Santa By Any Other Name . . .

St Nicholas Icon, Sinai, 13th centurySanta Claus, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Sinterklaas, Odin, Baba Christmas, Babbo Natale, Black Peter, Christkindl, Ded Moroz, Gwiazdor, Joulupukki, Kanakaloka, Kerstman, Mos Craciun, Pere Noel, Sion Corn, Shengdan Laoren . . .

dancing-manSanta  is a mythical figure with legendary, historical and folkloric origins in many Western cultures. In England, Father Christmas dates back as far as 16th century. During the reign of Henry VIII he was pictured as a large man in green or scarlet robes lined with fur. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food and wine and revelry to all.

Father Christmas - The trial England no longer kept the feast day of Saint Nicholas on December 6th,  the Christmas celebration was moved to December 25th to coincide with Christmas Day.

christmaspresentThe Victorian revival of Christmas included Father Christmas as the emblem of ‘good cheer’.
Even so, his physical appearance (as is his name) is variable. John Leech created one famous image with his illustration of the “Ghost of Christmas Present” from Charles Dickens’s festive classic A Christmas Carol (1843)

Santa and goatLeech depicts him as a genial man in a green fur lined coat who takes Scrooge through the bustling streets of London on the current Christmas morning, sprinkling the essence of Christmas everywhere.

Georg von Rosen - Oden som vandringsman, 1886 (Odin, the Wanderer)During the Christianisation of Germanic Europe, this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the Germanic pagan midwinter event of Yule, from whence the Yule Log derives, who leads a ghostly procession known as ‘The Wild Hunt’ through the skies.

The modern day figure of Santa is generally of a portly, joyous, white-bearded man – sometimes wearing spectacles – dressed in a full red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, black leather belt and boots and carrying a bag full of gifts for ‘good and deserving children’ This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, (Of which the 1934 release “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” is a magical example), radio, television, children’s books and films.
Santa Claus, Jonathan Meath

Santa makes a list of all the children of the world, categorizing them as either “naughty” or “nice” and delivers toys, presents and sweeties to all of the well-behaved ones. Sometimes he will deliver black, smelly coal to the naughty ones as a warning against future unacceptable behaviour! And he accomplishes this feat in the space of just one night : Christmas Eve.

With the assistance of his loyal elves, who make the toys in their workshop and the trusty reindeer who pull his sleigh, he circumnavigates the globe at warp speed to Xmas 1accomplish his mission! His magical sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer (plus one) whose names are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, not forgetting Rudolph of course! (In a number of European countries however, some children will have already received their presents on St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6th, instead.)

Father Christmas is now widely seen as synonymous with the Santa Claus figure.

The gift-giver from church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas and Sinterklaas, merged with the English character Father ???????????Christmas to create the character known to the majority of the English-speaking world as Santa Claus.

In the English and later British colonies of North America, both British and Dutch versions of the gift-giver merged further. In Washington Irving’s History of New York (1809), Sinterklaas was Americanized into “Santa Claus” (He’d lost his bishop’s apparel and was, at first, pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe dressed in a long, green winter coat. Irving’s book was a lampoon of the Dutch culture of New York, and much of this portrait is his joking invention. As the years passed, Santa Claus evolved in popular culture into a large, heavyset person.

Merry Old Santa, Nast, 1881Thomas Nast, an American cartoonist of the 19th century drew an image of Santa that appeared in Harper’s Weekly Magazine. The story that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole may also have been a Nast creation.

Images of Santa Claus were further popularized when The Coca-Cola Company used a depiction of him for its Christmas advertising in the 1930s. But the popularly held belief that Santa wears red and white because they are the colours used to promote the Coca-Cola brand is not true!

Santa Claus, Nast, 1863, Harpers Coca-Cola was not the first soft drink company to utilize the modern image in its advertising. White Rock Beverages had already used a red and white Santa to sell mineral water in 1915 and later its ginger ale in 1923.

Earlier still, Santa Claus had appeared dressed in red and white and essentially in his current form on several covers of Puck magazine in the first few years of the 20th century.

