Friday, 9 December 2016

Christmas Countdown and Traditions Day Nine

Hello Friends!

It is December 9th, so here is the image and scripture from the Advent calendar for today ~~~

and here is how the calendar looks so far, with the first nine doors opened ~~~

Today's tradition I will share is the observance of Boxing Day.

Christmas Day in the United Kingdom is followed by Boxing Day on December 26th.  It is a secular holiday so called because it is the day when servants or tradesmen would receive their 'Christmas Box', a cash gratuity, from their masters, customers, or employers.

A Christmas Box was, and often still is, a gift of money in recognition of work throughout the year. In bygone days the Christmas Box was an important source of extra income.  Even today, when we give a tip to postmen, refuse collectors, hairdressers and beauticians, etc. it is called their "Christmas Box" {although this is no longer given on December 26th} in recognition of the distant origins.

Boxing Day is a holiday tradtion I grew up with, and frankly I never understood what it was about until I was much older. During my research for this I came across another interesting related snippet which is that servants and workers kept sealed stoneware boxes in their rooms or cottages in which they kept the tips they received throughout the year. On December 26 they traditionally broke open the boxes to access the money accrued through the year, hence the name 'Boxing Day' ~ I had not heard of this before, but it adds another layer of interest to the interpretation.

Christmas Boxes were often spent on little luxuries that otherwise were not affordable, and also on sweet treats sold by the numerous street vendors of the day. This goes a long way to explaining why, at Christmas time, I always felt my mother was stocking up the home for a ten day siege! Although we were not in reciept of a Christmas Box, I know she kept a little box in the sideboard in the parlour so she could save regularly throughout the year to provide a sumptuous feast for the family between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day when we ate like the kings and queens of old!

The gifting of Christmas Boxes was not an insignificant gesture. Considering the average well~to~do household over the course of twelve months might employ, in addition to their own staff and servants, the following tradesmen: butcher, green grocer, brewer, fishmonger, poulterer, dustman, watchman, lamplighter, seamstress, carpenter, glazier, blacksmity, tallow chandler, grain chandler, baker, and so on and so forth, not forgetting the person who sells brick dust to your footman for the polishing of knives, and not to mention that every apprentice who works for all of your main suppliers and tradesmen would be sure to make themselves known to you on Boxing Day too then the giving of a Christmas Box was an expensive thing to do.

We do not like to be done out of an extra day off work, so if Boxing Day falls on a weekend, then a Bank Holiday is taken on the first working day that follows {to complicate matters, if Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, and Boxing Day on a Sunday then the next two working days being Monday and Tuesday are taken in the form of Bank Holidays, so it can be a four day weekend}.

Across much of Europe, the 26th December is known as St Stephen's Day, or the Second Day of Christmastide and is observed as such with different traditions or customs pertinent to each country.

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Christmas Countdown and Traditions Day Eight

Hello Friends!

It is hard to believe we've been doing this for a week now and Christmas is just two and a half weeks away ~~~ how time flies ~~~ and here is the eighth image on the Advent Calendar ~~~

Today's Christmas Tradition is about the Welsh tradition of Mari Lwyd or Grey Mare/Mary. It is quite scary and not particularly Christmassy in my opinion, but I believe in looking at all manner of traditions to share with you.

This tradition is primarily found in South Wales and is a wassailing folk tradition involving the use of an eponymous "hobby horse" which is made from the skull of a real horse and a sheet which covers an individual responsible for carrying the pole~mounted skull while remaining hidden beneath the sheet.

The Mari Lwyd is accompanied by a group {of men} who take the mare around the village trying to gain entry to various households through the medium of song.  They will be repeatedly refused entry by the householders who will come up with excuses why the Mari Lwyd cannot gain entry, the men will try again and again, only to be refused each time. This is called pwnco and continues until the householders finally run out of excuses and entry is gained, whereupon the party receives food and drink and the merriment continues.

As you might guess, with a tradition such as this {which is ancient and has many ties to other celebrations and traditions} much has been written and if you would like to read more, and see some images of the {quite frightening, in my opinion} Mari Lwyd you can do so here.

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas Countdown Traditions and Trivia Day Seven

Hello Friends!

I think you know the drill by now ~~~

Here's today's Advent calendar ~~~

It's getting busy now as the 25th approaches, so thought I'd share some quick Christmas Trivia today and ask you a quick question:

 what's in a name? 

Many babies born around the time of Christmas are given names associated with the time of year, so for fun today I looked some up online and here are just a few of the suggestions ~~~

For a boy you could have:

Casper    Christian      Claus      Gabriel      Joseph    Nicholas     Noel   Rudolph

For a girl you could have:

Carol   Gabrielle   Holly    Ivy   Mary   Joy   Noelle   Virginia   Gloria  Belle   Natalie   Natasha    Angela

Some more unusual suggestions include:

Cookie    Candy    Giftson    Gifty  Star   Peace  Melchior   Balthazar  

Do you know someone born in December who has been given a Christmas name?

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Christmas Countdown and Traditions Day Six

Hello Friends!

As the weather outside turns back to the usual weather for this time of year, it is warm inside the cottage as we open door six ~~~

The Christmas tradition I share with you today is a most beautiful and moving one, that of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.  This service takes place in Christian churches and cathedrals across the land and is probably the most popular and most well loved of all the Christmas services. I recommend anyone attendting a live service, or even listening in by radio, to be well armed with handkerchiefs or tissues.

You can find a history of this service here if you would like to read more about it.

