Advent 15: Oh! Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding…

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Blumenthal’s Banana and Bacon Trifle from Waitrose, though I believe Elvis ate it first © Southampton Old Lady

p1180558At Christmas time, we are bombarded with both new and traditional weird combinations of rich eats that we would not bother with at any other time. Each year celebrity chefs and supermarkets offer shocking products to pile on the calories and get in the news – it has become more like a jungle challenge from “I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here”

Michelin Star chef Heston Blumenthal, who brought us the likes of snail porridge and lollypops made from real mice paté has come up with Banana and Bacon trifle this year to replace our traditional English one.

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Turkish delight and bon-bons
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A variety of dates

Some British try to sample every single item that is considered ‘traditional’ over the festive period, which costs a fortune and prevents you from moving from your armchair.

By no means exhaustive, there’s: Russet apples, Anjou pears, quinces, clementines, Medjool dates, Quality Street chocolates, chocolate mice, chocolate tree decorations, advent calendar chocolates, chocolate selection boxes, Belgian chocolates,

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Seafood

chocolate biscuits, short-bread biscuits, gingerbread, lobster, prawns, salmon, raised pork pie, turkey, venison, goose, Brussels sprouts (which no-one seems to be able to cook properly), pickled onions, p1140457
pickled gherkins, pickled red cabbage, assorted chutneys, parsnips, turnips, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, pigs in blankets (chippolata sausages wrapped in bacon), nut-roast, chestnut-stuffing, Stilton cheese, baked Brie, panettone, stollen, samosas, Turkish delight, sherry trifle, crisps, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chocolate Yule log, and lots of cakes and puddings made with dried fruits, marzipan and all soaked in alcohol (I’ll need a separate post for the booze, though WordPress are telling me I am running out of space on my post): Christmas cake, mince pies (nope no meat in these).

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Set fire to Christmas pudding

p1140735Then pour plenty more alcohol over your figgy pudding (Christmas Pudding) and set alight to it!  Serve these with brandy-butter, rum-cream, vanilla custard or any flavour ice-cream you fancy – Heston has brought out marmalade-on-toast flavour for Waitrose this year!

Photos © Southampton Old Lady

Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,
And bring it right here.
Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin;
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year.
we won’t go till we get some,
We won’t go till we get some,
we won’t go till we get some,
So bring it right here.

Have I left out any ingredients?

Advent 14: Silly Jumpers

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Christmas jumper party at the Southampton Christmas Market © SOL

As children we wore our Christmas sweaters all winter – They were more like the tasteful Nordic ones then only not as good crafting.

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Scene from Bridget Jones Diary (2001) 
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Presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield wearing Christmas jumpers

For anyone that has read or seen the Bridget Jones Diary (2001) movie, they will know that in the UK we wear silly pullovers at Christmas. Knitwear presents are popular and if your aunt has spent the year knitting that embarrassing sweater for you, then the least you can do is wear it to family gatherings over Christmas.

But since that film these jumpers have taken off in a big way. Sixteen years later, we now even import cheap acrylic ones from China. We have a Christmas jumper at work day to raise money for charity and Presenters even wear them on television! There are nights out and pub-crawls where it is compulsory to wear your Christmas jumper.

Here are more photos I took from the Christmas jumper night out at Southampton’s Christmas market – click on to enlarge:

Some of my favourites:

Take a look at these Cheesy Jumpers on WordPress

What do you wear at Christmas?

 

Advent 13: Floral Christmas

The Holly bears the crown
The Holly bears the crown
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Christmas flowers © Southampton Old Lady
If you're not fond of traditional Brussels sprouts then they make intriguing wreaths!
If you’re not fond of traditional Brussels sprouts then they make intriguing wreaths!
Scarce in Britain the last decade, mild weather this year has meant an abundance of mistletoe
Scarce in Britain the last decade, mild weather this year has meant an abundance of mistletoe
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Citrus and spice © Southampton Old Lady

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traditional poinsettias
traditional poinsettias

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Advent 9: Christmas Crackers

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Specially illustrated stamps are printed each Christmas this one is of Father Christmas with a cracker. The cracker has an illustration of a Pantomime Dame

christmas-cracker-drummerIn Britain and Ireland we pull Christmas crackers at the dinner table which we have at lunch time on December 25th.

