Monday, December 23, 2013

Let's Go Boxing!

 A Lasting Tradition

In England and in Canada  it is customary on December 26 to give  “gift boxes" to mailmen and servants. Although origins of the name are uncertain, the tradition is known as the day collection boxes in churches was opened so the contents could be distributed to the poor.

Additionally, Boxing Day customs included preparing those boxes began about 800 years ago in the United Kingdom. A national holiday it was also when servants celebrated Christmas with their families. 

Here's  a well known Boxing Day carol:

“Good King Wenceslas”

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Twelve Days of Christmas

"Patridge in a Pear Tree"...

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" is an English Christmas carol that lists a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days which begin Christmas Day and last through January 6th. The song was first published in 1780 England and had no rhythm to it. The version that we all know was later established in 1909 by English composer Frederic Austin.

In Christianity, the Twelve Days of Christmas celebrates the visit of the Three Wise Men to meet the baby Jesus.

During the Middle Ages, England celebrated by feasting and creating their own merryment. In Tudor England, the Twelfth Night was made popular in William Shakespeare’s famous stage play, Twelfth Night.

In Western Christianity each day’s feast is in memory of a Saint or event associated with the Christmas season. On the fifth day, there is the feast for Saint Thomas Becket.

If you would like to sing along this season to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" here is a list of all twelve days:

1. The partridge in a pear tree

2. The two turtledoves 
3. Three French hens
4. The four calling birds
5. The five gold rings
6. The six geese a-laying
7. The seven swans a-swimming.
8. The eight maids a-milking
9. Nine ladies
10. The ten lords a-leaping
11. Eleven pipers piping
12. Twelve drummers drumming

Enjoy you holidays season!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Believe It or Not

It’s Robert Ripley’s Birthday!

 Robert Ripley was a man who had the ability to illustrate any image, turning it into something magical. A cartoonist, entrepreneur, and amateur anthropologist, he was born 123 years ago in Santa Rosa, California on December 25. Considered also by many to be a true American folk hero, he was a Renaissance man in many ways.
He was most famous for his cartoons and text about ‘unbelievable’ facts that ranged from sports feats to little known tidbits of information about unusual and exotic sites. He made these little known facts popular when he created Ripley’s Believe it or Not! newspaper panel series, radio show, and television show.
Ripley once said, “You must carry along with you a lively imagination and plenty of romance in your soul. Some of the most wonderful things in the world will seem dull and drab unless you view them in the proper light.”
This was one of Ripley’s better-known quotes, which was just a part of the wonderful legacy he left us. In the wake of his shared discoveries there at about museums and theme parks around the world dedicated to his work.
If you would like to learn more about Ripley, you can read an  interview with author Neal Thomspon, who recently wrote A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!”

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Yule Log

An Ongoing Christmas Tradition

The December holiday season for Western Europe would not be complete with the yule (Christmas) log. Originally an entire tree, it was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony because it provided the home with much-needed warmth during the dark, cold winter. In some European traditions, the largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room.

As is the case with most folk traditions, this Christmas Eve activity which included special ceremonies and prayers changed over time to accommodate modern needs. For example, it now refers to burning of the largest log possible.  In some regions of Ireland, for example, a candle, rather than a log is now lit.

Historically, it is believed the practice dates back to before medieval Nordic-Germanic paganism. The tradition spread all over Europe with each country using their native trees. For example: oak in England, and birch in Scotland.

The phrase yule log has also come to refer to log-shaped Christmas cakes, also known as  as Bûche de Noël.

Here are two tasty Bûche de Noël recipes: