Monday, 28 November 2011
Ever since people have marked the passing of the old year with fertility rites and the like, they have also adorned their homes with decorations. Yule was the name given to the festive feast by our Viking forebears, and it was a time when light and new birth were celebrated in the face of darkness and death as witnessed in the natural world. It was at this time that evergreens were brought into the house; a sign that life persisted, even during these darkest days of the year.
During the festival of Saturnalia, held in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture, ancient Romans decorated trees with small pieces of metal. The first true Christmas trees - which, after all, are really just another example of an evergreen being brought into the home during the cold dark days of winter - were decorated with apples, as a symbol of Man’s fall in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of tree of knowledge. As a result, they were called Paradise trees. In time other decorations were added, in the form of nuts and even red ribbons or strips of paper. By the 1880s glass ornaments were all the rage, with baubles replacing the once traditional apples.
In 2007, gastro-genius Heston Blumenthal created a Christmas meal like no other for six celebrity diners: actor Richard E Grant, comedians Rob Brydon, Sue Perkins and Dara O’Briain, journalist Kirsty Wark and broadcaster Terry Wogan. Having enjoyed a glass of mulled wine that was hot on one side of the glass and cold on the other, the diners tucked into edible baubles made of blown sugar, filled with smoked salmon mousse.
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Stop by again tomorrow to see what nugget of Christmas lore I shall be unearthing next in connection with the letter C. (There are so many to choose from after all.)
And remember, you can find many such tasty morsels of information in my book What is Myrrh Anyway? - and its American counterpart Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas.