Category: Christmas Watch

Santa Claus is Coming to Town


Decor on Sale at John Lewis, Iphoto by JMorton

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Here comes Santa, photo by JMorton
It is December!
It is officially Christmas Season.
Give Love of Christmas.
It is the time to send Christmas cards to nearest and dearest, including to those often forgotten and overlooked relatives and acquaintances. ūüôā
It is time to set up the Christmas Tree.
It is time to buy presents and gift, know your budget.
It is time to party.
It is the to visit the relatives.
And most important of all it is the time to celebrate a most spiritual Birthday of all.
Happy Birthday to our Lord, Jesus!

Panic Saturday


Apparently today is a Panic Saturday, when people are just too busy, almost to a stress level doing their shopping.

Last minute gift shopping, especially those let down my internet/online shopping.

I was scrabbling to shop for cakes from Iceland last night, but was advised that there are no more slots for delivery and to try after 27 December. ¬†Eeeckkkk. ¬†That’ll teach me to leave everything at the last moment.

Peter and I went to Chappel Market today and a bit disappointed that the place wasn’t really roaring with shoppers as it used to. ¬†There were hardly anyone there. ¬†And the market stalls were not as festive or as many. ¬†Despite all of that we had fun and got everything in record time.

We even had time to do lunch at the Pie and Mash shop, really lovely.  We had beef and onion pie with mash, drowned in parsley liquour.  We finished off with some fruit pie, which was rhubarb.

Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas

Christmas begins about the first of December with an office party and ends when you finally realise what you spent, around Apri fifteenth of the next year.
P.J. O’Rourke

Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas

I don’t want to alarm you or add to your stress but Christmas is just around the corner. ¬†Next week will be Christmas.

I hope you have bought all your presents, Wrapped all your gifts. ¬†Sent Christmas cards to your nearest and dearest and to those not so nearest and dearest as well. ¬†Give love on Christmas Day, I would say. ūüėČ

Hope you have sorted that all important ‘what to wear’ on the Big Day. ¬†Do let us have a photo of those Christmas jumpers!

Hope the recipe has been planned and the ingredients has been listed to precision and ready to order or collect/buy from the supermarket. ¬†Don’t forget the kitchen foil or toothpicks to wrap cocktail sausages in bacon. Also the double cream, so essential. ¬†Also the loo rolls, tablets for indigestion, and headache. ¬†It happens!

Hope you remember all those things that ¬†are essential for Christmas. ¬†Remember most shops in the UK are ¬†closed. ¬†So make sure you have lots of batteries. ¬†It would be such a horror to realise that the much look forward to present of your child can’t be played to its full potential because it was lacking a battery. ¬†ūüôĀ

Take a deep breath, there are few more days to get everything done. ¬†But I am afraid, the most useful thing to do if you are a last minute doer is to compile a list of ‘what to do’ ¬†Tick each item when done!


ecckkk Panic, panic!!!

Nativity Celebrated in Our Homes

It is 9pm here in London, Christmas Eve.

A friend will be arriving soon.

Later we will attend Midnight Mass at our local church and welcome Christmas Day and celebrate the birth of a very special Baby.

As well as putting up festive decorations around the home, many like our family set up models of the Nativity so that we remember the true meaning of Christmas time.  Yes Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in a manger as there was no more room at the local inn.

Nativity Celebrated in Our Home

Nativity scene, photo by PH Morton

The Cost of Christmas

This is such an interesting article from the BBC Magazine.  It tells how Christmas became so commercialised.

It started during the reign of Queen Victoria when German Prince Albert, the Queen’s consort, brought Christmas celebration, Christmas tree and decoration to the British Monarchy.


The costs of Christmas past and Christmas present

By Sarah Treanor

Business reporter, BBC News

The Royal Christmas Tree is admired by Victoria, Albert and their children in 1848
The Royal Christmas Tree admired by Victoria, Albert and their children in 1848

Christmas as we know it in 2013, with its tear-jerking adverts on television, online shopping bonanza, and parade of “must-have” toys and gifts, may seem a very commercial and modern business.

