Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Tuesday 30 November 2010

It's snowing outside my window! Yay! I'm almost as excited as my own kids about the white stuff, but then my commute to work involves walking from the kitchen to my desk in the corner of the sitting room. I empathise with those struggling to get to work, I really do. I used to do the same thing myself. But moving on...

Did you know, when your granny used to say "Ooh, it's too cold for snow!" she wasn't just passing on some old wives' tale, she was actually telling the truth? Because snow is frozen water, if there are not enough water droplets in the air it can't snow - simple as that. As a result, the driest place on Earth isn't in the Sahara Desert or the Arizona Desert. It's actually a place known as the Dry Valleys and it's in Antarctica. The area is completely free of ice and snow, and it never rains there at all! In fact, parts of the Antarctic continent haven't seen any rain for around 2 million years! But Antarctica is also the wettest place in world, due to the fact that 70% of the Earth's water is found there in the form of ice.

If you're feeling a little on the chilly side when you get in from work tonight, why not sit down in front of the fire tonight and enjoy a Snowball? Of the alcoholic variety...

Snowball Cocktail

2 oz Advocaat
Top up Lemonade

1/2 oz Fresh Lime juice

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker / stirrer and pour into an unusually shaped glass. Add Crushed Ice and decorations to create a great speciality drink from an easy to make recipe!

You'll find plenty more festive and seasonal recipes in What is Myrrh Anyway? and Christmas Miscellany. And if you feel that nothing but a hot toddy could warm you up in this weather, then you need to pick up a copy of my brand new Scottish Miscellany, available here.

A month today...

Thursday 25 November 2010

... it's Christmas Day! A day to spend eating too much, drinking too much and watching the not-so-special Christmas specials on the telly.

A regular fixture of the BBC Christmas Day schedule for the last few years now has been the revitalised Doctor Who, and 2010 is no exception. And this Christmas we can look forward to Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor's first festive outing. And here's a preview...

Stocking Fillers

Wondering what Santa could get your little ones this Christmas? How about some of these?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Maybe not such a Merry Christmas after all...

Christmas arrested on an obstruction charge? Really? Apparently so.

Father Christmas arrested? Christmas cancelled?

Can it really be true? Simple answer - no. But it makes for a good story nonetheless, which you can read here.

The Glastonbury Thorn - the original Christmas tree?

Sunday 21 November 2010

Whilst delving into the history of the Christmas tree I was reminded of the connection that the legendary Glastonbury Thorn has with the festive season.

For those of you not in the know, the Glastonbury Thorn is a hawthorn, of a type which originates in the Middle East, that grows in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset, England. Legend has it that it grew from where Joseph of Arimathea (supposedly Jesus's uncle) laid his staff, flowering every Christmas Day.

A cutting from the Glastonbury Thorn was sent to the monarch each Christmas by the Vicar and Mayor of Glastonbury. However, the tree was pronounced dead in June 1991, and cut down the following February.

Fortunately, plenty of cuttings were taken from it before its destruction so that a new Thorn could be planted. In fact, the hawthorn growing in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey before 1991 was itself supposedly a cutting from the original plant, planted in secret after the original was destroyed.

Only hawthorn trees that budded or grafted from the original exist. The plants actually blossom twice a year, in May as well as at Christmas. The blossoms of the Christmas shoots are smaller than the ones the plant produces in May and do not produce any haws, the small, oval, berry-like fruit of the hawthorn, which are dark red in colour.

You will discover many more facts about Christmas and Christmas trees in What is Myrrh Anyway? and Christmas Miscellany - both of which are available to buy by clicking the relevant links in the left-hand sidebar.

Children want gadgets not toys for Christmas

Wednesday 17 November 2010

It will come as no surprise to parents that children are turning their backs on traditional toys this Christmas in favour of the latest high-tech gadgets.

According to the Duracell Toy Report, the ten most wanted toys for this Christmas among children aged 5 to 16, include the iPhone 4, iPod Touch and iPad. Approximately 39% of children quizzed wanted Apple gadgets this year, with 17% of 5to 8 year-olds, 50% of 9 to 12 year-olds and 66% of 13 to 16 year-olds all putting Apple items at the top of their lists.

To read more about this story, click here.

