Friday, December 11, 2009


Round 1
Question 1 d] green
Question 2 d] Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly
Question 3 b] Father Christmas is pagan; Santa Claus Christian.

Today there has been a conflating of Father Christmas and Santa Claus - largely deriving from the US where there has been a mixing of various European history and folklore. It's not just England that Father Christmas is predominant; in France (a Catholic country) he is Pere Noel. Other countries have different traditions: Kriss Kringle in Germany, La Befana in Italy, Julinesse in Denmark and Dedushka Moroz (meaning Grandfather Frost) in Russia. The British Father Christmas appears as a pagan figure in the middle ages. Portrayed as a merry old man he was associated with feasting and drinking and the pagan festival of Yule. He had an entirely separate origin from Sinterklaas, a version of St Nicholas, and he was definitely not a gift-giver.

The earliest reference to him as Sir Christëmas comes in a mid-fifteenth century carol. He appears again as Old or Captaine Christmas in Ben Johnson's play Christmas, his Masque, which was first presented at the Court of King James I in 1616. Christmas was described as being attired "... in round Hose, long Stockings, a close Doublet, a high crownd Hat with a Brooch, a long thin beard, a Truncheon, little Ruffes, white Shoes, his Scarffes, and Garters tyed crosse, and his Drum beaten before him."

The Romans brought Saturnalia to Britain in AD 43, and Father Christmas and December 25th probably originate here. When the Saxons invaded at the start of the Seventh Century their custom of personifying the weather elements: King Frost, Father Time, King Winter or Lord Snow was merged with the Roman god of winter. An actor in a pointed cap and cloak or cape, and draped with Ivy would represent the Season, and would be invited to a midwinter feast, made the center of attraction while toasted with mead. Two hundred years later the Vikings brought with them their main god Odin, who had twelve characters. The character for December was sometimes known as Yalka or Jul and his month was known as Jultid. From this, we get Yuletide. During December the Vikings believed that Odin would come to earth on his eight legged horse, Sleipnir. He was disguised in a long blue hooded cloak, and he carried a satchel of bread and a staff. He was believed to sit and listen to his people and see if they were contented or not. He was portrayed as a Sage with long white beard and hair.

With the Normans came St. Nicholas a Christian saint popular in Europe from the ninth century. Born at the end of the Third Century AD Nicholas was Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, the city now known as Demre, Turkey, and attended the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. He died on 6th December 343 AD. He was a devout orthodox Christian. After his death many legends accrued concerning him. He became Patron Saint of Russia and Greece, of Moscow, Paris, and Fribourg (Switzerland); of pilgrims and preachers, infants and children, orphans, scholars and students, spinsters and many others.

The cult of St Nicholas eventually rivalled that of the Virgin Mary in many regions. One popular tale was of his rescue from death of three children, who had been pickled for eating by an innkeeper. When combined with his reputation as a gift-giver, all the key elements were in place for the transformation of St Nicholas into the modern giver-of-gifts to children. The most significant manifestation of this, from the perspective of Santa Claus, is the Dutch Sinterklaas. Whilst Sinterklaas clearly derives from St Nicholas and his feast-day of the 6 December, he differs from the earlier portraits of St Nicholas in a number of ways, not least in his flying white horse, evidence that even he has been contaminated by pagan legends.

Despite strenuous efforts were made by the puritans in both England and America in the seventeenth century to do away with this character, they did not succeed. From the 17th - 19th century country mummers plays kept Father Christmas alive in Britain. With the removal of religious popery, the saintly bishop was replaced by the half pagan impersonation of the Element or Season of Christmas.

In the nineteenth century Father Christmas benefited from the general Victorian revival of Christmas and can be found in, for example, Dickens' Christmas Carol.
In the Christmas Carol, Scrooge is confronted by the a strange spirit: "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me."

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanor, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.

However, from the 1870s onwards Father Christmas became increasingly like the American Santa Claus, both in terms of his actions - he started giving gifts - and his appearance, with the result that for most people the two are nowadays virtually inter-changeable. The transformation of Saint Nicholas into Father Christmas occurred first in England, then in countries where the Reformed Churches were in the majority, and finally in France, the feast day being celebrated on Christmas or New Year's Day.

Santa first became airborne in the early 1820s and he was joined by the full crew of reindeer in 1822, in the poem A Visit from St Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore. Red-nosed Rudolph did not join the reindeer team until 1939.

Moore's poem which begins with the line "'Twas the night before Xmas," introduces many of the familiar characteristics that make up the modern Santa. Mentioned for the first time are not only the sleigh and the sack of toys but also the chimney, the red nose and the big belly.