Santa's House, North PoleIn some images from the early 20th century, Santa was depicted as personally making his toys by hand in a small workshop like a craftsman.

Eventually, the idea emerged that he had numerous elves responsible for making the toys, but the toys were still handmade by each individual elf working in the traditional manner.

It is also to be hoped that while Santa is hard at work making his toys for the children of the world, Mrs Claus is preparing the Christmas Cake, Mince Pies, Plum Pudding and all the sweetmeats to feed Santa and his helpers once their work is done!

Xmas 2

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A Bird For Christmas

3chickenThe turkey is a relative newcomer in the ‘festive feasting’ stakes with both the goose and the pheasant having a longer pedigree in such things. It has taken many different forms and guises since it first appeared in Santa & TurkeyEngland during the 16th century but it is as the ‘stuffed’ turkey that it has been eaten throughout much of the world at Christmas since the 19th century.

Roast TurkeyThe goose, the more traditional and cheaper choice of the working classes, and the pheasant the more ‘traditional’ celebration bird have slipped into the background.

Wild turkeys, while technically the same species as domesticated turkeys, have a very different flavour. Almost all of the meat is ‘dark’ with a more intense flavour.

Wild TurkeySeasonal changes in available forage can also influence the taste of wild turkey meat, making it ‘gamier’ in the later summer months due to the higher proportion of insects in its diet! Wild turkey that has fed predominantly on grass and grain has a milder flavor.
During the remainder of the year, turkeys are sold not only whole but sliced, minced and boned and rolled. In the majority of cases where diced chicken is required, such as pies and stews, turkey can be substituted without difficulty while sliced turkey is frequently used as a sandwich meat or served as cold cuts while turkey mince is sold as a healthy substitute for beef mince.

Domestic GooseThere is evidence of the domestication of geese in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago.
In Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, the original domesticated geese are derived from the Greylag Goose (Anser anser) while in eastern Asia, the original domesticated geese are derived from the Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides)
Both have been more widely introduced in recent times, and modern flocks may consist of either species, and/or hybrids of the two. Chinese geese may be readily distinguished from European geese by the large knob at the base of the bill, though hybrids may exhibit every degree of variation between them.
Domesticated breeds are much larger than their ‘wild’ contemporaries with domesticated breeds weighing 7-10 kg compared to a maximum of 3½-4 kg for the wild bird which affects their body structure. Wild geese will have a horizontal posture and slim rear end while the domesticated variety will lay down large fat deposits toward the tail end, giving a fat rear and forcing the bird into a more upright posture. This extra weight and posture also prevents flight though geese will run and flap their wings when startled!

Most domestic ducks are believed to have originated from the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  Some of the better known breeds of common ducks include the Pekin, Asylesbury, Rouen, Call, Khaki Campbell and Cayuga. Different breeds and varieties of ‘common’ ducks can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
roast duckThe recipes for the cooking of duck are many-fold, not merely roasted as a whole bird.

Duck meat is derived primarily from the breasts and legs. The meat of the legs is darker and somewhat fattier than the meat of the breasts, although the breast meat is richer and darker than that of chicken or turkey breast meat. Being waterfowl, ducks have a layer of heat-insulating subcutaneous fat between the skin and the meat. De-boned duck breast can be grilled like steak, usually leaving the skin and fat on. Magret refers specifically to the breast of a mallard or Barbary duck that has been force fed to produce foie gras.

Pheasant - phasianus colchicusThe pheasant (phasianus colchicus) like the grouse were hunted in their natural habitat by Stone Age men. So too were partridges, jungle-fowls and peacocks that inhabited Europe at that time. The Roman Empire extensively introduced the pheasant and in many places it became a naturalized member of the local fauna in Great Britain since the 10th century.

By the 17th century it had been eradicated as a pest from most of the British Isles. Around the 1830’s it was rediscovered as a game-bird, having been ignored for many years. Since then it has been reared extensively by gamekeepers and the birds, around 30m in total, are released each year on shooting estates. From there it receives a widespread distribution during its ‘season’
Field Cocker and PheasantThe traditional shooting season in Great Britain runs from 1st October to 1st February, under the Game Act 1831. Generally they are shot by hunters employing gun dog to help find, flush, and retrieve shot birds.