However, many Christmas traditions that dominate the modern British home are not new at all.

From the bauble-bedecked tree, to the crackers, the presents and roast dinner, the “commercialisation” of Christmas has its roots firmly in mid-Victorian Britain.

But while for many Victorians, nuts and dried fruit would have been the typical presents hanging from the tree, this year UK households will spend around £22.3bn on Christmas and families will splash out a very large-sounding £599 each on gifts alone, according to a YouGov survey.

“Start Quote

Poverty and oysters always seem to go together‚ÄĚ

Sam WellerCharacter from Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers

YouGov also found that the average planned spend on food and drink will be £180, and on cards, trees and decorations £43.

So what do we owe to the Victorians as we gear up for the big day, and how much did a Victorian household expect to spend on their festivities?

Show off with beef

Of course the cost of various things in Victorian Britain bears no relation to the modern day. Rent and fuel was very cheap by modern standards, and there was a vast difference in wages between labourers and the emerging middle and upper-middle classes.

But what is the same is that for the Victorian, Christmas food itself was a luxury item, much as it is now.

Food historian Dr Annie Gray says that the meat was very much the main event, and the type of meat on a Victorian table depended often on where in the country a family lived.

A Victorian card
This Victorian card shows a wealthy family digging into their Christmas roast

“The meat to show off with was beef,” she says.

‘Poor man’s protein’

For a less wealthy family, perhaps that of a junior clerk, earning as little as £100 a year in the mid-Victorian era, beef and turkey were far beyond even a special occasion budget.

More likely, if in London and the South of England, the family would start the meal with oysters. While considered a luxury for many now, oysters in Victorian London were known as “the poor man’s protein”.

Charles Dickens’s character from The Pickwick Papers, Sam Weller, even says, “Poverty and oysters always seem to go together.”

An illustration from Dickens's A Christmas Carol
An illustration from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

The goose was also the meat centrepiece for a less well-off family where beef or turkey were beyond reach.

As the traditional British rhyme says:

“Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

“Please put a penny in the old man’s hat

“If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do

“If you haven’t got a ha’penny then God bless you!”

A week’s wages

The cost of a Victorian Christmas

  • Goose: 7 shillings
  • Pudding: 5 shillings
  • Sage, onions, oranges: 3 shillings
  • Christmas card: 1 shilling

Food, and indeed giving were in vogue from the 1840s.

Plum pudding, and mince pies were also fashionable at the Victorian Christmas table. Sweet chestnuts, Dr Gray adds, were used as “ice cream, set cream, in stuffing, or as an accompaniment” for the meal.

“A classic mid-Victorian meal was three to five courses, with four to eight dishes in each, set on the table all at once with diners choosing their favourite dishes.

“By the end, a more linear service style had come in, but the dish variety and order remained roughly the same,” she says.

How much might this have cost?

A copy of the first mass-produced Christmas card from 1843
A copy of the first mass-produced Christmas card from 1843

According to the 1844 play A Christmas Carol/The Miser’s Warning (a theatre adaptation by CZ Barnett of the Dickens novel) the character Bob Cratchit would have spent a week’s wages to buy the ingredients for the basic Christmas feast.

That would be seven shillings for the goose, five for the pudding, and three for the onions, sage and oranges.

So that’s the food. But what about the rest?

The first Christmas card – ‘a flop’

In 1843 the first commercially produced Christmas card was launched. It cost a shilling – an extremely high price at the time. (Incidentally, 1843 was also the year that Dickens published A Christmas Carol.)

Tim Travis, a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the original card produced by Sir Henry Cole is kept, says the one shilling Christmas card would have been “roughly a day’s wage for a labourer”. It was, he says a “commercial flop”.