The modern image of Santa comes from the work of Thomas Nast, an artist who drew for the magazine Harpers Weekly. He painted Santa from 1863 to 1886 and in 1869 illustrated a book called Santa Claus and His Works. The book showed how Santa manufactured toys for boys and girls at his home at the North Pole. Although originally portrayed in a brown furry coat (and wearing the Stars and Stripes - this being the time of the Civil War and Santa was definitely on the Unionist side) by the time of the 1869 book he had donned his familiar red coat.
In the 20th century, an all-red outfit with white trimmings became the norm, especially after a Coca-Cola advertising campaign exploited his figure in 1931. The artist, the Swede Haddon Sundblom, also gave him a drooping tassled red cap like those associated with elves and gnomes.

Robin Redbreast stems from the same pagan tradition as Father Christmas. The Oak King rules from midwinter until midsummer, and the Holly King rules from midsummer until midwinter. Every year at Yule, the Oak King cuts off the Holly King's head and rules for six months until midsummer, when the Holly King kills the Oak King and the cycle begins again. In Celtic tradition, Yule is the time when the Oak King triumphs over the Holly King. The Holly King represents the death and darkness that has ruled since the onset of Samhain. At Winter Solstice, the Oak King brings the opportunity to be reborn and begin new life. The Yule Season raises one's spirit and brings tidings of comfort and joy. The ritual hunting and killing of a Wren, little King of the Waning Year, symbolises the killing by Robin Redbreast, King of the Waxing Year. The Robin finds the Wren hiding in an Ivy or sometimes Holly bush.

Question 4 c] Hogfather presided over Hogwatch.

Round 2 Reindeer.

Question 1 b] The poem "Twas the night before Christmas" The names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.
Question 2 b] All of them. Reindeer are the only species of deer where both male and female have antlers, but males shed theirs in October or November, so by Christmas only females have them. Santas reindeer always have antlers according to the illustrations.
Question 3 b] A give-away advertising feature by the Montgomery-Ward department store.

The popular poem was alternatively known as 'A Visit from St Nicholas?' and 'Twas The Night before Christmas' (it's first line). The poem was first published anonymously in 1823 and is commonly attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, although some believe Henry Livingston was the true author.

The song 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' was written by Johnny Marks, the brother-in-law of its creator. Rudolph was created in 1939 by copywriter Robert May for the Montgomery Ward department store chain in a free Christmas promotional story. He later cast it as a poem to extend the Clement Clarke Moore 1823 poem. It was first sung commercially by crooner Harry Brannon on New York City radio in the latter part of 1948 before Gene Autry recorded it formally in 1949. The lyric "All of the other reindeer" can be misheard as the mondegreen "Olive, the other reindeer", and has given rise to another character, Olive. Johnny Marks also wrote Rockin' around the Christmas tree, a hit for Brenda Lee.

Question 4 c] 4 wild boar called Gouger, Tusker, Snouter and Rooter.

The elephants carry Discworld on their backs while balancing on a giant turtle. The hippopotamus is too ridiculous not to appear in Terry Pratchett. We have The Hippo: A lozenge-shaped road in Morpork between Five Ways and Losing Street, heading for Onion Gate. Even nearby residents, without the benefit of an aerial view, tend to assume that it is named after the city's famous hippopotami. Its shape suggests it was probably a racetrack in the days of the Empire, probably called the Hippodrome, in the Ephebian fashion. Binkey is, of course, DEATH's horse, Broomstick what the witches fly on, Snowdrop is the pen name of someone on Terry Pratchett fan sites and Susan Sto Helit is the daughter of Mort and Ysabell. Ysabell was the adopted daughter of DEATH and Mort was, briefly, DEATH's apprentice.

Round 3 Turkeys.
Question 1 c] The turkey was brought to England via teh Levant which was then part of the Turkish Empire.
Question 2 f] All of the above
Question 3 a] India
Question 4 c] tuppence each.

There are a number of possibilities on why turkeys are called turkeys. Some say Columbus thought the land he discovered was connected to India which had a large population of peacocks. Columbus thought turkeys were part of the peacock family. He decided to call them tuka, which is the word for peacock in the language of India.
Others say that the name turkey came from Native Americans who called the birds firkee, which sounds like turkey. Some say that turkey name came from the sound turkeys make when they are afraid - "turk, turk, turk."