If you are ever fortunate enough to be able to attend the world reknowned service at King's College, then you can learn all about how to obtain, or queue on the day for, your tickets here where you can also download a booklet of the Order of Service. Alternatively, you can listen to the service broadcast live on the BBC World Service {which I highly recommend ~ and I will be listening in too}

Here is a link to part of the service at King's Collage, Cambridge and begins with the traditional processional carol, Once In Royal David's City, which happens to be my most favourite carol too. It is beautiful beyond words, so I will leave you to take a moment to enjoy it for yourself.

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Monday, 5 December 2016

Christmas Countdown and Traditions Day Five

Hello Friends!

Here is today's Advent calendar picture as we progress towards Christmas ~~~

Today's tradition is one of my own personal Christmas traditions, which I would like to share with you, and maybe encourage you to bring this little piece of Welsh literature into your own traditions. It is to read {several times over the days leading up to Christmas} a most favourite tale "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by one of Wales's most notable poets, the genius that was Dylan Thomas.

I just love this gentle, humorous tale, a nostalgic image of a Christmas from a simpler time, told in Thomas's own inimitable style. I especially love the passages about the "useful presents" and "useless presents"
"There were the Useful Presents: engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes ~~~ "
"Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by a mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet ~~~ "
 ~~~ I always wonder about the little hatchet!

If you have not read it, please do, it isn't long, it won't take up much time, for I'm sure you will love it as much as I do and will want to read it over and over as you are transported to that very special world. Copies are readily available, to buy, or to borrow from your local library, and can even be found to read online, although if you can find a sweetly illustrated hardcover copy then that is the best. You can even listen to it on audio CD if you want, read by Dylan Thomas himself, recorded in 1952 and let yourself drift with the words, falling snowflakes into his imaginary world. Curl up in a comfy arm chair with your book, light some candles, wear Fair Isle socks and snuggle under a quilt to escape to the small Welsh village of Thomas's imagination on a snowy Christmas tide ~~~

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Christmas Countdown and Traditions Day Four

Hello Friends!

Here is this morning's Advent calendar door, December 4th ~~~

Today's Christmas Traditions and Trivia is about the omni~present Christmas Tree.

We all know that the Victorians, more specifically Prince Albert, are generally considered responsible for the popularity of the decorated indoor Christmas tree, but here are a couple of things about Christmas trees you might not know ~~~

Although the Germans are widely credited with the first Christmas trees, it is known that people across Europe decorated their homes at this time of year with evergreen foliage such as holly, ivy, and pine boughs for centuries. Some of the earliest trees are thought to be branches of fir trees tied together in a triangular shape. Records from the sixteenth century indicate that decorated trees in Latvia and Estonia were burned after people had danced around them; in the early 1600's there is evidence from Strasbourg of trees decorated with paper roses {the Virgin}, wafers {the Eucharist}, pretzels {arms folded in prayer} apples and sweets.

Today, brightly lit and decorated Christmas trees pop up in public spaces in every city, town and village across the land, providing a focal point that reminds us of the Christmas season. The sites of these trees often become the scene of gatherings as each tree is lit during a special ceremony where villagers or townsfolk gather, singing carols, listening to local choirs and musicians, or local school children reading scripture, while drinking hot chocolate or mulled apple cider and eating mince pies or other seasonal confections.  These events often culminate with the arrival of Father Christmas who gives a small gift to each child.

I love to walk through my own village in that early hour just before dawn to see the tree which stands in the centre of the village in all it's glory, brightly lit in the darkness, a shining beacon of hope as the sun starts to rise, slowly, from the east.  I am often alone as the village lies sleeping, or just stirring from slumber, and there is a stillness and certain beauty in the moment that cannot be put into words. I like to believe it is the stirring of my ancient ancestors who did not understand the shortening and darkening of the days as the year slowly turned, but who welcomed the return of the light at this time of year in jubilant celebration of the lengthening days.

One British Christmas tree in particular is a very special tree indeed, and that is the tree which proudly stands in Trafalgar Square in London.

The Trafalgar Square tree is gifted every year to the people of Great Britain by the city of Oslo in Norway in gratitude for assistance to Norway during World War II. It bears a plaque which reads:
This tree is given by the city of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45.

A tree has been given annually since 1947.
You can read more about this special tree here.

Do you decorate a tree in your home? I've seen images of some really lovely trees being shared across social media along with the history and heritage of ornaments that are handed down from generation to generation across the years ~~~

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Christmas Countdown and Traditions Day Three

Hello Friends!

Already we are on day three of opening the Advent calendar, how December is flying by, and I do think I have found a very special treat today for the Christmas Traditions and Trivia ~~~ but first, here is this morning's picture behind the door ~~~

Today's Christmas Tradition is all about the Bambino, or Baby Jesus, that spends a night in a different house in my village through December.

It is a fairly recent tradition in my parish that well received and is establishing itself in a country far from it's origins.  A local couple went to Italy on holiday and found the Bambino tradition where they were staying, so they sought out a Bambino to bring back with them to start the same tradition in our village.

Prior to December 1st, members of the congregation sign up to give refuge for one night to the Bambino.

On December 1st, the Bambino, which represents the Baby Jesus, begins his journey as he travels around the village spending a night at each of the houses who offered to take him in and give him refuge. Special prayers are made each night {see the cards, below} giving thanks for Lord Jesus in our lives, and all that he gives us, then in the morning the Bambino travels on to the next house that has offered to take him in and give him refuge for that night.  On Christmas Eve he returns to the Cathedral.

I hope this sweet tradition continues to flourish, and maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to have the Bambino in my cottage for one December night.

Until the next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xoxo