with stuffing, gravy and sometimes forcemeat; pigs in blankets; cranberry sauce or redcurrant jelly; bread sauce; roast potatoes, vegetables, particularly brussels sprouts, parsnips and carrots; with dessert of Christmas pudding (or plum pudding), sometimes mince pies or trifle, with brandy butter and/or cream.
The turkey appeared on Christmas tables in England in the 16th century, and popular history tells of King Henry VIII being first English monarch to have turkey for Christmas. The tradition of turkey at Christmas rapidly spread throughout England in the 17th century,and it also became common to serve goose which remained the predominant roast until the Victorian era. A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in Dicken's A Christmas Carol (1843), where Scrooge sends Bob Cratchitt a large turkey.The pudding course of a British Christmas Dinner may often be Christmas pudding, which dates from medieval England. Trifle, mince pies, Christmas Cake or a Yule Log are also popular.

Most Christmas customs in the United States have been adopted from those in the United Kingdom. Accordingly, the mainstays of the British table are also found in the United States: roast turkey (or other poultry), beef, ham, or pork; stuffing (or 'dressing'), squash, roasted root vegetables, brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes are common. Common desserts include pumpkin pie, plum pudding or Christmas pudding, trifle, marzipan, pfeffernusse, sugar cookies, fruitcake, apple pie, Gooseberry Pie, carrot cake, bûche de Noël, and mince pies. In the South, coconut cake, pecan pie, and sweet potato pie are also common.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Christmas Cards

Christmas cards became popular in Victorian England, they were mostly home made and given to loved ones. The first ever Christmas card was the brainchild of Sir Henry Cole, a leading cultural light in Victorian England who was later to become director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The first commercial Christmas card (pictured above) had a hostile reception from some people because it depicted a family, children as well as adults, drinking wine. The card was painted by John Calcott Horsley. It depicts a family feast, under which appear the words, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You". Side panels illustrated acts of Christmas charity - feeding and clothing the poor etc..

However it was Louis Prang, a 19th-century German immigrant to the United States, who popularised the sending of printed Christmas cards. Prang was a Bavarian-born lithographer who settled in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1850s and established a successful printing business. He invented a way of reproducing color oil paintings, the "chromolithograph technique", and created a card with the message "Merry Christmas" as a way of showing it off. He went on to produce a series of popular Christmas cards. By 1881 he was printing more than five million cards annually.
The first charity Christmas card was produced by UNICEF in 1949. The picture chosen for the card was painted not by a professional artist but by a seven year old girl called Jitka Samkova of Rudolfo, a small town in what was then Czechoslovakia. The town received assistance from UNICEF after the Second World War, inspiring Jitka to paint some children dancing around a maypole. She said her picture represented "joy going round and round".

Nowadays most people buy their cards from Hallmark etc., they are sent before Christmas Day and people use them to decorate their houses. It can be an expensive affair though, some families send and receive well over 100 cards. But what could be nicer than a mantle piece decorated with beautiful cards bearing good wishes from friends and relatives.

Christmas Wreaths

Christmas wreaths - origins & trivia

In ancient Rome, people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory. Some believe that this isChristmas wreath where the hanging of wreaths on doors came from.
The origins of the Advent wreath are found in the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples who, during the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe, gathered wreaths of evergreen and lighted fires as signs of hope in a coming spring and renewed light. Christians kept these popular traditions alive, and by the 16th century Catholics and Protestants throughout Germany used these symbols to celebrate their Advent hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. From Germany the use of the Advent wreath spread to other parts of the Christian world. Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens with a fifth candle in the middle. Three candles are violet and the fourth is rose, but four white candles or four violet candles can also be used. Each day at home, the candles are lighted, perhaps before the evening meal-- one candle the first week, and then another each succeeding week until December 25th. A short prayer may accompany the lighting of each candle. The last candle is the middle candle. The lighting of this candle takes place on Christmas Eve. It represents Jesus Christ being born.

