23 December 2011

17th: Father Christmas: The man who's knee you will always want to sit on

I know I am just a tad behind with my advent calendar thing, but I've been a bit of a Father Christmas for everyone sorting out presents. Except for the fluffy beard and the big tummy though, well I may have that after all those mince pies. I don't know how Father Christmas does it, sorting all those gifts out and flying around the world in just one night and this is all without Amazon remember. That man deserves a mince pie.

Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Joulupukki or just the big man in the red coat, we all know who he is. But it has only been just over a hundred years that we know him like he is today. Many people have a reason why his coat used to be different colours. Lots of people say it used to be green and then they changed it on Victorian cards so it stood out more, others said it was the Coca Cola company who changed it. I just think he saw the programme 10 Years Younger and decided to give himself a makeover. Or maybe in his green suit he was clashing with the Christmas tree to much.

So where has the legend of Father Christmas evolved from? Well sit comfortable, grab yourself a mince pie and get ready to learn about our number 1 man, apart from Christian Louboutin that is.

St Nicholas who was a bishop in the 4th century in Myra, Turkey is famous for his kindness to children and genorosity to the poor. He travelled in his red robes and there is a legend that one day he wanted to give money to a family in secret, so he dropped some gold coins down the chimney, and they landed in a girl's sock. He is the patron saint for everyone from sailors to children and to some people he is known as 'Nikolaos the Wonderorker', well that's a lot better nickname then shorty or beardy weirdy isn't it.
After the Bishop died, the legend of him grew and he is still remembered on the 6th December, the day he died in some countries. The stories of St,Nicholas (Sinter Klass) were spread by Dutch settlers in America where he became known as Santa Claus.

Now we know Santa Claus and Father Christmas as the same person but they wern't, the legend of him didn't arrive in Britain until the Norman invasion in 1066. But we didn't wait that long to have an excuse to stuff our face with food, we already had our own legend.
Spirit of Christmas PresentThe earliest Father Christmas appeared during ancient British mid-winter festivals. He wasn't known as Father Christmas then, but he was a popular pagan figure who represented the coming of spring. He wore a long green hooded cloak and a wreath of holly, ivy or mistletoe. The assosciation of holly and mistletoe and his ability to lift people's spirits are what we have taken from this ancient Father Christmas and made them part of our own.

In the fifth and sixth centuries when Britain fell under Saxon rule, Father Christmas took on the characteristics of the Saxon Father Time also known as King Winter or King Frost.

Someone would dress up as King Winter and was welcomed into homes, where he would sit near the fire and be given something to eat or drink. I guess that's where the tradition of leaving mince pies, beer and a carrot out for Father Christmas came from. By being kind to King Winter, people thought they would receive something good in return, such as a mild winter. This is when Father Christmas because assosciated with giving things, and the millions of letters to him asking for a Nintendo 3DS began.

When the Vikings invaded Britain, their traditions came with them. The 20th to the 31st of December
Santa Claus
1881 Harpers Weekly Image was known as Jultid. The name lives on today as Yueltide. During Jultid Odin, Norse God Odin took on the character of Jul, a large ederly man with a white beard who visited earth and wore a long blue hooded cloak. He rode through the world on his eight legged horse Sleipnir giving gifts to the good and punishments to the bad. Our Father Christmas like Odin is fat and has the ability to automatically know whether people have been good or bad, Derren Brown eat your heart out. He can also travel magically and to lots of places in a short time like Odin did.

With the arrival of the Normans and the story of St Nicholas the creation of the lovely magical character we welcome down our chimneys every year was nearly complete. The first mention of Father Christmas is found in a 15th century carol 'Welcome, my lord Christmas.' From here Father Christmas represents the cheeriness of Christmas and benevolence.

In Tudor and Stuart times Sir Christmas or Captain Christmas was called upon to preside over Christmas entertainment in large houses. We got out first image of Father Christmas in 1628 when artist Thomas Nabess drew him as an old man in a fury coat and cape. Seeing that drawing I already wanna sit on his knee and tell him what I want for Christmas.

Father Christmas along with Christmas was banned by the Puritans in 1644 because of the reference to the pagan figure. He went underground though and was popular in Mummers Plays coming on at the beginning of the play saying 'In comes I, old Father Christmas, be welcome or be I not? I hope old Father Christmas, will never be forgot.' Well he got his wish there. I can't really see him on the X Factor though can you? He also appeared in newspapers under the name of Old Christmas and was used as a representation of what people felt about Christmas and what they missed. I'm surprised he didn't have a Twitter account.

