Advent 2016

Advent Day 12 – Pohutakawa Tree

Each year in December or early January I make my long trek south to New Zealand to visit family and I am amazed at the way in which a traditional summer flowering tree has become to the Kiwi Christmas what the poinsettia is to a European Christmas. The Pohutakawa tree is a member of the…


Advent Day 11 – Coventry Carol

The Coventry Carol is  a song from the Coventry mystery play cycle. There are references to the cycle from 1392 onwards, but the earliest surviving text dates from 1534. The song is from the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors and refers to the Massacre of the Innocents. The song later became associated with Christmas,…


Advent Day 10 – Christmas in Scotland.

Christmas in Scotland was banned for nearly 400 years. Have a humbug to see you through to Hogmanay. Read more about Christmas in Scotland on Wikipedia


Advent Day 9 – Christmas Cards

Cards from friends and family are starting to arrive in earnest now. The (non-existent) prize for first card of the year went to the lovely couple that run the cattery we use. One of our mogs died this year and I was really touched by their thoughtfulness. Purdy was a bit special and complicated in…


Advent Day 8 – Gavle Goat

Each year a giant Yule goat is erected in the town of Gavle in Sweden. The goat is made of straw over a wooden frame and is very often the subject of repeated arson attacks. It has been burned to the ground in most years since it first appeared in 1966. Since November 2016 it…


Advent Day 7 – Holly

The holly we all associate with Christmas is Ilex Aquifolium. It tends to be paired with mistletoe or woven into a traditional wreath, which may explain why it could live up to 500 years but usually doesn’t last more than 100 years. Holly leaves were used as winter fodder for animals until the 18th century…


Advent Day 6 – Krampus

Austria has been in the news in the last few days for rejecting a far-right candidate in their recent Presidential poll. It seemed like a timely moment to look at the Krampus tradition, otherwise known as the ugly side to Christmas in Austria. Krampus is the horned, hairy, half goat / half demon who appears…


Advent Day 5 – Mercury Glass

As a child of the 70s I have strong memories of some pretty kitsch and psychedelic Christmas tree ornaments. Fragile baubles of silvered glass with a full on acid trip starburst of colour. They were wrapped in tissue paper and stored in a special box and each year a bit more of the glitter stayed…


Advent Day 4 – Gaudete

There are a number of songs I hear each year over the Festive period, many of which I would cheerfully pay actual money to never hear again (please, no more Mariah, Wizard or Band Aid). One Christmas standard I can thole is Gaudete by Steeleye Span. This a cappella folk classic featuring the wonderful Maddy…

Cat in front of wood burning stove

Advent Day 3 – Yule Log

We can always tell when winter has properly arrived because many an evening at home starts with a trip to the bottom of the garden in the dark to collect another basket of logs from the wood store. Though Yule Logs are a familiar part of Christmas iconography, and in many places the Yule Log…

Mince pies with stars on, dusted with sugar

Advent Day 2 – Mince Pies

Mince pies in our house are homemade and are man’s work. Him-indoors makes particularly good pastry these days and since he is the main consumer of the mince pies, he’s well motivated to make a good job of it. Occasionally we are away over Christmas visiting family in New Zealand and making mince pies for…

Cat in a Christmas tree with fairy lights

Advent Day 1 – Jólakötturinn

My Twitter feed has been full of online advent calendars today and it reminded me that this year we don’t have our usual advent calendar quilt up in the hall stuffed with chocolate treats. As a more slimline and healthy alternative instead I’m going to do my own little Wikipedia advent, with 24 carefully chosen…