The Easter Eggs are on the shelves and hot-cross buns are back in the bakers despite it being 12th Night so I guess that we are now in the run up to Christmas!
So as we count down the 360 days until Christmas I thought I would do a little research into the myths, mis-truths, history and facts that make up the festival that never seems to end.
“Four calling birds” from that very popular Christmas song is a misquote – it should read “Four colly birds”. Colly birds are another name for blackbirds. The song can be traced back to the times of Henry VIII when it is said to have been sung by Catholic children in Protestant times. Each verse is said to be code for different religious messages.
The Twelve Days of Christmas themselves are the days from Christmas to Epiphany so from sundown on 24th December until sundown on 5th January. The feast of Epiphany is said to mark the arrival of the wise men from the East and is celebrated on 6th January.
It was Pope Julius 1 who, in the 4th century, declared 25th December as the date of the birth of Jesus. This date coincided with Winter Solstice and return of the sun Pagan festivals and it was hoped that it would replace previous celebrations.
In 1752 Great Britain and America moved from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar despite many other countries had been using this calendar since Pope Gregory XIII introduced it in 1582. Today some Christians still celebrate Christmas as it would have been in the Julian calendar – around 7th January.
The very popular Christmas song Jingle Bells was written for Thanksgiving in 1857. On 16th December, 1965 it became the first Christmas song to be sung in space thanks to the crew of Gemini 6.
It is commonly said that Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas in 1647. However, it appears that it was the excessive feasting, frivolity and merriment that he banned considering it immoral on a Holy Day. This ban was not removed until 1660.
There is another law that has not been repealed, that of the Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551. The act states that all must attend a Christmas service and that no vehicle must be used to get to the service.
The abbreviation of Christmas to Xmas is common and often thought to be disrespectful. The letter X is the Greek abbreviation for Christ so perhaps not so disrespectful after all.
The first Christmas cards were commissioned by a civil servant, Sir Henry Cole, in 1843. The picture on the card was that of a family drinking wine. It was not until 1915 that Hallmark begun producing Christmas cards commercially.
To date, the best selling Christmas song is White Christmas written by Iriving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby.
Christmas Pudding was originally a soup made with raisins and wine.
Boxing Day, the day after Christmas Day is so called as it was the day when money collected in church alms boxes was given to the village poor.
The average Christmas Tree is 15 years old.
Christmas Dinner in Early England was a pigs head smothered in mustard. In the Middle Ages swans and peacocks were the choice of the wealthy and were part of a lavish meal. The birds would be basted with saffron and melted butter.
There are two sets of Christmas Islands: one in the Pacific Ocean, the other in the Indian Ocean.
Mince pies date back to the 16th century. It is thought that the original filling recipe of meat, dried fruit and spices was brought back by the Crusaders. One a day should be eaten during the 12 Days of Christmas to bring good luck in the next 12 months.
Postmen in Victorian Britain wore red uniforms and were often referred to as robins. This may be why the robin is such a popular feature on Christmas Cards.
…must be time to get on with the Christmas shopping now!