Victorian Christmas Card SantaDue to Christmas being banned in 1644, when Queen Victoria was on the throne no one had heard of him, sadly they didn't have Wikipedia or Facebook to stalk him then. No Christmas Crackers, No Christmas cards, no holidays off work or no Only Fools and Horses on the tv, I'm glad I wasn't around then. Thankfully the lovely Queen re-introduced it and the industrial revolution and more wealth helped Christmas, carols and Father Christmas become the magical celebration that it is today, even if the main present was an orange. The Victorian Father Christmas was a mix of all the legends and stories and was drawn as a jolly old figure in a long, hooded coat. On Christmas cards his coat wasn't distinctively red yet, he was drawn with many different coloured coats including red, blue, purple, green or brown. Not leopard print or zebra yet though.

Victorian Christmas Card Santa
So how did he get from an old man in a purple coat to a jolly fat man in a red suit. Well we owe it all to Clement Clarke Moore who in 1822 described what he thought Father Christmas looked like in his poem called 'A Visit from St Nicholas' which is now often referred to 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'. The poem did not become well known until it was depicted in a series of engravings in the 1860s by Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly. What we know about St.Nicholas in the poem combines all the legend and stories. New ideas were introduced ie. Father Christmas lives in the North Pole, has a list of good and bad children and reads letters from children. Letters to him were posted up the chimney, that was people had to resort to before Postman Pat and e-mail. It was in 1931 with the Coca Cola's Company's advert that helped to make red the standard colour of his coat. I bet Father Christmas was glad, a whole wardrobe of different coloured furred coats is pretty expensive and there was no eBay remember.

Victorian Christmas Card Santa
 It is a tradition in some families to read the poem on Christmas Eve, or if you are in my household you watch Top of the Pops 2 and eat a box of biscuits. The poem is lovely and I suggest you all read it. So instead of making you have to all find it yourself, here it is, so snuggle up everyone and get ready to feel all excited and like a little kid again.

Victorian Christmas Card Santa
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must b
e St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His e
yes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Second Hand Rose 

19 December 2011

16th December: Christmas Songs and a whole lot of lost hair

I blogged about Elizabeth's Taylor amazing collection of clothes, jewellery and art a while back in my post  Father Christmas if you're listening when the collection was unveiled at Christie's. Well after it doing a whole tour around the world it was all sold for a whopping $150 million last week! The four day sale had items fetching way over their estimate with the jewellery itself reaching $116 million (£74.9m). A 16th century pearl necklace sold for an amazing $11.8 million (£7.6m). A 33.19 carat diamond ring given to her by Richard Taylor sold for a whopping $8.8 million (£5.7m) A proprotion of the money is going towards the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. Some very lucky people will be getting some lovely presents this year. I think another quick letter to Father Christmas is in order.

Before I start rambling everyone please remember to enter my competition!! All you have to do is design your own Christmas jumper online, send it to me with a little description about your idea! For more details go to my post 12 Days of Christmas Jumpers. Your jumper will then be looked over by me and my cat and you will be in the chance of winning some fabulous prizes and believe me they are fabulous! Well my cat thinks so anyway.

So last night Mummy and Daddy Second Hand Rose took me and Mr.Boyfriend to see Christmas with The Rat Pack as a surprise for his birthday. Obviously it wasn't the real Rat Pack, sadly I don't see Frank Sinatra coming back to life anytime soon sadly. If he did I think I would jump on him, squeeze him, propose to him and offer him some cupcakes. Sorry Mr.Boyfriend.

Christmas with the Rat Pack included Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and the three amazing Burelli sisters with gorgeous costumes on that made all the men stare and drivel. I'm watching you Mr. Boyfriend. There was a superb fifteen piece orchestra along with some bloke on a piano that I must admit did look a bit like Elton John.

The singing was outstanding, they were incredible, the dancing was fabulous and the whole show was scrummy dilly umptious. Frank, Dean and Sammy were in gorgeous suits with the shiniest shoes on, they looked oh so handsome. Mr.Boyfriend did have to stop me from running onto the stage and kissing them a few times.

The funniest bit was there were all these eighty year old women whooping, cheering, standing up, wolf whistling and whaling the group, I can't blame them really. So if you fancy going to hear some amazing music, see some fabulous dancing or just want to stare at yummy men in suits for two hours you can find some tour dates here. If you want to find out more about them go here and if you want to hear their amazing voices and drool at them without leaving your computer, check them out here on Youtube. If you end up listening and staring at them all day, I don't blame you.