What is the Meaning of the Christmas Wreath?
The term "Wreath", curiously enough, is linked to our word "Wrist", with both terms forming a continuous physical circular shape. It also came from Middle English's "wrethe", meaning a twisted band or ring of leaves or flowers in a garland.
Types of Christmas Wreaths
Advent Wreath, Christmas Wreath & Christmas Candles

The Advent Wreath

Christmas Wreath
Wreaths have been used symbolically for centuries. The circle or ring shape is symbolic of eternity or eternal life, because the shape has no beginning or end. Back in ancient Rome, this symbol became so powerful that people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory. Some believe that this is where the hanging of wreaths on doors came from.
Putting plants into the symbolic circular shape symbolizes the strength of life overcoming the forces of winter. Wreaths and other decorations during long winters often consisted of whatever natural materials looked attractive at this bleak time of year. People used candles, fires, evergreens, hollies, berries, and forced blossoms to hold on to the promise of spring.
Types of Christmas Wreaths
While there are many designs and styles of Christmas Wreaths, they mainly fall into two categories, the Decorative Christmas Wreath and the Advent Wreath.
The Decorative Christmas Wreath is made simply for crafts and holiday decorations, similar in use to Christmas Lights. These have a different purpose than other types of wreaths. Wreaths give a house or office the "finishing touch" to the holiday decorations. Their symbolism and look just give the area the little extra Christmas feeling. Decorative Christmas Wreaths are usually made of evergreen leaves, holly, or other materials which symbolize life throughout tough winters.
The Advent Wreath is a tradition that is a part of folklore from centuries ago. The Pre-Christian Germanic people during the cold December darkness of Eastern Europe, gathered wreaths and lighted fires as signs of hope in the coming spring and renewed light. The 16th century Catholics and Protestants used wreaths as symbols to celebrate their hope in Christ, the everlasting Light. From Germany, the use of the Advent Wreath spread to other parts of the world.
Traditionally, the Advent Wreath is made of four violet or rose candles in a circle of evergreens with a fifth candle in the middle. Each day at home, the candles are lighted before the evening meal, one candle for the first week, and then another each succeeding week until December 25th. The last candle is the middle candle of the wreath. The lighting of this candle takes place on Christmas Eve and represents the birth of Jesus Christ.

Carol singing

What are Christmas Carols?    

Christmas carols are special songs which are sung during the Christmas season. The songs are about Jesus and the time when he was born.

Why were Christmas Carols written?

Many Christmas carols were written for a special purpose, often to accompany performances of religious dramas dating from medieval times.

In the Middle Ages, carols were dances accompanied by singing. It is thought that these dances were introduced to England from France.

What does the word 'carol' mean?

The word carol comes from the ancient Greek 'choros', which means "dancing in a circle," and from the Old French word 'carole', meaning "a song to accompany dancing".

Over the years, the word 'carol' changed its meaning, referring only to certain kinds of songs, the word carol became known as Christmas songs.

What is Carol Singing?

Carol singing, or Caroling, is singing carols in the street or public places. It is one of the oldest customs in Great Britain, going back to the Middle Ages when beggars, seeking food, money, or drink, would wander the streets singing holiday songs.

People today still go carol singing. People go from house to house singing carols and collecting money for charity.

The traditional period to sing carols is from St Thomas's Day (21 December) until the morning of Christmas Day.

Christmas Carols were once banned

Christmas carols were banned between 1647 and 1660 in England by Oliver Cromwell, who thought that Christmas should be a solemn day. copyright of

The tradition of carol singers going from door to door came about because they were banned from churches in the Middle Ages.

The Christmas Carol Service

Probably the most famous carol service is 'The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols' held in King's College Chapel, Cambridge. It takes place on Christmas Eve and always begins with the carol, 'Once in Royal David's City' sung by a solo chorister.Did you know?
St Francis of Assisi introduced Christmas Carols to formal church services.

The biggest selling Christmas Carol

White Christmas by Irving Berlin is the biggest-selling Christmas song of all time. It is estimated to have sold approximately 350 million copies on record and sheet music.

The Story of the Silent Night Carol

The carol Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.

The first instrument on which the carol "Silent Night" was played was a guitar.