These are all fairy stories. The English were the only people to believe they came from Turkey; nearly everyone else, including the Turks, thought they originated in India, or at least in the place they then thought was India. Turkeys actually came from Mexico and Guatamala, and were first brought back from there about 1520, at a time when that area was called The Spanish Indies or the New Indies. As a result, a lot of European languages, as well as others like Arabic and Hebrew, called it something like the “bird of India” (for example, indianischer Hahn in old German). In a few languages, including Danish, Dutch, Finnish and Norwegian, the bird was named instead as coming from Calicut (Dutch kalkoense hahn, Danish kalkun), which is a seaport on the Malabar coast of India, the same place after which calico is named. As the turkey didn’t reach India for about a hundred years after its European introduction and naming, this looks mysteriously specific. At about the same time, the 1530s, Portuguese merchants reintroduced the guinea-fowl from West Africa, which had last been seen in England at the time of the Romans. As it was the same Levant merchants who brought this into the country, the guinea fowl was also known for a time as the Turkey bird, though this confusion didn’t last long. The heraldic arms granted to William Strickland in 1550 featured “a turkey-bird in his pride proper” and the bird shown is quite definitely a proper turkey. To confuse thing further, in Portugese the bird is called 'peru' even though there are no turkeys in Peru except for those taken there to be eaten. Israel is the country that eats more turkeys per head than any other nation; perhaps because they call pork, turkey?

The Aztecs, who kept domesticated turkeys for hundreds of years before the Europeans arrived, had a perfectly good word for the bird in their Nahuatl language: xuehxolotl, but I've already fractured my tongue twice in trying to pronounce it. The country was already called "Turki" or "Turkeye" in English by 1275, hundreds of years before the bird was known in the Old World. So why was it called "turkey" in English? Probably because it was introduced to England by so-called "Turkey merchants" who traded with the Mediterranean region, including the Ottoman Empire (which then controlled the eastern third of that sea). A similar confusion caused another New World species, maize or corn, to be called "Turkey wheat" or "Turkey corn" in England.

Wild American turkeys (silvestris, or cousins of the huexoloti) were sleek and ravenous scavenging birds that raced from one meal to another eating nuts, seeds, berries, grapes, snails, crickets, beetles, and delicate shoots arising from many cultivated crops. Resistant to control or reproduction in captivity, they were notorious enemies of proud farmers. Fleet afoot, able to fly short distances, and properly cooked a tasty dish, they lack the proper manners to live in an agricultural society. They were, in fact, killed everywhere by European colonists as nuisance birds.

English settlers in both Virginia and Massachusetts, spoiled with the familiar, though less tasty big birds that came from the mediterranean region, immediately demanded to bring their own turkeys to America. English turkeys deriving from Europe arrived in Jamestown in 1614 and in Massachusetts prior to 1629. As European settlements spread, so did their flocks (the proper collective noun is 'rafters') of domestic turkeys. They had the great advantage of scavaging for beetles that threatened to destroy the tobacco crop. The wild cousins of the huexoloti that once inhabited most of North America retreated to more congenial frontiers--as did their native names. Thanksgiving turkeys eaten every November in America are descended not from native wild turkeys, but from the European imports, which have been selectively bred, so that the males, being so fat and barrel chested can no longer mate with the females. All turkeys are now produced by artificial insemination.

Round 4 Christmas songs
Question 1 b] The Beatles in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1967.
Question 2 b] I love You in 1960
Question 3 e] Grandad by Clive Dunn (You were probably thinking of "There's no-one quite like Grandma" a hit for St Winifred's School choir in 1980.)
Question 4 c] Dire Straits

Round 5 It happened at Christmas
Question 1 a] Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day 1977. The USSR ended on December 26th 1991, The Curies announced the discovery of Radium on December 26th 1891 and Christmas disease (a type of hemophilia occuring in a family called Christmas was published in the Christmas BMJ the week before Christmas 1947.
Question 2 a] 1813. In 1564, archery and dancing took place on the Thames, but the first real 'frost fair' came in 1683. The river froze over in December, and stayed frozen for two months. Because only prolonged and severe winters could make the Thames freeze over, frost fairs were quite rare. However, fairs took place in 1715-16, 1739-40 and 1813-14. The frost fair of 1813-14 was the last. In 1831 the old London Bridge was replaced by John Rennie's new bridge. This had far wider arches, which improved the tidal ebb and flow of the river and made it impossible for the Upper Pool to freeze over, even during the most severe winters. Nothing to do with Global Warming.

Question 3 d] Pope Pius XII (It was Pope Pius VI)
Question 4 Britain changed from the Julian to the Gregorian Calender in 1752, so that Christmas came 11 days earlier. January is colder than December in England.

Round 6 Carols
Q1 Thou didst leave thy throne.
Q2 Good Christian men rejoice
Q3 Christians awake
Q4 See amidst the winter's snow
Q5 In the bleak midwinter
Q6 O little town of Bethlehem
Q7 As with gladness
Q8 Let heaven and earth combine
Q9 Hark the herald angels
Q10 Joy to the world
Q11 In the bleak midwinter
Q12 O holy night.

Anybody get it all right?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I sure enjoyed this. I actually knew more than I thought, though not near enough to get them all correct. Thank you for all the time you took to do this. Good fun.