So this and the fact that The Only Way is Essex stars have released a Christmas single (yes you did read that right) got me thinking about Christmas songs, I don't mean Jingle Bells and We Three Kings of Orient Are, I mean more like Mistletoe and Wine and Mary's Boy Child. Before the X Factor got involved every year artists fought for the top spot to have the number one Christmas single with a Christmmassy type song, now its more like a money making machine for Simon Cowell (yes, I am just a tad cynical).
The charts didn't actually begin until 1952, but before then there were popular Christmas songs from the likes of Frank Sinatra (who else?) and Bing Crosby. The first ever Christmas No1 was by Al Martino called Here in My Heart, let me warn you its not 'Santa Baby' and it may have your Grandma running for the Kleeenex.

There have been zillions of Christmas songs from 'Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer' to 'Lonely this Christmas'. What is nice to see is that some of the really old songs like Rudolph by Bing Crosby which was done in 1950 is still popular to this day, even if there are a couple of rude versions. One of the most popular Christmas songs has of course been 'Do They Know Its Christmas'(check out the mullets) by Band Aid. A myriad of stars including Bob Geldof, Sting and David Bowie got together to do a Christmas song to raise money to help the Ethiopia famine. The song became the biggest selling single in the UK Singles Chart history, selling a million copies in the first week. Very popular Christmas songs include Cliff Richard's Mistletoe and Wine and Mr Blobby's Christmas Song which was a number 1 in 1993, god I love this country.
Other ones include Chris Rea's Driving Home for Christmas one of my personal favourites and a song which is probably my favourite Christmas song by Jona Lewie called Stop the Cavalry, I dunno its probably all those men in uniform.

The top most popular Christmas song in the UK is All I Want For Christmas is You by Mariah Carey, I think its probably the fact that a) she is gorgeous and b)she is in a sexy Father Christmas costume for quite a lot of it, I understand boys. So who is going to be Christmas Number 1 this year? Well its really between X Factor winner's Little Mix with their song Cannonball and The Military Wives Charity single Wherever You Are

I've been meaning to show you all my new hair for well, ages. I got a mammoth of it cut off on the 13th of October ie D.Day. I had at seventeen inches cut off, yes you read that right seventeen. I had been thinking about it for ages, but I was forced to get it all cut off due to me being pretty ill (long story, I won't make this into an episode of Holby City) and getting my blonde locks in the biggest and hardest knot ever because all I could do was lie in bed, watch Dad's Army and eat a hell of a lot of Mummy Second Hand Rose's soup. To be honest I was struggling to keep it in a good condition and ended towards the end I had it up a lot anyway. So this seemed a sign to finally get the haircut that I had been too much of a sissy to get. After many many hours of Grandma Second Hand Rose, Daddy and Mummy Second Hand Rose and even Mr.Boyfriend using my tangle-teezer and an awful lot of de-tangling spray, we had to cut the big knot out. So I went to Toni & Guy on the 13th to transform my hair into at least something good, so I could look people in the eye and not wear a beanie for the rest of my life. So here is my transformation:
Me with short hair and cold ears
Me with my long locks

 Please everyone tell me what you think before I dig out my woolly hat that my Grandma made me.

This is my first ever outfit post, this is what I wore to the The Rat Pack show.
If anyone is actually interested I will tell you all where the things I am wearing are from. The big silver spotty earrings are from Asos. The necklace is a Vivienne Westwood necklace. Before you all start thinking I'm a label whore, its a necklace that I was given for my 16th birthday by my parents, which I wear every day and its a bit like a good luck charm. I haven't got any Christian Louboutin's yet so I'm starting to wonder about its good luck properties.               The fur coat is the Boohoo coat that I bought off eBay which you can read about in a post that I did here. The top is a black and white peter pan collar top from Dorothy Perkins. The blue ponte mini skirt is also from Dorothy Perkins which you can find here for £12. The ochre 80D tights are from Asos which you can find here for £6, the spats are ones I bought an age ago, I'm officially in love with spats and am wishing my feet will grow so I could wear some real ones without looking like a clown. 
The driving gloves are ones I bought off the beloved eBay and finally the handbag is also from eBay. Its not one of those New Look knock offs, it is a real vintage handbag from the 40's in great condition. 

Since I started this blog it is the first time you have all seen what I look like, so now I have clarified to you that I'm not a 65 year old truck driver from Lancarshire, not that there is anything wrong with a 65 year old truck driver from Lancashire.

Everyone enjoy all the Christmas songs, because trust me you will here an awful lot of them this week and by the end of Christmas you will be able to recite them backwards. Just make sure your Dad avoids the Karaoke machine, him singing Slade's, Merry Christmas Everybody at the top of his voice with a paper hat on, isn't the best thing you want on Boxing Day after recovering from the Christmas Day hangover, believe me.

