Tag: Christmas


From jumbles to gingersnaps: the origins of cookie names

It may be difficult to do so whilst piling them into one’s maw, but did you ever think about how Christmas cookies came to possess such deliciously eclectic names? Jumbles. Thumbprints. Snickerdoodles. Gingersnaps. Rugelach. Sand tarts. Macaroons. Kiffles. And these are only a few of the hundreds of types treasured in American households during the […]

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Christmas in Spain: Kings and Caganeres

Christmas in Spain: Kings and caganeres

With every passing year, British Christmas seems to start earlier. As soon as the high street is finished with Halloween, Christmas gets going, with all the Slade and tinsel that that entails. Things are done differently in Spain. Navidad (from the Latin nativitas, also the root of the English nativity) officially kicks off with the […]

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Holiday traditions: what’s so magical about mistletoe?

Mistletoe is special. Every culture that comes across the plant mythologizes it and no wonder. To see mistletoe in England at this time of year, a ball of perfect green life suspended in barren branches, it seems a mysterious, even an other-worldly presence: healthy in the teeth of winter, seemingly without roots or any contact […]

German Christmas traditions: the Krampus

German holiday traditions: the Krampus

I’m sick of Santa. It’s not natural for anyone to be that cherry-cheeked and cheerily cherubic. Frankly, it’s irritating to be flanked by images of a huge, excessively jolly man when you’ve been standing in line for four hours trying to buy presents. So how about an ersatz holiday representative for this year’s Christmastide? How […]

The Christmas Table

The Christmas table

Described by John Ayto as ‘steaming fragrant black cannonballs’ in his newly published The Diner’s Dictionary, it is not hard to see why Christmas pudding is a luxury afforded only once a year. The rich combination of suet, raisins, currants, spices, eggs, and brandy often leaves diners in a food-induced stupor at the end of […]

Christmas pudding, steaming hot, pour on the custard, eat the lot!

Christmas pudding, steaming hot, pour on the custard, eat the lot!

This weekend I’m sure some of you will be fishing for the wooden spoon and donning the pinny. For this Sunday is Stir-up Sunday, the traditional day to prepare your mincemeat or Christmas pudding for your forthcoming Christmas feast. The origin of the Christmas pudding goes back to medieval England but the Christmas pudding we […]

What makes Christmas merry? A brief history of yuletide adjectives

What makes Christmas merry?

From Happy Easter to Happy Halloween to countless Happy Birthdays, our felicitations hardly vary from one celebration to the next. Christmas is the notable exception, with the dominant descriptor being Merry. We wish our friends a Merry Christmas but a Happy New Year. Is there any difference? Not everyone’s Christmas is merry. Happy Christmas has […]

Sing a song of Christmas

Sing a song of Christmas

A change is not as good as a rest Christmas brings out the conservative in us all, especially in children. This summer we dismantled a ridiculously large stone clad shelf that was built in the sixties to support a weighty cathode ray tube. Now there’s a space beside the fire which would be, I suggested, […]