Retrievers, spaniels, and pointing breeds are used to hunt pheasants.
The doggerel “Up gets a guinea, bang goes a penny-halfpenny, and down comes a half a crown” reflects the expensive sport of nineteenth century driven shoots in Britain, when pheasants were often shot for sport rather than for food.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is researching the breeding success of reared pheasants in order improve this breeding success in order to reduce the demand for the release of so many reared pheasants and increase the wild population.

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Dickens’s A Christmas Carol at 170

This struck a chord with me and goes into more detail than I would normally. A well presented article, I enjoyed reading it. Nicely done.

Interesting Literature

The surprising story behind Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’s classic Christmas tale A Christmas Carol was published over 170 years ago, in 1843. Since then, there have been countless stage, screen, and radio adaptations of the classic story. The first film adaptation was a short silent movie version in 1901, titled Scrooge; or, Marley’s Ghost. There have been opera and ballet versions, an all-black musical called Comin’ Uptown (1979), and even a 1973 mime adaptation for the BBC starring Marcel Marceau. The Muppets, Mickey Mouse, and Mr Magoo have all featured in adaptations of the book.

It wasn’t the first Christmas story Dickens wrote. It wasn’t even the first Christmas ghost story Dickens wrote. He’d already written ‘The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton’, featuring miserly Gabriel Grub, an inset tale in Dickens’s first ever published novel, The Pickwick Papers (1836-7). The tale shares many…

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A Dickensian Christmas

Giorgione, NativityChristmas (Old English: Cri-stesmæsse, meaning “Christ’s Mass”) is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ that is a widely observed global holiday, celebrated generally on December 25th.

While the birth year of Jesus is estimated among modern historians to have been between 7 and 2 BC, the exact month and day of his birth are unknown. His birth is mentioned in two of the four canonical gospels.

Carol Singers, Bucharest 1842Christmas, along with Easter, is the period of highest annual church attendance. In Catholic countries, people hold religious processions or parades in the days preceding Christmas.

In other countries, secular processions or parades featuring Santa Claus and other seasonal figures are often held. As a feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the dickens-christmas-walktwelve days of Christmastide, which ends after the twelfth night, after which all decorations must be removed.

Christmas is also a civil holiday in many of the world’s nations that is ‘celebrated’ by an increasing number of non-Christians and is an integral part of the holiday season.

Victorian LondonAt the beginning of the Victorian era however, Christmas was hardly celebrated at all in Britain. Though the Victorians cannot be credited with starting Christmas they can at least be held responsible for its popularisation.

From Germany the customs of tree, snow and decorations was introduced into Britain first by Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria by Bassano In many ways Prince Albert was responsible for shaping how Christmas was celebrated by British Victorian families. The family was of utmost importance to the Victorians. They saw it as a time to focus on family relationships and most of the Victorian Christmas traditions (pudding stirring, tree decorating, carol singing, gift giving) were to be shared by all members of the family.

But when it comes to the creator of the images most associated with Christmas in Victorian England it must be Charles Dickens. On publication in 1843, his prose novella  A Christmas Carol, (read, or better yet re-read it here) was extraordinarily popular. The success of the book was immediate and, at a stroke, set the bar for how the ‘average’ middle class Victorian family should approach the celebration of Christmas.

Johansen Viggo - Lighting the TreeA Christmas Carol is the definitive Christmas story. Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life may try each year to dislodge it from its pinnacle but Dickens’ Victorian fantasy reigns supreme. The fact that there have been so many adaptations on film, television, stage and radio gives it an undeniable advantage. The images of the celebratory family occasion with its ‘Christmas bird’ and Plum Pudding are synonymous with the season!

plum3The qualities of realism and idealism possessed by Dickens together with his naturally jovial attitude toward life in general, seem to have given him an appreciation of Christmas that the privations and hardships of his boyhood could so easily have stunted.

Nowadays it is nigh on impossible to imagine a proper English Christmas without Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol.



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A Christmas Cake, 1861

For this one I only have the images, no text. The four images begin with the ingredients laid out though to be fair, the method would be that of any other rich fruit cake recipe.

