Tag: Christmas

The Yew Tree

Our beautiful  Yew Tree lit up at night with Christmas lights, photo by PH Morton

The Yew Tree

We have got a lovely yew tree in our front garden which we dress up with lights on Christmas. It is now about 8 feet tall and still growing.

But did you know that the yew tree has a not quite a nice superstition attached to it?!!!

Yew (Taxus baccata) is a characteristic tree of churchyards, where some are estimated to be well over 1,000 years old.:
It is believed that ever since people arrived upon UK  shores, they planted yew trees in acts of sanctification, close to where they eventually hoped to be laid to rest.
And, according to a label on a yew tree at Kew Gardens in 1993:

The Druids regarded yew as sacred and planted it close to their temples. As early Christians often built their churches on these consecrated sites, the association of yew trees with churchyards was perpetuated

Apparently, if you bring in a yew (as part of a bundle of greenery for decoration) inside the house at Christmas, there will be a death in the family before the year out. It is also advised not to take yew inside the house because it is very unlucky!!!

Oh no, our yew tree is so beautiful to be a source of such malevolent superstition.

And all parts of the yew tree are poisonous, the hidden seeds inside the berries are extremely poisonous.

Stir-up Sunday

A Christmas Pudding, sometimes cream or custard etc are added as a topping.

 

Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent.  The custom comes from when families & relatives gathered together and stir the ingredients of a traditional British Christmas pudding before the first Sunday in Advent as observed by Anglican churches.

There is a Collect (prayer)

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’ 

Also, It allows time for the pudding to mature properly for the month before the Christmas Day meal. By tradition, each member of a family or participant is encouraged to make a wish as they stir.

The pudding mixture is stirred from East to West in honour and remembrance of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus with their gifts.

In some households, silver coins are added to the pudding mix. It is believed that finding a coin brings good luck.

I remember as a child in the 1960s, my mother would traditionally put & stir ‘silver’ sixpence coins known colloquially as a tanner into the mixture. Later when the UK went decimal ‘other’ silver coins were added.

It is believed that like Christmas trees and Christmas decorations, Christmas puddings were introduced to the UK in the 1800s, by Prince Albert, who was the husband and consort to Queen Victoria.

There can be some variations of ingredients, traditional puddings mainly contain dried fruits, raisins etc. The mixture and cake are held together by egg and suet &  sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses. It is flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and or other spices. Measured alcohol is added, mainly brandy but dark beers or stout can be used.

Before the pudding is served during the Christmas meal, some households set light to the pudding as the alcohol content allows it to burn briefly as part of the serving tradition.

The pudding is usually aged for a month or more,[or even a year until the following Christmas Day; the high alcohol content of the pudding prevents it from spoiling during this time.

 

 

 

Shortbread Recipe

Shortbread is my favourite cookie/biscuit. It is a definite mainstay to my Christmas table. I love the crispy buttery taste of it. It looks simple but full of goodness and taste simply delicious.  It could be very expensive to buy so it is more or less a treat for special occasions such as Christmas and Hogmanay (New Year’s eve).

I especially like it with a big mug of hot chocolate, to which I dunk my shortbread when no one is looking! 😉

WalkersShortbread apparently originated from Scotland as early as the 12th Century but it was Mary, Queen of Scot that popularised the biscuit. It might be even named after her one of shortbread designs called petticoat tails; Walkers shortbread are the best known exporter of these cookies. Shortbread is made from butter, flour and white sugar. It is the high content of butter that makes it crumbly, which gave its name shortbread.  Short was an old meaning of crumbly.

Shortbread is such a treat that it should not only be eaten on Christmas and New Year/eve.  Below is a fantastic recipe from the BBC.

shortbread_1290_16x9

 

Shortbread Recipe

Ingredients

  • 125g/4oz butter
  • 55g/2oz caster sugar, plus extra to finish
  • 180g/6oz plain flour

Preparation method

  1. Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
  2. Beat the butter and the sugar together until smooth.
  3. Stir in the flour to get a smooth paste. Turn on to a work surface and gently roll out until the paste is 1cm/½in thick.
  4. Cut into rounds or fingers and place onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with caster sugar and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/shortbread_1290

O Come All Ye Faithful


O Come All Ye Faithful : Lyrics

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God’s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

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

X’mas Bauble from Ellis Island, New York

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Photo by PH Morton

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Photo by PH Morton

I love this Christmas bauble Peter & I bought at Ellis Island, where the Statue of Liberty is, when we went to New York in 2008.

I remember the American airport security were looking at it, scanned it and told us that it was procedure. They were actually very kind as they allowed us to take home a couple of  cans of Vienna sausage  in my hand luggage, told them it was hard to find American hotdogs in London. We fell in love with chilli dog when we had some while visiting Washington DC. The above bauble reminds us that we had such a lovely time during that holiday in 2008 .