Other Christmas Carols and when they were composed

1843 - O Come all ye Faithful

1848 - Once in Royal David's City

1851 - See Amid the Winters Snow

1868 - O Little Town of Bethlehem

1883 - Away in a Manger

Sing-A-Long Christmas Carols

Christmas Tree

A tree is part of many people's holiday season. Cutting your own tree, selecting one at the local lot, or bringing in a living tree are all part of modern family traditions. To many, the beginning of the holiday season is decorating a tree. The aroma, beauty, and special adventure of having a tree is sensed by all in the home. Christmas trees have not always been associated with the winter holidays across the world. The roots (no pun intended) of tree use can be traced back before the birth of Jesus Christ to early Egyptians who would bring palms indoor as symbols of eternal life. Ancient Jewish religious feasts used decorations made of tree boughs. In the Western world, most experts consider our use of trees during the winter holidays as derived from Rome. The Romans exchanged tree boughs with friends for luck. The Roman winter festival was celebrated by decorating the house with tree boughs and greenery. Trees were paraded around with candles and trinkets attached to the branches.
Many folk legends have grown around the Christmas tree. Christ's blessing and gift to mankind in the form of a decorated tree remains the central theme of most. Across Europe, people used tree-based folk tales to teach children about the celebration of Christ's birth. The evergreen tree's symbolism of eternal life was strong. Martin Luther may have begun the Christmas tree tradition in Germany around 1500 AD. It was said that he was walking on a bright snow-covered, star-lit night pondering the birth of Christ. He was enthralled by the evergreen trees, the stars and the landscape. He took a tree inside and put candles on it to try and represent the majesty he felt about Christ's birth.
By the early 1600's many German towns were celebrating Christmas with elaborately decorated trees. Decorations first used were paper flowers, fruits, nuts, gold foil, cakes, small gifts, and candies. German mercenaries used by the British in the Revolutionary War were responsible for bringing the Christmas tree tradition to the United States.  In the 1840's the use of Christmas trees across the Christian world exploded. From the royal family in England to the elite of America, Christmas trees were fashionable. In 1851 the first retail tree lot was set-up on a sidewalk in New York City and sold-out quickly. At the same time, some church congregations had concerns about bringing trees into their religious traditions. An Ohio paster set-up a tree in church in 1851 and was told by congregation members that it was a pagan symbol with no place in Christianity. Despite these concerns, the pastor continued with the Christmas tree tradition. This tradition became ever more popular.
The White House led the way to trees for the holidays. The first American President to show-off his White House tree was Franklin Pierce. Benjamin Harrison declared his White House tree to be part of an old-fashioned American tradition in 1889. By the 1880's the Christmas tree market was large. In the following decades large numbers of wild trees were harvested from the native forests. Theodore Roosevelt decided for the sake of forest conservation that the White House would not have a tree. His two sons snuck a small tree into their room and were caught, to the embarrassment of their father.

Christmas Stocking

A Christmas stocking is an empty sock or sock-shaped bag that is hung on Christmas Eve so that Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) can fill it with small toys, candy, fruit, coins or other small gifts when he arrives. These small items are often referred to as stocking stuffers or stocking fillers. In some Christmas stories, the contents of the Christmas stocking are the only toys the child receives at Christmas from Santa Claus; in other stories (and in tradition), some presents are also wrapped up in wrapping paper and placed under the Christmas tree. Tradition in Western culture dictates that a child who behaves badly during the year will receive only a piece of coal. However, coal is rarely if ever left in a stocking, as it is considered cruel. Some people even put their Christmas stocking by their bedposts so Santa Claus can fill it by the bed while they sleep.


While there are no written records of the origin of the Christmas Stocking, there are popular legends that attempt to tell the history of this Christmas tradition. One such legend has several variations, but the following is a good example: Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death.

Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn't accept charity. He decided to help in secret. He waited until it was night and crept through the chimney.

He had three bags of gold coins with him, one for each girl. As he was looking for a place to keep those three bags, he noticed stockings of the three girls that were hung over the mantelpiece for drying. He put one bag in each stocking and off he went. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning, they found the bags of gold coins and were of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after.
This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so, St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

A tradition that began in a European country originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but eventually special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose. The Christmas stocking custom is derived from the Germanic/Scandinavian figure Odin. According to Phyllis Siefker, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy. This practice, she claims, survived in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands after the adoption of Christianity and became associated with Saint Nicholas as a result of the process of Christianization. Today, stores carry a large variety of styles and sizes of Christmas stockings, and Christmas stockings are also a popular homemade craft. This claim is disputed though as there is no records of stocking filling practices related to Odin until there is a merging of St. Nicholas with Odin. St. Nicholas had an earlier merging with the Grandmother cult in Bari, Italy where the grandmother would put gifts in stockings. This merged St. Nicholas would later travel north and merge with the Odin cults.

Many families create their own Christmas stockings with each family member's name applied to the stocking so that Santa will know which stocking belongs to which family member.

A 'Square Stocking' is a box sent by the charity Uk4u-Thanks! to UK servicemen who are overseas or injured at Christmas.

The World's Biggest Christmas Stocking

     The World's Biggest Christmas Stocking was created by supporters of The Children's Society in December 2007. Guinness World Records awarded the stocking the title of the Largest Christmas Stocking on 14 December 2007 at ExCel in London.

