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And so this is…Saturnalia? The pagan origins of Christmas

Posted on: 25/11/2015 with tags: Anthony Riches, christmas, pagan, Thunder of the Gods, Roman

Thunder of the Gods author Anthony Riches on the pagan origins of Christmas. ‘Those people who, if a little cynically, take pleasure in calling the Christmas holiday period the ‘mid-winter pagan festival’, are closer to the truth than they might realise, because the ancient celebration of the year’s death and rebirth never really went away – or at least not when it was supposed to. While the idea of lighting up the otherwise dreary low point of winter’s shortest day and longest night with drinki…

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Christmas at Sea by Julian Stockwin

Posted on: 23/12/2013 with tags: caribbee, christmas, Julian Stockwin, maritime, Robert Louis Stevenson

Christmas ashore is a jolly time of fun and festivities where families and friends get together to eat and drink and exchange gifts. But having a number of salty Yuletides under my belt I know it can be a poignant time for seafarers and their loved ones.  Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem ‘Christmas at Sea’, although perhaps a little OTT in terms of Victorian sentimentality, brings home the sadness of separation at this time. Christmas at Sea The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;…

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A PIE TO MAKE US MERRY: in Honour of the Christmas Pie by Martine Bailey

Posted on: 20/12/2013 with tags: An Appetite for Violets, christmas, histroy, Martine Bailey, pies

My favourite symbol of Georgian Christmas abundance has to be the Christmas pie. Not to be confused with small mince pies of mostly dried fruit, this pie is a monster – a battlemented fantasy of plenty, weighing as much as 15 stone.  Stuffed with increasing sizes of game, from small birds to rabbits to geese and turkeys, it was built to feed famished crowds. And in times when Christmas could last twelve days or longer it was designed to keep, thanks to an airtight layer of butter poured in throu…

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Gaslight Fairies by Ann Featherstone

Posted on: 20/12/2013 with tags: ann featherstone, christmas, dickens, gaslight fairies, history

Charles Dickens called them ‘Gaslight Fairies’ – the little children, some as young as four, who  populated the London and provincial stages during the pantomime season. They were recruited in November each year – up to two hundred of them for the larger shows at Drury Lane – as miniature soldiers or sailors, South Sea Island flowers, insects and of course fairies, which burst from an unpromising plaster mushroom or a prickly-leaved bush into a tiny, spangled flying creature every night. Over Ch…

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