Regard it as a sort of Christmas puzzle – guess what the ingredients are and how they should best be combined to produce a cake! A sort of DIY project!


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The Vickers Supermarine Spitfire is rightly seen as the greatest British fighter ever built, an inspiring blend of elegance, power and speed. So successful was the plane that over 22,000 were manufactured in 19 different marques and more than 52 variants, with production lasting right up to 1948.

But it was not an easy beginning. In October 1931 the Air Ministry issued specification F7/30, calling for a new day and night fighter to replace the ageing Bristol Bulldog. R.J.Mitchell, Supermarine’s chief designer, came up with an all-metal monoplane, the Type 224, but, though innovative initial trials not a success, the lessons learned lead to the eventual creation of the Spitfire.

The maiden flight of the Spitfire prototype, K5054, took place at Eastleigh near Southampton, on 5 March 1936. Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers, Supermarine’s test pilot, wrote in his appraisal that “The handling qualities of this machine are remarkably good,” The Air Ministry were so impressed with his assessment that 310 were ordered immediately. Despite some severe production difficulties and numerous political crises, the Spitfire finally entered service with the RAF. Nº 19 squadron, based at Duxford, were the first unit to receive the plane, and pilots were reportedly optimistic about the new fighter.

But, as early as 1938 the Spitfire was regarded with disdain by the Air Ministry who merely saw it as a stopgap until the arrival of other supposedly more powerful and versatile fighters while others saw it as little more than a commercial venture for raising revenue from exports. Barely two years after the Spitfire prototype was flown, the plane was described by some senior Ministry figures as “obsolescent” Even Winston Churchill, though an eloquent advocate of a strong RAF throughout the 1930’s, was guilty of this flawed thinking. He too had little faith in the Spitfire before 1940, preferring to pin his hopes on two-seater fighters with rear-mounted turret guns.

The Spitfire first went into combat against the Luftwaffe on 16 October 1939 when aircraft from 602 and 603 squadrons took on Ju 88 bombers over the Firth of Forth. At the first sight of the Spitfires, the Germans turn and try to escape across the North Sea. As one surviving German pilot was to recall afterwards, it was ‘not a pleasant experience’.

Spitfires went on to play a major role in The Battle of Britain which reached its most climactic day on 15 September 1940, when a massive Luftwaffe attack on London led German high command mistakenly to believe that the RAF were almost broken. In truth, Britain’s fighter forces were stronger than earlier in the battle.

Latterly Spitfires were based on aircraft carriers and on 7 March 1942 Spitfires from HMS Eagle in the western Mediterranean flew to Malta, where the island was under siege. Their heroic fightback against superior Luftwaffe and Italian forces, with regular reinforcements arriving from aircraft carriers, began to turn the tide and their victory in the skies above Malta marked the beginning of the end for Axis in the west

In May1942 the Spitfire Mark IX was unveiled, with its two-stage, two-speed Merlin 61 supercharged engine. Widely regarded as the greatest of all Spitfire marks, Squadron Leader Ron Rayner described it as “marvellous, absolutely incredible”. Throughout the war, the Spitfire was in a constant state of evolution and revision.

The final combat flight of the Spitfire was undertaken on 1 May 1951 by Wing Commander Wilfred Duncan Smith during the communist insurgency in Malaya.

At the height of the battle of Dunkirk in May 1940, the brilliant New Zealander Al Deere was on patrol in his RAF Spitfire over the French coast. Suddenly, through the haze of smoke drifting upwards from the raging combat on the ground, he spotted a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter below him. He instantly gave chase. Soon, both planes were descending earthwards at high speed. “Down we went, throttles fully open, engines roaring, each determined to get the last ounce out of his straining aircraft. From 17,000 feet down to ground level I hung to his tail,” recalled Deere. Desperate to shake off the Spitfire, the Bf 109 dramatically changed course, levelling out from his dive and then going into a steep climb. But Deere could not be beaten. “I continued to close range until at about 15,000 feet I judged that I was near enough to open fire. A long burst produced immediate results. Bits flew off his aircraft.” Moments later, Deere watched the Bf 109 plunge into a field near Saint Omer and “explode with a blinding flash”.

