Category Archives: Fashion/Style

Colour Blocking Or Colour Blockheads?

Enter- It all started sometime around the beginning of this
year, when my eyes began to be assaulted with all sorts of
obnoxious colour riots. Beginning from the Church, I saw all
sorts of weird colour combination and I’m wondering aloud
“Is today colour rag Sunday or something?” and then an
alluring feminine voice replies “No its not rag Sunday, it’s
called colour blocking my dear” and I say to her “This doesn’t
make sense!”a bit irritated she replies “You can’t say that,
what do you know about fashion?” “Oh this is now fashion..?
fashion and madness would sooner than later coincide” I say
to myself, ending the conversation with a wry smile, after
which I try not to be irritated by the myriad of ‘colour
blockers’ that assailed the Church that Sunday and simply
concentrate on GOD!
This was the beginning of many encounters with ‘colour
blockers’ as I often saw them at parties, events, weddings
etc. I remember seeing a lady wearing green dress, blue
shoes, red belt, and pink accessories with a gold clutch bag.
Another one wore turquoise pants, bright stri*ped green
shirt, a brown belt, yellow shoes, bright red accessories and a
black bag and I’m like Jeez! “Some ladies really miss their
kindergarten days” even lil Suri Cruise would do a better job.
Well! I tried to put myself in check because my mouth could
just run at times “Utter nothing” I told myself “its colour
blocking, it’s the new fashion so just shhhh”
And then as time went on, the unimaginable began to happen-
Men who are supposed to teach women sobriety joined the
colour blocking trend. “You’ve got to be kidding me” I said
aloud to the hearing of my friend as I saw a man walk into
Church wearing an orange shirt, yellow tie, checkered pink
blazer, green pocket handkerchief, milk chinos pants, blue
socks and a black shoe. I looked the guy over again to be sure
there wasn’t some voodoo effect on my eyes. My friend who
is an artist quipped ‘This is colour sacrilege!” and as a lover
of the arts myself and one who understands that colours
should be subtly and sweetly contrasted, I concurred.
Another guy in our row also said “If you ask me I think that’s
colour rascality!” “Ah thank God! There is still a remnant of
some sane people in the house” I said to myself upon hearing
those descriptions. Later on that day we saw another guy in a
stri*ped yellow and black pants, blue shirt, lemon suit/blazer
or whatever the heck that stuff he wore on the shirt was,
orange socks, a red and black sneakers. And all I could just
do was just nod in disgust. “Some of these folks should try
wearing this combo to work someday and they will surely
come to terms with the meaning of a permanent vacation” my
friend whispered, and I laughed.
My eyes almost just shut down recently on the plane when a
young girl walked in decked in the most outrageous colour
showdown of the century, her make-up also screamed in an
eerie fashion. She looked like a kindergarten piece of art- if
you know what I mean! And this time there was no stopping
me at all- I just burst into unrestrained laughter; the eyes of
others around also caught this colour blocker as they too
joined in the laughter in what later became a feverish
festival of laughter at the lunacy of colour blocking. One man
with a strong Ibo accent let his mouth run “But na which one
be this style na?” he asked, “oga dem say na colour blocking
o!” someone replied. And almost throughout the 45mins flight
everyone pitched into the colour blocking debate. No need to
bore you with all that went on, but at least it became clear to
me that there were many other people who were thinking just
like me.
One theory I gleaned from the pro colour blockers is that
many accessories and clothing just sit in their wardrobe for
ages since at times it might be difficult to find other
materials that blend. So the idea is instead of just letting
such accessories and clothing sit in the wardrobe, why not
just block them? And then I asked “why buy colours you know
you have no blending colours for?” And then I’m told that not
everyone goes out of their way to buy riotous colours for
blocking, many of such blocking materials are gifts. My
advice?-If you are business inclined- sell or auction out such
stuff, if you are a Father Christmas- give or gift it out and
keep your sanity!.
Because in the final analysis, there is no such thing as “colour
blocking” only “colour blockheads”, “colour rascals” and
“colour comedians”. Now you can take that to the Banks!

Dolapo Ajala Writes From Abuja

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Africa: Where black is not really beautiful

South Africa is marketed to the world as Mandela’s
rainbow nation, where everyone is proud of their race and
heritage. But for some black South Africans there is such
a thing as being too black.
A recent study by the University of Cape Town suggests that
one woman in three in South Africa bleaches her skin. The
reasons for this are as varied as the cultures in this country
but most people say they use skin-lighteners because they
want “white skin”.
Local musician Nomasonto “Mshoza” Mnisi, now several shades
lighter, says her new skin makes her feel more beautiful and
She has been widely criticised in the local media and social
networking sites for her appearance but the 30-year-old says
skin-bleaching is a personal choice, no different from breast
implants or a having nose job.
“I’ve been black and dark-skinned for many years, I wanted
to see the other side. I wanted to see what it would be like to
be white and I’m happy,” she says candidly.
Over the past couple of years Ms Mnisi has had several
treatments. Each session can cost around 5,000 rand (£360;
$590), she tells the BBC.
Unlike many in the country, she uses high-end products which
are believed to be safer than the creams sold on the black
market but they are by no means risk-free, doctors say.

