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Boxing Day (26th December)

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Today (26th December) is known as Boxing Day, and dates back to the Middle Ages at least. The reason for this name is pretty much lost in time, but there are several theories:
1. Boxing Day is the same day as the Feast of St Stephen, on which metal boxes were put outside churches to collect money for the poor.
2. In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19 December 1663.
3. Since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. Their employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food 😉

Boxing Day shoppers crowding a store.

Boxing Day shoppers crowding a store.

In the UK, Australia, Canada and some other ex-colonial countries, Boxing Day is an important day for sports including Rugby, ice-hockey, horseback hunting, football and cricket.
Boxing Day in these countries is also a major shopping day, with sales opening often very early in the morning and shoppers camping out in queues outside their doors, in order to claim massive reductions on some products.

Thanks to Wikipedia for details.

Word of the Day 15 – Mistletoe

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Mistletoe berries in Wye Valley

Mistletoe berries in Wye Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK – mistletoe has many meanings, but first of all it is a parasitic plant which grows on trees and does some damage. For this reason, foresters don’t like it much. However, pagan religions gave it other meanings.
1. In olden days, mistletoe was thought to be sacred. If enemies met in the forest and noticed mistletoe overhead, they had to lay down their weapons and fight another day.
2. Mistletoe had associations with the goddess Freya, and if couples in love kissed under the mistletoe it was a promise to marry.
3. If a man met a girl under the mistletoe, he had to kiss her.

mistletoe

Anyway, as the Christian religion absorbed the old Midwinter Festival and called it Christmas, so too did it absorb some of the old festival traditions – including the Christmas tree. Now, mistletoe is associated with Christmas and romance and kissing. Mistletoe is commonly hung from centre lights and doorways, and also carried in pockets (one can always hang it over the girl or boy of your fancy 🙂

Word of the Day 13 – Holly

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European Holly

Holly is a plant well-suited to making Christmas decorations, both indoors and out. The leaves are hard, shiny and spiky, and take a long time to dry out. Therefore, they remain presentable for many days. Holly is used in conjunction with small evergreen branches, sprigs of mistletoe, pine cones and other seasonal offerings of nature to make wreaths, table decorations and other Christmas theme objects. Holly‘s green leaves and red berries are also Christmas colours. The red holly berries are mildly poisonous and should be kept out of reach of children and pets.

Coming up soon – mistletoe.

Word of the Day 12 – Yuletide

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Chocolate Yule Log

Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a religious festival observed by the historical Germanic and some neighboring peoples, later being absorbed into the Christian festival of Christmas. 

Similar terms to Yule are used in Nordic countries to mean Happy (Good) Christmas; for example, Hyvää Joulua in Finnish and God Jul in Swedish (‘J’ being pronounced as ‘Y’ in both countries.
The Yule Log was originally a really big log which would burn in the fireplace over the whole Christmas period. Later it was largely replaced by much smaller logs being used as decorations, and then as a chocolate log-shaped cake to be eaten at Christmas.
Yule Singing equates to Christmas Caroling.

Tomorrow’s word – Holly

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