Victorian illustration of pulling a Christmas cracker
Victorian illustration of pulling a Christmas cracker

Crackers may have caught on in other countries too and I’d be interested to hear from your part of the world if they have.

When pulled it activates a firecracker that makes a loud ‘crack’.

Whoever gets the longest end, gets the prize. Prizes can vary from cheap plastic charms to gold tie-pins depending on how much you can afford.

Coloured paper crown can get quite wrinkly by the end of dinner © Southampton Old Lady
Coloured paper crowns can get quite wrinkly by the end of dinner © Southampton Old Lady

One is set at each dinner place. Each will contain a paper crown, which is compulsory to wear at the table and there will be a lot of cajoling to get a grumpy Grandad to wear his. There will also be a joke to read out – usually a pun on words that will be so corny it makes everyone sigh. It is essential that the joke is corny.

Here are some examples:

Q: What kind of sweet goes swinging through the jungle?  A: Tarzi-pan

QWhat do you call two robbers? A:  A pair of knickers

This then starts the reminiscing  old jokes and funny tales. Often there are enough crackers left to pull the next day “Boxing Day” which is also a holiday in Britain.

Advent 7: Skating

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Skating in Salzburg © Southampton Old Lady

p1180637Ice Skating is always associated with Christmas in Britain. Artificial rinks are put up in nearby towns as it is never usually the right temperature, especially where I live in the South, to have natural ones.

The winter of 1962–1963 (also known as the Big Freeze of 1963) was one of the coldest winters on record in the United Kingdom. Temperatures plummeted and lakes and rivers began to freeze over.

I had a pair of second-hand ice-skates given to me for Christmas then. I used to go to the Bannister Ice Rink, near The Common in Southampton with my sister. I remember that the pavements and roads were so iced up that I skated on them all the three miles home to the Newtown area.

Advent 6: Christmas Birds

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Two Turtle Doves © Southampton Old Lady

Birds feature heavily at the British Christmas table.

The Victorians always carved goose at Christmas, but later ate turkey when Charles Dickens wrote about it in A Christmas Carol, adopting it from the New World (America).

“Christmas is a-coming, the goose is getting fat… Please put a penny in the old man’s hat… If you haven’t got a penny a ha’penny will do… If you haven’t got a ha’penny then God bless you!

A few years ago celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall featured his 10-bird roast. Multi-bird roasts are different types of birds each stuffed inside a larger one, and the more birds involved the better.

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12 bird roast as depicted in The Mail Online
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Seven swans-a-swimming © Southampton Old Lady

Whittingstall was harking back to Tudor times when stuffing birds this way was fashionable. Or a different bird was eaten each day of the 12 days of Christmas (the 12 days between 25th December and the 5th January – the eve of Epiphany or Kings Day)

” 7 swans-a-swimming – 6 geese-a-laying – 4 calling birds – 3 french hens – 2 turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree”

Since then the  3-4-5-7-10-12 bird roast has made a big come back – there is a very interesting article about it in: The Mail Online

However the most popular bird at Christmas in the UK is still Chicken – possibly because it is the cheapest yet tastiest – and the bird of choice with British Hindus, who marinade it in spices for days for slow roasting it.

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The Dodo bird was eaten to extinction by Victorian sailors. Photo taken at The Bristol Museum © Southampton Old Lady
My three gals!
My three gals!

Advent 5: Christmas Tree

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Fir tree © Southampton Old Lady

The decoration of Christmas trees were brought to Britain from Germany as early as the 1790s. Trees were generally displayed on tables in pots, with gifts placed unwrapped underneath. The tree was decorated with wax candles, baskets of sweets, flags and little ornaments and gifts. The imported German Springelbaum was the tree of choice until the 1880s, at which time the home-grown Norway Spruce became available. This made a larger tree more affordable, and people began placing trees on the floor.