Costly beauty
Ms Mnisi says she does not understand the criticism about her
new appearance.
“Yes, part of it is a self-esteem issue and I have addressed
that and I am happy now. I’m not white inside, I’m not really
fluent in English, I have black kids. I’m a township girl, I’ve
just changed the way I look on the outside,” she says.
The dangers associated with the use of some of these creams
include blood cancers such as leukaemia and cancers of the
liver and kidneys, as well as a severe skin condition called
ochronosis, a form of hyper-pigmentation which causes the
skin to turn a dark purple shade, according to senior
researcher at the University of Cape Town, Dr Lester Davids.
“Very few people in South Africa and Africa know the
concentration of the toxic compounds that are contained in
the products on the black market and that is concerning. We
need to do more to educate people about these dangerous
products,” says Dr Davids.
He says over the past six years there has been a significant
increase in the number of skin lighteners flooding local
markets, some of them legal and some illegal. This is what
prompted their research.
Local dermatologists say they are seeing more and more
patients whose skin has been damaged by years of bleaching –
most of the time irreversibly.
“I’m getting patients from all over Africa needing help with
treating their ochronosis. There is very little we can do to
reverse the damage and yet people are still in denial about the
side-effects of these products,” says Dr Noora Moti-Joosub.
In many parts of Africa and Asia, lighter-skinned woman are
considered more beautiful, are believed to be more successful
and more likely to find marriage.
The origin of this belief in Africa is not clear, but researchers
have linked it to Africa’s colonial history where white skin was
the epitome of beauty.
Some have also suggested that people from “brown nations”
around the world tended to look down upon dark-skinned

‘I don’t like black skin’
The World Health Organization has reported that Nigerians
are the highest users of such products: 77% of Nigerian
women use the products on a regular basis. They are followed
by Togo with 59%; South Africa with 35%; and Mali at 25%.
South Africa banned products
containing more than 2% of
hydroquinone – the most common
active ingredient in in the 1980s.
But it is easy to see creams and
lotions containing the chemical on
the stalls here. Some creams
contain harmful steroids and others
While skin-lightening creams have
been used by some South Africans
for many years, they have become
more common recently with the
influx of people from countries such
as Nigeria and Democratic Republic
of Congo, where they are even more
In a bustling African market in the centre of Yeoville in
Johannesburg, it is skin lighteners galore.
Walking through this community is like walking through a mini-
Africa: you can find someone from any part of the continent
I notice that many of the women have uncharacteristically
light skin faces while the rest of their bodies are darker.
Some even have scabby burns on their cheeks from the
harmful chemicals used to strip the skin of pigmentation.
They don’t want to speak openly about why they bleach their
skin, or even have their pictures taken.
Psychologists say there are also underlying reasons why people
bleach their skin – but low self-esteem and, to some degree
self-hate, are a common thread.
But skin-lightening is not just a fascination and obsession of
women. Congolese hair stylist Jackson Marcelle says he has
been using special injections to bleach his skin for the past 10
years. Each injection lasts for six months.
“I pray every day and I ask God, ‘God why did you make me
black?’ I don’t like being black. I don’t like black skin,” he
tells me.
Skin lightening creams are popular in many parts of
Mr Marcelle – known in this busy community as Africa’s
Michael Jackson – says his mother used to apply creams on him
when he was young in order to make him appear “less black”.
“I like white people. Black people are seen as dangerous; that’s
why I don’t like being black. People treat me better now
because I look like I’m white,” he adds.
Entrenched in the minds of many Africans from a young age is
the adage “if it’s white, it’s all right”, a belief that has
chipped away at the self-esteem of millions.
Until this changes, no amount of official bans or public
information campaigns will stop people risking serious damage
to their health in the pursuit of what they think is beauty.

Port Harcourt Carnival Pictures 2012

Some cool pictures from the rivers state carnival. Speculations are that nigerians always copy from the Caribbean culture but ours is a mixture of our rich cultural heritage (friday 14th of december)and an international parade (saturday 15th of december) Calabar city is best when it comes to carnivals but portharcourt is equally nice and ours represent a better view of the Nigerian culture

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Christmas Legends: The First Christmas Tree Lights


artin Luther was composing a sermon to preach at the Church, and so he was not noticing that he was dawdling, and it was getting very dark.

In the German woods in those days the forests were the homes of Wolves, Bears and Boar, so Martin was a little afraid, especially when the night sounds began. He hurried along, saying a prayer for comfort as he went. Then he looked up through the trees, tiny pricks of light, twinkling blue and silver. At first he was puzzled, then he realised – stars of course, lights from Heaven to guide and comfort. It was a star which led the wise men to the stable on that first Christmas. God’s light sent to guide us through the darkest night.

