Tag: Christmas

12 language facts for the 12 days of Christmas

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S novym godom: enjoy a Russian happy new year!

Forget Christmas! In Russia – and in some other former Soviet countries – Novyi God (Новый Год, ‘New Year’) is arguably the most popular holiday of the year. Christmas was banned by the Bolsheviks following the 1917 Revolution and, although it is celebrated nowadays (more on that later), Russia’s biggest winter holiday remains a secular […]

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Twelve words of Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year, as some celebrants are wont to say, as do many of the words special to the season. Like so many Christmas lights, let’s untangle some holiday word histories–twelve, fittingly enough–to see what they might illuminate. Rudolph A number of animals give us their season’s greetings during Christmastime. Perhaps the most famous is Rudolph the […]

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Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) is a Russian figure similar to Santa Claus.

Santa around the world: an interactive map of holiday gift givers

So who exactly do we mean by ‘Santa’ or ‘St. Nicholas’? Given his seeming ubiquity during the holiday season, from cameos in Black Friday advertisements to appearances in pop songs, it can feel as though Santa is a universal figure. However, the culture of Christmas-time gift giving turns out to be far more complicated. Rather […]

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From mistletoe to noisy birds: the origins of Christmas words

Mistletoe encounters can be very hit-or-miss. My own experiences usually involve kissing a definite non-target rather than the person I’d been lingering beneath the foliage for. It was therefore with some satisfaction that I discovered that the literal meaning of mistletoe is ‘dung-on-a-twig’, the inspiration of the Anglo-Saxons who realized that the plant is fertilized […]

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Jingle Bells in the Historical Thesaurus of the OED

To celebrate the festive season, we’ve taken the lyrics to the much-loved song ‘Jingle Bells’ and fed certain words through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, giving a version that has an identical meaning, but very different appearance and sound. The words that have been altered are (as you will no doubt realize) in […]

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A Christmas Carol text analyser

A Christmas Carol text analyser

A Christmas Carol was first published 169 years ago, on 19 December 1843. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a bad-tempered skinflint who hates Christmas and all it stands for, and his transformation after a ghostly visitor pays Scrooge a visit one Christmas Eve.  A Christmas Carol was met with instant success and was […]

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Silver houses and marmalade castles: interpreting The Nutcracker

In 1892 the curtains rose at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg for the premiere of a new ballet. With a score by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, the ballet was set to be a hit. After all, the pair had produced The Sleeping Beauty, which was hugely successful, just two years earlier. But […]

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