Sunday, 30 August 2009

When sprouts attack!

Love 'em or hate 'em, Christmas dinner just wouldn't be the same without them. But why do sprouts taste so vile? And why do people insist on having them with the main meal of the year?

You can find the answers to all of these questions inside Christmas Miscellany but what you won't discover is what happens when the little green devils launch an offensive strike on your turkey with all the trimmings.

However, you can see for yourself what happens when sprouts attack by following this link instead.

Good luck, and may the brassicas be with you!

Wassail! Wassail! All over the town

Whilst writing A Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas, I discovered what it means to wassail. I'd like to say that I did this by travelling from house to house, demanding food and drink in return for a few verses of whatever carol I can remember at the time. However, I actually did so from the comfort of my home and (you'll be pleased to hear) remained completely sober.

Did you know, for example, that wassail comes from the Old English 'waes hael' meaning 'be healthy'? Or that the expression 'to drink a toast' originates with the custom of wassailing?

Of course, I can't reveal all the secrets of the wassail here - you'll have to wait until A Christmas Miscellany is published to discover the truth behind our best loved Christmas traditions. But, once again, in the meantime I've found a (I admit, slightly twee) treat for you to tide you over until Christmastide, when wassailing can begin again with a vengeance!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Happy Hogswatch

Tired of celebrating the traditional Christmas? Then why not celebrate Hogswatch this year?

Hogswatch is the creation of comic fantasy author Terry Pratchett and is the fictional Discworld's version of our Christmas. An important figure for the inhabitants at this time of year is the Hogfather.

On the Discworld, Hogswatchday falls on the first of Ick, and is the winter solstice from the perspective of the city-dwellers of Ankh-Morpork.
The 32nd of December, or the day before the New Year, is known as Hogswatchnight. The name is a pun on "hogwash", Hogmanay and Watch Night, and possibly on the ancient holiday of Samhain which was traditionally associated with pig-killing, to ensure that there was enough food for the rest of the winter.

Many Hogswatch traditions are parodies of those associated with Christmas, including a decorated oak tree in a pot, strings of paper sausages, and, of course, a visit by the Hogfather. He grants children's wishes and brings them presents.

If you feel like celebrating Hogswatch this year, you can get hold of your Hogswatch cards (and Hogswatch prints that would make excellent gifts) here through Discworld artist Paul Kidby's website.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A little Christmas cheer

Tired of the same old Christmas fare? Fancy trying out something like Pumpkin Bread, No-Bake Fruit Cake, Potato Candy or Cornbread Stuffing on your guests this year?

Then why not check out these free Christmas recipes?

The so-called Christmas Wars

Conservative evangelical Christians are becoming increasingly upset that Christmas in modern America is more secular than religious. They blame liberals and atheists for this development, despite the fact that it's more a product of commercialization and culture - and it's been going on for more than a hundred years.

To find out more, follow this link.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Christmas comes early

Is this some kind of a record?

The magic of Christmas has arrived in Rochdale, in Lancashire in the UK, with more than four months to go until December 25. Despite the summer heat, festive lights have been appearing on lamp-posts in the town, with other decorations including a giant Noel sign and a Santa Claus.

The council says they have gone up early to celebrate festivals for other faiths, including the Hindu festival of Diwali in October, and local officials claim that putting them up early will also save around £10,000 of taxpayers' money.