It was made out of over 6,000 squares of red knitting and measured 32.56m long, and 14.97m wide (heel to toe). It weighed the equivalent of three Reindeer and was filled with 1000 presents, which were then given to children in The Children's Society's projects.

The stocking was created as part of The Children's Society's knitting fundraising appeal, 'The Big Stitch'.£33,000 was raised through sponsorship. The previous holder of the title had broken the record in Toronto, Canada in November 2007 with a stocking measuring 27.46 meters by 11.3 meters.

Why Do we Hang Christmas Stockings on the Fireplace?

     We all taught the same story to our kids: they have to hang their Christmas stocking on the fireplace mantel so that Santa Claus can fill them with sweets and toys on Christmas Eve.
     This is a tradition that started long ago and continues up to these days, except for the hanging of Christmas stockings on the fireplace mantel. Indeed and, more particularly because many house don't have a fireplace any more, people hang Christmas stockings anywhere in the house.A common belief is that the Christmas stockings of children who have been good and behaved well during an entire year, will be filled with gifts and candies. But have you ever seen a child who hasn't been good an entire year?


Let's share the Christmas recipes in the commentaries below!!!
1) you can publish only ONE recipe;
2) if you provide a different recipe for the dish which has already been described in the commentary, do it via the Reply button. 

A recipe will bring you TWO POINTS!!!

In the USA, the mainstays of the table ares: 
  • apple cider
  • boiled custard
  • candy canes
  • Champagne, or sparkling apple cider
  • chicken and dumplings, primarily in the southern states
  • chocolate fudge
  • Christmas cookies
  • cranberry sauce
  • Dungeness crab, primarily in California
  • eggnog
  • fruitcake
  • gingerbread, often in the form of a gingerbread house or gingerbread man
  • Christmas ham
  • hot buttered rum
  • hot chocolate
  • lutefisk (among those with Scandinavian ancestry)
  • mashed potato
  • mixed nuts
  • oyster stew, composed of oysters simmered in cream or milk and butter.
  • persimmon pudding
  • pie
    • apple pie
    • mince pie
    • pecan pie
    • pumpkin pie
    • sweet potato pie
  • Prime Rib
  • plum pudding
  • Russian tea cakes
  • Tamales
  • roast turkey, less often roast duck, goose, or pheasant
  • Smithfield ham, often served on a biscuit or a roll
  • stuffing, also known as dressing, particularly in the Southern U.S.
  • lefse rolled with butter and sugar, particularly in Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota


Let's share the Christmas recipes in the commentaries below!!!
1) you can publish only ONE recipe;
2) if you provide a different recipe for the dish which has already been described in the commentary, do it via the Reply button. 

A recipe will bring you TWO POINTS!!!
In the United Kingdom, what is now regarded as the traditional meal consists of roast turkey, served with roast potatoes and parsnips and other vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding, a heavy steamed pudding made with dried fruit, suet, and very little flour. Other roast meats may be served, and in the nineteenth century the traditional roast was goose. The same carries over to Ireland with some variations.
  • Brandy butter
  • Bread sauce
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chocolate yule log
  • Christmas cake
  • Christmas ham - Usually a honey or marmalade glazed roast or boiled gammon joint.
  • Christmas pudding
  • Dundee cake, traditional Scottish fruit cake
  • Mince pies
  • Nut roast (a popular vegetarian alternative)
  • Pigs in a blanket - Chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon
  • Roast turkey
  • Roast beef
  • Roast duck
  • Roast goose
  • Roast pheasant
  • Roast potatoes - roasting with goose or duck fat is becoming more popular
  • Stuffing
  • Trifle
  • Tunis Cake


Watching Christmas movies is one of the most popular traditions nowadays. Hollywood does its bit to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. There are probably over a hundred movies that revolve around the Christmas theme.

The Santa Clause

Year: 1994

Director:  John Pasquin
Writers:  Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick
Stars:  Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold and Wendy Crewson

When a man inadvertantly kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place.

Watch the movie and leave your mini-review in the commentary to score 3-5 points.

By the way ...
The film was followed by two sequels, 


There were many interesting contributions last week
They give a good idea what Christmas is like in different countries!

Here is a good chance to score 5 points ( 1 per commentary or reply).
If your contribution is more than 5 entries, extra points will be counted as bonus ones!


There are lots of Christmas traditions in the United Kingdom and in the United States!

Here are only some of them:
Robin redbreast
Christmas tree
Nativity crib
Christmas cards
Christmas stocking


Christmas Mass
Nativity plays
Carol singing
the Queen's Speech
Christmas dinner

and many-many others.