Second Hand Rose

17 December 2011

15th December :Two Things you wouldn't be without at Christmas

Christmas is full of things, stuffing your face with mince pies and trying to tear off wrapping paper mainly. But what Christmas things can't we live without? Obviously the food and drink, but what about the little things they may go unnoticed, and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without them.

Mistletoe is one of the best things about Christmas, Cliff Richard sang about it so it must be. It is a fabulous excuse to kiss any stranger you come across or to get a kiss off that gorgeous guy at work that you have been eyeing up since last years Christmas party. Just because you have a branch with a few leaves and berries on, it means that you can lock lips with anyone you like without being put on an assault charge, or at least try to.
So when the 1st of December dawns you can head to the garden centre, spend an exorbitant amount of money for two leaves and get your blue tac out to stick the mistletoe above the front door. This is part of your action plan to get a smooch of the yummy postman, but sadly instead you get the 60 year old slimy postman that is always mentally undressing you, maybe mistletoe above the door isn't such a good idea.

So where has the excuse of kissing someone dishy under the mistletoe come from? Well, it goes all the way back to the Greek festival of Saturnalia and was later used as part of marriage rites. Mistletoe has always been thought of as magical and is believed to have the power of fertility. Mr and Mrs Von Traap and Ma and Pop Larkin must have had an awful lot of it then. It was also considered to be a plant of peace under which enemies could declare a truce or fighting spouses could kiss and make-up under it. I don't see David Cameron and Ed Milliband kissing under the mistletoe anytime soon though.
In the 18th century English people named a ball of mistletoe a 'kissing ball' giving it a magical touch. It is meant to be trimmed with evergreen, ribbons and ornaments. Its not meant to be like the thin twig and couple of leaves you get for 5 quid now.
At Christmas a young lady (after all we are perceived to be the desperate ones) stands under a mistletoe ball and cannot refuse to be kissed, not even by a spotty 14 year old boy. If the girl remained unkissed she cannot expect to marry the following year, happy new year to her. Frantic girls who haven't been kissed under the mistletoe yet please don't head for a tub of Ben and Jerry's and watch Bridget Jones, even though it is very tempting.

Crackers, the highlight of the Christmas lunch, well apart from the pigs in blankets. Every year we cross our arms and pull crackers with people around the table, tugging tight hoping to get the prize. I always either end up with the end or a mini pencil. Crackers are full of awful jokes, rubbishy presents and a tissue paper crown style hat that you can never get to look right on your head. We have a lovely man called Thomas Smith to thank for introducing lousy jokes and crazy jokes in 1846 to our Christmas dinner. During a visit to Paris he came across the bon-bon, a sweet wrapped in paper with a twist either side. Thomas had a brainwave and decoded to sell similar wrapped sweets in England in the lead up to Christmas. In the early 1850s he decided to include a motto with the sweet. Many of the motto's were love poems and the sweets were bought by men to give to women, if only they were like that now. A joke about who delivers presents to sharks at Christmas isn't that romantic. Its Santa Jaws by the way.

In the 1860s the banger was added. This was made up of two chemically absorbed papers that made a loud noise when you pulled them apart. Just warn your Grandma before hand, you don't want to give her a heart attack when she's eating her sprouts. These sweets were originally called 'Cosaques' but they soon became 'Crackers'. Thank god, 'Cosaques' doesn't really roll of the tongue does it. People started to copy his idea, so he came up with the genius idea of replacing the sweet with a surprise gift. I don't think a plastic comb and a mini pen that doesn't work was what he was thinking though.

When Thomas died his two sons took over the business and the paper hat was added to the cracker in the early 1900s. By the end of the 1930s the love poems had been replaced by jokes or limericks, say hello to Rudolph crossing the road. Crackers are a staple of our Christmas dinner, along with Brussel sprouts and slightly burnt parsnips. We listen to the jokes, tut and try to casually swap our mini screw driver with our sisters mini compact mirror. We put the paper hat on, laugh at how silly our dad looks in it and of course there is always some kind of little dispute, mainly over who gets the last roast potato and strong words are exchanged all the time while you are wearing a silly paper hat. Its the only day in the year when it is acceptable to wear a paper hat while debating with your loved ones whether its world politics or if that girl off Strictly really does need a new haircut. Whatever happens on the day, big arguments, door slamming, or your Grandma nodding off we keep the paper hat on all day regardless. The jokes and mini dice don't last as long though.

online design a Christmas jumper competition, find the details  here and enter to win some fabulous prizes! So everyone enjoy smooching under the mistletoe and pulling your cracker. Just don't combine the two, pulling a cracker with your love can turn into a big fight over who gets the big part of the cracker with the mini pack of cards in, wearing your paper hat of course.

Second Hand Rose