“Christmas cards didn’t really take off for another 20 years or so after that when mass production brought the price down,” says Mr Travis.

A Victorian Christmas card
Christmas cards such as this one from the 1860s showed family scenes

But the practice of sending Christmas cards became affordable and fashionable for many and by 1880 over 11 million Christmas cards were printed. The introduction of penny postage meant that sending a card became the “done thing”, and cards often showed jolly images of families indulging in Christmas culinary delights.

Now the UK Christmas card market is still robust, and though it has fallen away in the past few years due to email, the Greetings Cards Association estimates that a total of around 900 million festive cards were sold in 2012, worth around £364m.

‘Delight in the tree’

Many of our modern traditions and expenses were brought over from Germany by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.

A woman dragging a fir tree over a field
A fir tree became a must-have in a Victorian household

In 1848 a print showing the royal couple with their children next to a fir tree was published in the Illustrated London News. The Prince had written in 1847 that his children should “delight in the Christmas tree”.

The tree became the must-have item in any fashionable festive home, and still is. Around six million live fir trees are sold for Christmas in Britain, according to the Forestry Commission.

A bang!

Crackers were invented by Tom Smith in 1847.

The London sweetmaker originally planned to wrap sweets in coloured paper, inspired by trips to Paris where he saw such treats. But another version, with mottos, hats and toys proved much more popular, and the cracker as we know it was born.

Today, British cracker making company Swantex produces 25 million a year. Some estimate that each household in the UK will spend upwards of £20 on crackers at Christmas.

A lot to thank the Victorians for, and perhaps, when looking at New Year bank balances, to lament.

Is The National Gallery Allergic to Christmas?

I love the National Gallery. Peter and I go to the Gallery at least twice a year.

I think it is a value for money for the country; it houses a national heritage.

Is The National Gallery Allergic to Christmas?

Unfortunately I feel that it is now disowning the country’s Christian traditions. Their latest Season’s Greeting card which they send via e-mails is insulting and disrespectful to Christians and the country.

December is all about Christmas. I do not celebrate the season; I celebrate the birth of our Christ; I celebrate the family; I celebrate peace and goodwill. (I blame you National Gallery for my short supply of peace and goodwill. LOL) ūüėČ

In fact if it does not snow at all, all the better for me.

Snow is fine and dandy when it first fall, they can be so beautiful, but they turn slushy or much worst, dangerously icy.

I don’t see why we need to celebrate that? Many a time, I have been down on my knees leaving them aching and bruised and if¬† I am lucky I would fall on my backside in the icy pavements, or swearing my head off at every step along the way of a slippery road.

I don’t see why we need to celebrate the falling of leaves off trees, when they can be so ugly on the ground. It makes me wish that the council will send people to clean up the roads.

I don’t see why I need to celebrate the cold weather that would make me out-of-pocket with turning on the central heating, making the gas and electric companies happy in their sleeps.

In fact there are so many fatalities over the years especially amongst the elderly during this cold months.

I don’t know why we need to celebrate the season when we all get are runny nose and hacking coughs?

So National Gallery please explain to us why instead of wishing us a Happy Christmas, you are being very politically correct and getting on my goat. You are being vexatious and rather galling. If saying Merry Christmas is sticking on your throat, it would be wiser and acceptable for all of us that you say NOTHING at all. It is MERRY CHRISTMAS OR HAPPY CHRISTMAS OR NOTHING AT ALL!


The National Gallery wish you all the best for 2014

O Christmas Tree!

When we were in the Phillipines  last Christmas and New Year, we saw wonderful christmas decorations in Manila.  During the overnight 12 hour coach journey to Pagudpud we saw many amazing and magical  Christmas decorations in small village and towns en route.

The UK does its bit with decorations too, however there have been some occasions where peoples expectations of civic leaders locally donated  Christmas trees & decorations have somewhat been lacking in festive cheer, with some looking distinctly  pathetic ragged and threadbare!

 Dunsdale Villagers were so appalled by the abysmal tree they complained about it through their local newspaper until Redcar and Cleveland Council took it away.

Dunsdale, England, UK – Villagers were so appalled by the abysmal tree they complained about it through their local newspaper until Redcar and Cleveland Council took it away!


BBC News

The two trees which went up at Clacton for Christmas
Clacton’s Christmas “twig” was replaced by a mightier specimen following complaints
With festive shopping in full swing, town centres have begun switching on their Christmas lights to entice shoppers. But with businesses and town halls strapped for cash have Christmas displays got worse?

Across the towns and villages of England, people are revolting over the size of their municipal Christmas decorations.

In Stockton-on-Tees, a white material “Christmas tree” in the town centre has left locals feeling “ashamed”, according to the¬†local paper.

And in Clacton councillors have removed a spindly 12ft (4m) tree – christened the “Christmas twig” – deeming it¬†“not man enough” for their Essex town.

But have displays got worse or is tinsel-tinted nostalgia clouding Christmas judgement?

Cotgrave Christmas tree
This Christmas tree in Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire, was not replaced despite a campaign

Sam Jordison, editor of the Crap Towns series of books, believes town displays seem to have got worse as people’s home displays have got better.

“It’s pretty hard for councils to compete,” he said.¬†Christmas lights are inherently crap anyway – what are people expecting? How are they are not going to look tacky?‚ÄĚ


“I can understand why people care, as anything that attracts people to local shops is a good thing and I can well imagine that with budgets being cuts that they’re getting less impressive.

“And a bad display looks really bad – a few lights bulbs on a string that are not brightening anything up draws attention to the fact they are low budget.”

Some towns and cities, like Canterbury, have made the decision to scrap their lights altogether rather than persist with sub-standard ones.

“It was inevitable that this day would come”, said John Gilbey, leader of the city council.

“Christmas lights were a nice thing to do when we had money.

“But now they are not of sufficient quality to make a difference and there is simply no cash to invest in new displays. Instead of persisting with something sub-standard, the only option left is to stop doing it.”

Critics would argue that some festive decoration is better than none.

But a glance north to the coastal town of Herne Bay offers a lesson in what can go wrong.

Last year the Kent town’s decorations were deemed so bad that some of the¬†crowd booed¬†when the lights were switched on.

Regent Street lights
The famous Regent Street lights are sponsored by DreamWorks this year

One solution is to find a sponsor for the decorations. London’s Regent Street has followed this policy for years and now Luton has caught up with the act.

After the council announced its Christmas lights were under threat, Easyjet – the biggest operator at Luton Airport –¬†stepped in to save them, although part of the deal was that some lights would be orange.

The lights, which are due to be switched-on at a ceremony on Saturday, would have cost the council £13,000 to £15,000 to run.

Despite festive lights slipping down many councils’ Christmas wish lists, they are still seen by many as an essential means of attracting festive shoppers into high streets.

Dr Alan Bradshaw, a senior lecturer in marketing at Royal Holloway University of London, said: “If I owned a shop I would be worried if there were no Christmas displays or lights, especially if neighbouring boroughs or high streets had invested in them.

“At the early stages of the Christmas experience it builds up the mood.”

Luton Airport in snow
Easyjet are sponsoring Luton’s lights and have been granted permission for “an allowance” of orange bulbs

With just over two weeks of Christmas shopping left, it is yet to be seen whether shoppers will be deterred by England’s “Christmas twigs” or unlit town centres.

But, according to Dr Bradshaw, perhaps a little less in terms of lights might prove to be a little more in terms of sales.

“Christmas shopping can be quite a manic affair, not everyone wants the extra atmosphere,” he said.

“Shoppers can feel manipulated and retailers have to be aware not to push their customers too much.

“There’s a tipping point between generating a festive atmosphere and going over the top.”

What is your town’s Christmas display like this year? Send us your stories using the form below.

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