Let's learn more about them.

You can make one post, make it short but full of information: origin, meaning, observance, image.
If you can add anything of value, use commentaries and replies.
Pls, read each other, do not duplicate! 

Each post is 3 points
Each commentary is 2 points
Each reply is 1 point


This is our SECOND week, so far we are few 
but I hope more and more people will join us in the days to come.

What is our Christmas Competition all about?

 What are we to do in week 2?

Let's learn:
Christmas Traditions in Great Britain and the USA

3 points per post (max. 1 post per week)
2 points per commentary
1 point per reply to a commentary

Let's read:
Christmas Traditions Around the Globe
(students' posts in week 1)

2 points per commentary
1 point per reply to a commentary

Let's watch:
The Santa Clause (1994) 

3-5 points per mini-review

Let's share:
Christmas Recipes

2 point per recipe 

Let's do our SECOND Christmas quiz!

max. 20 points

Due on December 2

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Christmas Quiz Part 1

Here is the first part of our Christmas Quiz.

Part 1

Do it, printscreen the result and e-mail it to

You re to remember 2 things:

Pls, leave your commentary with your real name after the quiz is done and you learn the result (before you printscreen it, in fact)!!!.

If there is no commentary, the points won't be awarded!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Our e-mail!

For first year students only,
pls, e-mail to

Friday, 23 November 2012

Christmas traditions in Thailand

 Christmas traditions in Thailand

Although the temperature outside will be peeking at 31˚C and the only snow you’ll find will be on the screen of a badly tuned in television set, you certainly won’t miss out on the Yuletide festivities if you spend Christmas in Thailand.
It is true to say that no nation likes to celebrate more than the Thais and so it didn’t take long for the seasonal celebration to take hold (they also celebrate Valentine’s Day and Halloween). This may come as a surprise to some, particularly as over 90% of the population is Buddhist and Christmas is a Christian festival. 

However, it is worth remembering that the Сhristmas celebration has ancient roots in the winter solstice, and revelries involving holly, mistletoe, candles, feasts and gift-giving existed long before the Christian tradition. Besides, what could be more Buddhist in spirit than a celebration of joy, compassion and peace?
Thai Buddhism is also fairly relaxed when it comes to embracing other traditions. For example, many Thai Buddhists will also make offerings to their non-Buddhist house spirits, who they believe occupy the grounds of their properties. Most homes and businesses in Thailand have a miniature house outside of their property to offer shelter to the benevolent spirits who protect them - and come December time, they will also be decorated in tinsel, fairy lights and sometimes even tiny Santa hats!

For the Thais, December 25th is not a public holiday and so school and work life will continue on as normal. Some Thai families will give their children gifts on Christmas morning and share a celebratory evening meal – although, this is more likely to be a Thai curry rather than the traditional Christmas fare of roast turkey.

Just as in the rest of the world, Christmas in the city means big business. Although rather late by Western standards, Bangkok stores and shopping malls will begin putting up their decorations during the end of October. By December, the Christmas festivities will be in full swing and the entire city will be transformed into a Christmas wonderland. Every building, bridge and street light will be positively festooned in colorful, twinkling lights and decorations; the tuk-tuk drivers will be sporting Santa hats and at the bigger stores Santa Claus himself will be greeting Christmas shoppers with his palms pressed together in a wai, the traditional Thai greeting.

At this time of year the city is packed and the hotels filled to maximum capacity. However, there is much to dazzle and delight the visitor and for those who love to shop, Christmas in Bangkok is a must. Around the city the competition is fierce as to who has the tallest, most beautiful or sparkliest Christmas tree. CentralWorld, which also happens to be Bangkok's New Year countdown venue, is always a big contender for the prize as every year their Christmas tree is truly a spectacle to behold. The Siam Paragon, otherwise known as the ‘Pride of Bangkok’ always lives up to its nickname, with it being magnificently decorated throughout.

Most impressive are the palm trees in front of this huge mall, which are beautifully illuminated with fairy lights. The Peninsula Plaza too, is worth a mention with its unique decorations and displays, designed to delight and amuse the child that is inside every one of us. There are other great lights all over the city including at: Lumpini Park, Lumpini Q-House, the Four Seasons, MBK and in the surrounding area. In fact the whole of the business district is always drenched in a festival mood during the lead up to Christmas.

With the Thais love of festivities and good cheer, of giving presents and striving for peace and harmony it is easy to see the appeal of a Thai Christmas.