Meanwhile, the top 10 toys for Christmas 2010, according to the report are:

1) iPhone 4
2) iPod touch
3) iPad
4) Kinect for Xbox
5) Zhu Zhu Pet Hamsters / Kung Zhu Hamsters
6) Flip Video Camera
7) Toy Story 3 Jet Pack Buzz Lightyear
8) PlayStation Move
9) LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 Video Game
10) Barbie Video Girl

Christmas toy market faces its own China crisis

It's November, and by mid-afternoon London's streets are already shrouded in autumnal twilight. But the city's shopping districts are brightly lit, colourfully decorated and thronging with people. Christmas may be more than a month away, but in the slightly surreal world of seasonal retailing, it's here already.

Outside Hamleys, the giant toy emporium on Regent Street, Snow White is calling out a welcome to passers-by, while beside her, a man in bright orange top hat and tails ushers eager customers into the shop.

Inside, trade is brisk - and noisy. For toy stores, this is by far the most important time of year. Shelves are stacked from floor to ceiling with a bewildering array of garishly packaged products, from teddy bears to train sets.

But predicting which toys are going to be the top sellers can be something of a black art, especially as orders need to be placed up to a year in advance.

Read more about this story here.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Monday 15 November 2010

I know what some of you are probably thinking, right about now. Why the 'Chrismologist'? Surely someone who studies, or has a wide knowledge of, Christmas traditions should be the Christmologist or Christmasologist.

Well, when I was trying to settle on a name for this website I considered all three options carefully. The trouble with Christmologist is that it could be construed to mean someone who is an expert specifically on Jesus Christ, and Christmasologist felt too unwieldy. So I settled on Chrismologist.

But there was another reason why I went for this option. In 2008 I was involved in the recording of Dom and Danny Do Christmas, for Radio 5 Live. When they contacted my publisher's publicist to see if I would be interested in taking part, the email their producer sent said that they wanted a Chrismologist. And I was referred as such by Danny Wallace at the start of the show, which you can hear here.

If you would like to listen to the whole hour's worth of Dom and Danny Do Christmas, you can download it from here.

Just before we went on air, Dom Joly got out a singing, plastic Christmas tree, and when I was able to tell him what the first artificial trees were made from he turned to me in amazement and said, "You really do know everything about Christmas!" I obviously made an impression, because he mentioned me in his column in the Independent - sort of...

Then, last week I was recording my Radio Five Live Christmas day special and invited a man on who'd written a book called What is Myrrh Anyway? It turns out to be an "embalming ointment".

Ah... Fame at last!

What's the trickiest thing you've ever tried to wrap for Christmas?

Friday 12 November 2010

Uncle Bundle's crafts

Thursday 11 November 2010

Follow this link to discover the festive goodies produced by Uncle Bundle using everything from paper and card to felt and thread.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Dickens more or less invented the Christmas spirit, goodwill to all men and general jollity in this classic ghost story, which also gave us Scrooge, Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit. "I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me."

However, did you know that he wrote the book in only six weeks in 1843? I'm trying to write a novel in the same amount of time and you can follow how I'm getting on here.

As welcome as a warm glass of mulled wine on a wintry night

Wednesday 10 November 2010

That's what The Good Book Guide had to say back in December 2008 about What is Myrrh Anyway?

'As welcome as a warm glass of mulled wine on a wintry night, Green's guide to Christmas enhances the pleasures of the festive season, offering a witty cornucopia of Christmas facts and folklore.'

You can order your copy by clicking on the book cover in the sidebar to the left.

Wassail! Wassail! All over the town!

Do you like to wassail? Travelling from house to house, demanding food and drink in return for a few verses of whatever carol the singers could remember at the time, is an ancient tradition.

For example, did you know that the word '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 order a copy of What is Myrrh Anyway? or Christmas Miscellany to discover the truth behind this and our other best loved Christmas traditions. But, once again, in the meantime you might enjoy listening to the following...

Wassail! Wassail! All over the town! is a traditional Christmas carol but did you know that the Britpop boys Blur recorded and released their own version in 1992? It was released on 16 December 1992 as a 7" Promo. Only 500 were made and the promo was given away at a gig at Hibernian Club in Fulham, London. It's unusual because all four of the boys sing a verse each!

Yule never guess what...

Apologies for the pun, but I thought you might like to hear a little about the pagan festival of Yule! Or more specifically the traditions surrounding the Yule log.

