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British Expat Newsletter: November 2016

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In this issue

This month

The nights are drawing in, Britain’s just had the coldest night of Autumn so far this year, and the Christmas trees are going up in town squares across the country. It can only be a matter of time before the right-wing tabloids launch their annual outrage about “PC gone mad” local councils allegedly banning Christmas. (I say “allegedly” because the stories are so often overblown or sometimes just plain wrong – like Birmingham’s “Winterval”, a 41-day series of events which covered everything from the BBC’s Children in Need through to New Year’s Eve, including Diwali and, yes, Christmas. It was never about renaming Christmas, but that’s how the press chose to report it.)

However, there was a time when Christmas was banned.

In mediæval times, as now, it was a time of merrymaking, feasting and drinking. From about the fifteenth century it was presided over by a personification of Christmas – for instance in Norwich, where a mock battle took place every year between the flesh and the spirit, personified by Christmas and Lent respectively, who followed a pageant of the months of the year. By the next century the personification had elaborated to figures called variously “Prince Christmas”, “Lord of Christmas” or even “Captain Christmas” (who sounds more like a DC Comics superhero).

The trouble came a century after that. The Puritans associated pre-Reformation Christmas traditions with Popery and idolatry and denied that they had anything to do with religion at all. When they took over in England in the mid-1640s they forbade the celebration of Christmas, and the June 1647 Ordinance for Abolishing of Festivals made Christmas illegal along with Easter and Whitsun. Royalist propagandist turned this to their advantage, publishing a number of pamphlets in which “Father Christmas” lamented his rough treatment at the hands of unsympathetic zealots. The OED gives the first recognised source of the term as The Examination and Tryall of Old Father Christmas in 1658, arguing that Christmas was not to blame for the excesses and abuses of the people celebrating it.

Father Christmas himself was a symbol of adult celebrations until Victorian times, when he morphed along with the festival itself into the bringer of gifts to children. After that it was only a matter of time before the Dutch and German counterpart, St Nicholas or Sinterklaas, made the return journey across the Atlantic as Santa Claus, and the two figures became increasingly blurred. These days the only real distinction is that some people still consider Father Christmas to be a distinctively British rather than US name for the same figure.

Did you grow up believing in Father Christmas or Santa? And if you’ve got kids of your own, who do they expect to deliver the presents on Christmas Eve? Join in the discussion here!

Meanwhile, of course, the Forum continues to provide information on a wide range of expat issues, as well as the opportunity to socialise with like-minded people all around the world. You can see the full range of discussion boards here.

Our latest Pic of the Week doesn’t have much to do with Christmas, but it does have a religious connection – it’s of the imposing Candi Prambanan Hindu temple near Yogyakarta on Java, in Indonesia.

And our latest Quick Quiz is a “pot luck” of various general knowledge questions. Easy if you know them, devilishly difficult if you don’t – although one of them is a multiple choice, so you might get somewhere with that by sheer dumb luck…

Write for British Expat

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Besides articles, we also publish quick trivia quizzes—five questions about any subject. So, if you’d like to write for us but don’t feel like producing a literary masterpiece, then why not try writing a quickie quiz about your city, country, or even your hobby? Please use our contact form to get in touch.

British Expat Amazon Shopping

Amazon don’t just do books, you know. We’ve teamed up with them to bring you the ultimate in online shopping—from a micro SD card to a garden shed! A great way to do your shopping online, especially if the shops aren’t up to much in your part of the world.
BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU

So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
Visit the BE website and join in with our lively community!

Till next time…

Happy surfing!

British Expat—the definitive home for British expats

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