Engagements like this were typical of the Spitfire’s formidable combat performance during the retreat from Dunkirk. The battle was the first time during the war that the plane had engaged the Luftwaffe in significant numbers, and the results shook the Germans, undermining their belief in their own invincibility. The effectiveness of the Spitfire was demonstrated even more graphically in the months that followed, as the aircraft played a central, heroic role in the defeat of the Luftwaffe during the battle of Britain. Adored by its pilots and feared by the Germans, it grew into an enduring symbol of British determination in the struggle against Nazi tyranny. The Vickers Supermarine Spitfire is rightly seen as the greatest British fighter ever built, an inspiring blend of elegance, power and speed. So successful was the plane that over 22,000 were manufactured in 19 different marks and 52 variants, with production lasting right up to 1948.

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Tofu Or Not Tofu

Following on from ‘Veganuary And The Meatless Monday’, we come to Tofu, or bean curd, a popular food derived from soya.

Like many soya foods, tofu originated in China. It is made by curdling fresh soya milk, pressing it into a solid block and then cooling it in much the same way that cream cheese is made. The curds are pressed to form a cohesive bond. A staple ingredient in both Thai and Chinese cuisine, it can be cooked in many ways to change its texture from smooth and soft to crisp and crunchy.

Legend has it that it was discovered about 2000 years ago by a Chinese cook who accidentally curdled soy milk when he added nigari seaweed. Introduced into Japan in the eighth century, tofu was originally called ‘okabe‘. Its modern name did not come into use until around 1400.

Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also a valuable plant source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese and phosphorous. In addition to this, it also contains magnesium, copper zinc and vitamin B1. Soya-based foods like tofu can be an invaluable part of the vegan/vegetarian diet.

The 1960s saw a swiftly growing interest in vegan/vegetarian food as part of a wider interest in a healthier diet which, in turn introduced tofu to the western world.

Given its neutral taste and range of consistency, tofu has an amazing ability to work with almost all types of flavours and foods. Extra firm tofu’s are best for baking, grilling and stir-fries, while soft tofu is suitable for sauces, desserts, shakes and salad dressings. Of course, it is up to you to experiment! Try slicing marinating and grilling it or chopping it up into smallish pieces and fry it with garlic until golden. Silken tofu is a creamy, softer product.

Tofu can be acquired in bulk or individual packages, both of which are refrigerated. It should be stored in sealed containers and kept at room temperature. It does not require refrigeration until it has been opened. It can be kept in water for up to a week provided it is kept in water that is regularly refreshed.

Tofu is made from dried soybeans that have been soaked in water, crushed, and boiled. The mixture is separated into solid pulp (okara) and soy “milk.” Salt coagulants, such as calcium and magnesium chlorides and sulfates, are added to the soy milk to separate the curds from the whey.

Tofu is bean curd, but bean curd isn’t exactly tofu. Bean curd is the curdled soy milk that you get when you mix it with a coagulant. Technically speaking, bean curd becomes tofu once it is pressed and formed.

Before it has been cooked and seasoned, tofu tastes sour and is quite bland. However, this food is an excellent absorber of flavours, which makes it a favourite for anyone who knows their way around a kitchen. When prepared correctly, tofu can be savoury, sweet, crunchy, or soft.

The volume on which this series is based was printed in the early eighties as veganism was slowly growing in popularity.


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Ten Things You Can do With NaHCO₃

Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO₃. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline, but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda (sodium carbonate). It’s a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many natural mineral springs.

Because it has long been known and is widely used, the salt has many related names such as baking soda, bread soda, cooking soda, and bicarbonate of soda. The term baking soda is more common in the United States, whilst bicarbonate of soda is more common in Australia and Britain. In many northern/central European countries the term used is Natron and can often be found near baking powder in stores. In colloquial usage, the names sodium bicarbonate and bicarbonate of soda are often truncated; forms such as sodium bicarb, bicarb soda, bicarbonate, and bicarb are common. The word saleratus, from Latin sal æratus (meaning “aerated salt”), was widely used in the 19th century for both sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate. It is also known as food additive number E500.