Did you know that the Yule log was once associated with the Norse god Thor, who had a mysterious connection to oak trees, or that in Devon and Somerset it was known as the Great Ashen Faggot?

No? Well there's lots more where that came from in What is Myrrh Anyway? and Christmas Miscellany. You can order your copy via the sidebar to the left.

And while you're waiting for it to turn up, now that autumn is properly here and the weather's turning colder, why not curl up in front of your own warming Yule log, right here?

I wish it could be Christmas everyday

Halloween may have only just passed, but everywhere - from schools to supermarkets - now seem to be gearing up for Christmas. Of course some people don't even bother to wait for December 25th to celebrate Yule - like this gentleman.

I expect Wizzard are his favourite band too...

We Three Kings of Orient Are

One in a taxi, one in a car...

Ah, the oldies are the best! But who really were these three Kings of Orient are? Were there really three of them, for a start, and how did they manage to hail a cab in 1st century Palestine?

Well, to find out the answers to those questions* you'll need to click on one of the book covers to the left. And then, while you're waiting for your order from Amazon to turn up, you can content yourself with these two treats that I dug up on YouTube.

First there is the sublime We Three Kings (instrumental version) by power metal band Kamelot...

And then there's this frankly ridiculous rendition by Hugh Jackman, David Hobson and Peter Cousen. I never knew Wolverine had such a lovely singing voice.

One on a scooter, blowing his hooter,
Following yonder star!

* Except for the last one, that is.

Where do turkeys come from?

Did you know that turkeys don't originally come from turkey?

No, they actually come from Mexico. The confusion arose due to the fact that they were introduced into central Europe by Turkish merchants.

Just to add to the confusion, because America had been discovered by explorers seeking an alternative route to India and the East, other nations named the bird assuming it was of Indian descent.

In France the turkey was called coq d'Inde, (now corrupted to dindon). In Italy, turkey was galle d'India, in Germany the name was indianische henn, while throughout the Ottoman Empire it was called the hindi.

Other tasty morsels of information like this can be found in the books over on the left-hand sidebar but until yours arrives in the post from Amazon, why not keep yourself amused by taking part in a festively-themed turkey shoot, by clicking this link?

Dear Santa

Christmas novelty records. Everybody hates them but they still sell by the bucketload. However, there is one Christmas record which just doesn't get the recognition it deserves, so I am going to try and do my bit to rectify that right here, right now.

So, check out 'I Want An Alien For Christmas' by the Fountains of Wayne.

Ask me anything!

Well, within reason.

Why are robins so associate with Christmas? Who were the three kings really? Did Coca-Cola really give Santa his red and white suit?

No matter what questions you have about the festive season you can email them to me direct via info@thechrismologist.com and I'll do by best to answer any them on this site.

So, until next time...

Ho, ho, ho!

Scottish Miscellany

What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts? What is a haggis, really? Why is Robert Burns so celebrated by Scots around the world? Is there really a monster in Loch Ness? And how does Sean Connery get away with using the same Scottish accent no matter what role he's playing?

All these questions - and more! - will be answered in the brand new Scottish Miscellany, now available from Skyhorse Publishing (except maybe the one about Sean Connery). Scottish Miscellany will also include recipes, poems and interesting snippets of factual information from time to time.

Scottish Miscellany - order your copy today!

Welcome to TheChrismologist.com

Have you ever wondered why Christmas is celebrated on 25 December, or why turkey is the traditional festive meat? Perhaps you've wondered why stockings are hung up on Christmas Eve? And what is figgy pudding anyway?

Well, have no fear, for the Chrismologist is here! That's right, I'm here to answer all those questions about the festive season - all the ones you've always secretly wondered about and a whole host more that have never even crossed your mind.

My name is Jonathan Green and I am the author of Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas. The book also comes in a paperback edition entitled What is Myrrh Anyway? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas. You can but both editions through this website, by clicking on the relevant book cover in the left-hand sidebar.

Why not bookmark this page as one of your favourites and drop by again in the run up to Christmas to learn more fascinating facts about everybody's favourite festive season? Alternatively you can email me directly at info@thechrismologist.com and I'll do by best to answer any questions you may have by posting them on this site.

So, until next time...

Ho, ho, ho!

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!

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