We’ve reached the twelfth and final month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. To the Anglo-Saxons it was Geolamonab (Yule Month), to the Christians it was Heligh Monath (Holy Month) but we know it as December.
Birth Flower: Narcissus – another name for the daffodil. It’s bulb houses a toxic substance which can cause numbness. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter from Boeotia. He loved beautiful things but was self-obsessive and anyone who fell in love with him would be hurt beyond measure. Narcissus is the origin for the term narcissism.
Birth Stones: Turquoise meaning Turkish stone.
Star Signs: are fire element Sagittarius and earth element Capricorn. Ruled by Saturn, the sea-goat is faithful, determined, ambitious, practical and helpful.
- 1 December -World AIDS Day
- 3 December – World Disabled Day
- 4 December – Feast of St Barbara, patron saint of sudden loud noises
- 6 December – St Nicholas’ Day
- 10 December – Human Rights Day
- 14 December – World Energy Conservation Day
- 17 December – Lord of Misrule Day
- 18 December – International Migrants’ Day
- 21 December – Winter Solstice
- 24 December – Christmas Eve
- 25 December – Christmas Day
- 26 December – St Stephen’s Day
- 28 December – Holy Innocents’ Day commemorating Herod massacring male infants
- 31 December – New Year’s Eve.
Advent means ‘coming’ and is a time of preparation for the feast of Christmas. Advent calendars can be traced back to 19th Century when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count down the days until Christmas. Today, we open cardboard doors on a calendar to reveal an image, Bible reading or piece of chocolate.
Mistletoe and the Mighty Oak: this tradition comes from the Druids who would cut mistletoe from the sacred oak trees and give it as a blessing. It was seen as a symbol of life in winter months.
Weather-lore, Sayings and Superstitions: ‘If sun shines through the apple trees on Christmas Day; When autumn comes a load of fruit they will display’
‘A green December fills the graveyard‘
‘If Christmas Day be bright and clear; there’ll be two winters within the year’
Christmas puddings should be filled with thirteen ingredients to represent Jesus and the twelve disciples.
The Yule Log: The Celts believed that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and a log would be burned throughout the solstice night for twelve hours as a symbol of hope that the sun would soon return to grow crops for the coming year.
Nobel Prize Giving Day has been celebrated since 1901 on 10 December every year. This is to commemorate the death of Swedish scientist, Alfred Nobel who established awards for literature, physics, chemistry, peace and physiology in 1895 and subsequently added medicine in 1901.
Mid-Winter Alignments: Many ancient sites in the UK align themselves with the sun on the shortest day: Long Meg in Cumbria and Maestowe Tomb on the island of Orkney.
Christmas is the mass of Christ and celebrates the coming of Jesus over 2000 years ago. The idea of bringing a tree indoors dates back thousands of years. Pagans used branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice to give them hope of the spring to come. In Western Europe, trees often adorned the homes of the wealthy. Tinsel was first used in 16th Century to enhance the flickering light from candles placed on the tree and also to represent stars in the sky over the nativity scene. Whilst Queen Victoria’s consort, her German cousin, Prince Albert, is often credited with introducing the spruce pine as a symbol of Christmas to Britain, the honour actually goes to the wife of George III, Queen Charlotte.
Boxing Day dates back about 800 years and was traditionally the time to share gifts with the poor via ‘alms boxes’ in church. During the 18th Century, employers would ‘box up’ left over food to take to their tenants who lived and worked on their lands.
‘Wren Boys’ would kill an unfortunate bird on 26 December and tie it to a pole decorated with sprigs of holly and visit homes to sing for treats. The tradition has been maintained in Ireland but a stuffed bird is now substituted and money is collected for charity.
This month in history:
- 1065 – Westminster Abbey is consecrated
- 1170 – Saint Thomas a Becket is martyred in Canterbury Cathedral
- 1279 – groats, round farthings and silver halfpennies are introduced
- 1577 – Sir Francis Drake sails around the world in the Golden Hind
- 1642 – Sir Isaac Newton is born
- 1697 – the new St Paul’s Cathedral is opened in London
- 1773 – the Boston Tea party, a political protest, is held in Massachusetts
- 1795 – Rowland Hill, the originator of the Penny Post is born
- 1809 – Liberal Prime Minister, William Gladstone is born
- 1865 – Rudyard Kipling is born
- 1903 – the Wright brothers make the first powered aeroplane flight
- 1937 – the first full length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is released
- 1941 – Pearl Harbour is attacked by Japan in WWII
- 1958 – Harold Macmillan opens Britain’s first motorway
- 1990 – Britain is attached to Europe for the first time since the Ice Age via a tunnel
Blooming chez Haiselden:
The Christmas Turkey: This tradition first dates back to 1526 when a British trader brought back six turkeys from America. By Victorian times, turkey was out of fashion and it became usual to serve goose. If we delve a little further back, then swan, pheasant and peacock would have been on the menu. The fortunate few might have been treated to a bore’s head decorated with holly and fruit – it’s not really selling itself to be honest.
And Finally … we’ve reached the end of our jolly canter through the months; thank you for your company and all the lovely comments along the way!
Particular thanks to everyone who kindly allowed me to use their photographs to highlight my posts.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Every good wish for a happy, prosperous and peaceful 2019.