1)  In fact baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is just too useful to be true. It is an alkaline substance that helps regulate pH, making something either an acid or a base. When baking soda gets mixed with an acid, it automatically alters the pH level, which leads to a quick pain relief or covers bad smells.

2)  Baking soda is well known as a paste for whitening teeth. In fact, it is a widely known secret that many toothpaste manufacturers use baking soda as a primary ingredient. It follows therefore that   you can feel free to use baking soda as a natural toothpaste to polish your teeth and get wonderful whitening results.

3)  Baking soda will also clean a kitchen sink product. Sprinkle baking soda all over the surface, let it fester for 5 min then scrub it with a sponge. Add lemon juice to the mix for a fresher smell!

4)  Baking soda’s mild abrasive capacities make it a useful all-purpose cleaner. Two cups of baking soda mixed with several drops of essential oil can be used clean the entire house.

5)   Tarnished jewellery, especially silver jewellery can benefit from baking soda! Take an aluminium foil-lined bowl, fill it with hot water and add baking soda. Then, soak your silver jewellery and leave until the tarnish transfers from the silver to the water. Remove the jewellery and wipe it with a soft lint-free cloth, to remove the remains of the tarnish. This also works for decorative silver.

6)  Another use for baking soda is stain removal. For example, it can work miracles on carpet. First, sprinkle a little of baking soda on top of the stain, let it sit for a few minutes until it dries then finally vacuum the stain away!

7)  In addition to being a mild abrasive, baking soda can be a very strong deodorizer. An open box of baking soda in the back of your refrigerator will effectively neutralize odours, as well as absorb bad scents and freshen up the air!

8)  Putting half-a-cup of baking soda in with the detergent in the washing machine will freshen up towels and get rid of smelly odours.

9)  Baking soda can absorb excess oil in your hair, making it an effective and natural dry shampoo. Mix a pinch of baking soda with hot water and then, sprinkle it over your scalp. When dry brush out naturally.

10)  Baking soda is also great for a calming bath. It can relieve muscle pain, ease tension whilst exfoliating and softening the skin as you enjoy a wonderful and relaxing bath. An inordinate amount of salt in the body’s tissues can lead to swollen legs. Baking soda can be used to relieve this. 1½ tsp of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water then used to soak a pair of cotton socks worn for several hours then removed and the legs wrapped in plastic food wrap will produce


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Veganuary And The Meatless Monday

Vegan FrontVegetarianism is  practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter.

Vegetarianism may be adopted for many and various reasons, for instance objecting to eating meat out of respect for sentient life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs, as well as animal rights advocacy.

Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, economic, or personal preference. There are variations of the diet as well: 

An ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products, while an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs.

An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food, as a Moral Dutyvegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs and dairy.

The word Veganuary is a portmanteau of ‘vegan’ and ‘January’

Veganuary is an annual challenge run by a UK not-for-profit organisation that promotes and educates about veganism, encouraging people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January.  Founded by Jane Land and Matthew Glover in 2014, participation has more than doubled year on year with some 400,000 people signing up in the 2020 campaign. It is estimated that this represents the carbon dioxide equivalent of 450,000 flights (not necessarily returns) and the lives of more than a million animals.

Vegan 01 DairyParticipants sign up online and receive an online ‘vegan starter kit’ with restaurant guides, product sources and a recipe database. Participants are also encouraged to share images and recipes on social media to promote veganism as easy and fun. Take-up has been surprising with 50,000 taking the challenge in 2017 rising to 4000,000 in 2020.

Vegan 02 DairyGQ magazine noted that ‘it’s a clever way to introduce a new way of nutritional thinking at a time of year where our mind is hardwired to explore ways to better ourselves’ which could also explain a 2019 slump in UK pub receipts was ultimately blamed on ‘Veganuary’.

Vegan 04 DairyThe popularity of the campaign may be partially due to the emphasis being put on trying veganism as opposed to going vegan allowing participants to decide not to continue with an all-vegan diet without feeling as if they failed the challenge.

Vegan 05 DairyFood businesses and restaurants in the UK had been introducing new vegan products in January to coincide with Veganuary and a number of supermarkets were beginning to run advertising for the event.

Vegan 06 DairyWorld Vegetarian Day is observed annually on the 1st of October. A day of celebration to that effect was established by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and was endorsed in 1978 by the International Vegetarian Union ‘To promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism’ which brings with it an awareness of the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian life-style.

World Vegetarian Day then morphs, quite organically of course, into October becoming Vegan 08 DairyVegetarian Awareness Month, which ends on the 1st of November also known as World Vegan Day that naturally transposes into Vegan Awareness Month. Other dates in the Veggie yearbook would have to include :

27th September – Hug a Vegan/Vegetarian day,

29th September – World Heart Day

1st October – World Vegetarian Day

2nd October – World Farm Animals Day

4th October – The Feast of St Francis of Assisi & World Animal Day

Vegan 09 Dairy4th October – Hug a Non-Meat Eater Day

1st to 7th October – International Vegetarian Week

16th October – World Food Day

25th November – International Vegetarian Day (India)

20th March – The Great American Meat-out.

And finally, every Monday of the month is a Meatless Monday! 

Sadly I have come across no reference to an official Tree Hugging Day but hey, who knows! 

Vegan Cover

I have had this volume in my collection for a good few years. It is dated 1983 when veganism was becoming more attractive to the general public and represents a good beginners guide to meat, dairy and egg free recipes,

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Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Want To Know About . . .

The Venerable Bede

Christmas or ¡Navidad!, Noël or  Weihnachten, God Jul or Sretan Božić, Crăciun fericit or Ziemassvētkus!

The languages of the world have quite a variety of names for Christmas. That’s not surprising, what with the language issues involved but it turns out that our Christmas is arbitrarily loaded with words that mean something else. And while many people frown upon the seemingly modern abbreviation of Xmas, X stands for the Greek letter chi, which was the early abbreviation for Christ or the Greek ‘Khristos’. The X also symbolises the cross on which Christ was crucified. The Angles, Saxons and Jutes, the original Germanic invaders, were not Christian, but nevertheless still engaged in celebrations on the 25th December in a festival known as Yule, which is still celebrated by Neo-Pagans across the world. In the 8th century, The Venerable Bede wrote: ‘They began the year with December 25th, the day we now celebrate as Christmas; and the very night to which we attach special sanctity they designated by the heathen mothers’ night, a name bestowed presumably on account of the ceremonies they performed while watching this night through. (De temporum tione)’

2) The pagan festival has some association with fertility and possibly involved ceremonial copulation creating a link between Yule and Christmas. When the date of Christ’s birth was decided, by Pope Julius I a link was forged with the pagan’s celebration of birth by which the Roman Church sought to create a mandate for the early Christians to continue attempting to convert the pagans of Europe by pursuing a policy of continuity.

3 ) From the time of Charlemagne, the great Frankish king, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the ‘Christian’ Christmas slowly grew in importance despite the longer established Anglo-Saxon Christmas traditions. According to Egbert of York, a contemporary of Bede: ‘the English people have been accustomed to practice fasts, vigils, prayers, and the giving of alms both to monasteries and to the common people, for the full twelve days before Christmas’. Alfred The Great whose stepmother, Judith, was great-granddaughter of Charlemagne, was greatly influenced by the Frankish Court. It seems he shared their view of the importance of Christmas as a festival. One of Alfred’s laws stated that twelve days of holiday was to be taken by all but those engaged in the most important of occupations from Christmas Day to Twelfth Night. It has been noted that Alfred’s rigorous observance of his own law left him so vulnerable to his Viking adversaries that it led to his defeat in battle on 6th January, 878: the day after Twelfth Night.

4 ) One of the most interesting aspects of the Christian Christmas is the mention of alms-giving which can be seen as the predecessor of modern day Christmas presents, a tradition that almost certainly came about in imitation of the Three Wise Men bringing the infant Christ Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Alms were charitable relief given to the poor, without expectation of payment during both the Anglo-Saxon and Christian communities. These can also be seen as the start of the more traditional fund raising organisations such as the Salvation Army and linked to numerous other charitable Christmas acts.

5 ) Carols flourished in Tudor times as a way of celebrating Christmas and to spread the story of the nativity but came to an abrupt end in the 17th century when the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell banned all superfluous festivities including Christmas and Easter. Carollers on the doorstep is in fact a result of carols being banned in churches during this time, although carols remained in a virtual wilderness until the Victorians reinstated the concept of an ‘Olde English Christmas’. This included traditional gems such as While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night and The Holly and the Ivy as well as introducing a plethora of new hits such as Away in a Manger and O Little Town of Bethlehem, to mention but a few. The earliest recorded published collection of carols dates back to 521 and is by Wynken de Worde which includes the Boars Head Carol.

6 ) Mince Pies were originally baked in rectangular cases to represent the infant Jesus’ crib and the addition of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg was meant to symbolise the gifts bestowed by the three wise men. Traditionally the pies are not very large and it was considered good luck to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The original mince pies were made of a variety of shredded meats along with spices and fruit. The out-pouring of Christmas spirit might entice a Lord to donate the unwanted parts of the family’s Christmas deer, the offal, or ‘umbles’, to make the pies go further.  The poor could be said to be eating ‘umble pie’, an expression now used to to describe someone who has fallen from the pedestal of high achievement to a far more modest level. It is only since the Victorian era that the recipe came to include only spices and fruit.

7 ) Over the intervening centuries, serious Christmas day feasting would have been the reserve of royalty and the landed gentry. In medieval times goose was the most common option while venison was also popular alternative, although the poor were not allowed to eat the best cuts of meat. Turkey was first introduced into Britain in about 1523 with Henry VIII being one of the first people to eat it as part of their Christmas feast. The popularity of the bird grew quickly and soon around October large flocks of turkeys could be seen walking to London from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire on foot; a journey which they may have started as early as early as August! And while many poor people made do with hare, rabbit or if they were lucky, goose, the Christmas Day menu for Queen Victoria on the other hand included both beef and a roast swan or two. By the end of the century 18th most people feasted on turkey for their Christmas dinner. With feet clad in fashionable but hardwearing leather the unsuspecting birds would have set out on the lengthy hike from their rural farms to arrive somewhat tired and on the scrawny side they must have thought London hospitality unbeatable as they feasted and fattened up in the last few weeks before Christmas!

8 ) The burning of the Yule Log is thought to derive from the midwinter ritual of the early Viking invaders, who built enormous bonfires to celebrate their festival of light. The word ‘Yule’ has existed in the English language for many centuries as an alternative term for Christmas. Traditionally, a large log would be selected in the forest on Christmas Eve, decorated with ribbons, dragged home and laid upon the hearth. After lighting it was kept burning throughout the twelve days of Christmas. It was considered lucky to keep some of the charred remains to kindle the log of the following year.

9 ) Christmas Day was a national holiday, spent by the gentry in their country houses and estates. People went to church and returned to a celebratory Christmas dinner. Boxing Day on the other hand has traditionally been seen as the reversal of fortunes, where the rich provide gifts for the poor. In medieval times, the gift was generally money and it was provided in a hollow clay pot with a slit in the top which had to be smashed for the money to be taken out. These small clay pots were nicknamed “piggies” and thus became the first version of the piggy banks we use today. Unfortunately, Christmas Day was also traditionally a “quarter day”, one of the four days in the financial year on which payments such as ground rents were due, meaning many poor tenants had to pay their rent on Christmas Day!

10 ) The Christmas Crib originated in 1223 in medieval Italy when Saint Francis of Assisi explained the Christmas Nativity story to local people using a crib to symbolise the birth of Jesus. When seeking information on a Georgian or Regency Christmas, who better to consult than Jane Austen? In her novel, ‘Mansfield Park’, Sir Thomas gives a ball for Fanny and William. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’, the Bennets play host to relatives. In ‘Sense and Sensibility’, John Willoughby dances the night away, from eight o’clock until four in the morning. In ‘Emma’, the Weston’s give a party.



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