Martin thought that this was a splendid theme for his sermon, and, feeling bolder now he felt himself safe in God’s hands, he looked around for a small tree. This little fir tree he pulled up, and took home to his family.

In 17th century Germany, it was the custom to have a candelabra shaped in a sort of triangle. This held candles throughout the Christmas season. It was also the custom in many homes to have a Christmas tree, and often these were hung upside-down from the ceiling beams. They were not often decorated at all, just there as a reminder that the shape of the tree, triangular, represented the three Persons of God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Martin took home the little tree, but he did not hang it up on the beam. Instead he set it in a pot on the table. Then he took the candles from the candelabra, and fastened them to the little tree.

He them lit the candles, and as the flames flickered through the branches he gathered his family around the table and told them about his walk through the dark wood. Just as he was beginning to get really frightened, he said, he saw the stars twinkling encouragingly, as if God was saying “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you”.

“Gods light shines through the darkest night for everyone”, he said, “But sometimes we have to look up to see it”

Legend has it that this was the first time a candle was put on a Christmas tree. And that is why we still put lights on our Christmas Tree today, to remind us of Martin Luther’s sermon!

Maria Hubert

From the Christmas archives:



The following are based on documented evidence. It is obvious that the pagan deities and folklore go back beyond A.D.; and the custom of giftgiving was practiced by peoples of the Ancient World, thus this list is accurate but incomplete.

270-280AD Birth of St. Nicholas, who was to become the most accurate and actual ancestor of Santa Claus. He was ordained Bishop whilst still a very young man, and spent his life helping the poor and underpriviledged. He loved children and often went out at night disguised in a hooded cloak, to leave necessary gifts of money, clothing or food at the windows of unfortunate families.

c.343AD St. Nicholas died on the 6th December.

c.540AD There was an elaborate Basilica built over his tomb, and dedicated to the saint.

c.600AD The Saxons which invaded and settled Britain had the custom of giving human characteristics to the weather elements, welcoming the characters of King Frost, Lord Snow etc. to their homes in the hopes that the elements would look kindly on them. They would dress an actor in a pointed cap and cloak or cape, and drape him with Ivy, bringing him into their midst, and bidding him join their feast. He was to represent the Season, and would be treated with all respect, and drink toasts to him.

c.800AD The Vikings brought with them their beliefs in the Northern deities and Elementals, and their main god Odin, who in the guise of his December character came to earth dressed in a hooded cloak, to sit and listen to his people and see if they are contented or not. It was said that he carried a satchel full of bounty which he distributed to the needy or worthy. He was portrayed as a Sage with long white beard and hair.

I have seen no written proof of the fact, but it is probable that, like the Saxons, they dressed a man to represent Odin in his circuit of good works.

842AD First written life of St. Nicholas listing all his miracles, by Methodius, Bishop of Constantinople.

c.850AD The Clergy of Cologne Cathedral were commemorating the death of the saint by giving fruit and cookies to the boys of the cathedral school, on the 6th December.

987AD Nicholas became Patron Saint of Russia

By this time, his fame had spread far and wide, and he was adopted by many guilds and groups as their patron, including: Sailors; Children; Spinsters; Pawnbrokers. All bearing a direct reasoning to the stories told about Nicholas. As patron saint of sailors, his effigy was the figurehead of many ships, and thus his cult spread across the seas to Britain, (and later to the New World).

1087AD Italian Merchants steal the bones of St. Nicholas from his tomb in Demre, and take them to Bari, Italy. This was unofficially approved by the Church, which was anxious incase the shrine of the saint was desecrated in the many wars and attacks in the region. Also, by that time, the break between the Universal Church creating Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, was a contributing factor. The Roman Church felt that the bones of this most popular of saints should be in their safe keeping!

1119AD Life of St. Nicholas written by a Norman monk named Jean.

c.1120 Nuns in Belgium and France were giving gifts to the children of the poor, and those in their care, on the Saints Feast Day, 6th December.

1150AD Guace, a Norman French scribe to the royal household, wrote the life of Nicholas as Metric Poems for use as sermons

1200AD Hilarius, who studied under Peter Abelard, wrote the first ‘musical’play about Nicholas .

1300AD Until this time Nicholas was portrayed with a short dark beard, like an Eastern Bishop. Belief in Odin, flying through the skies on his eight legged white horse, Sleipnir, with his long white beard flowing, was superimposed over the saints characteristics, and he developed a white beard. In Germanic countries he was further overlaid with the character of ‘Winterman’ who supposedly came down from the mountains with the snows, dressed in furs and skins, heralding winter. This character was also known in Scandinavia, where the Laps believed that he herded the reindeer down to lower pastures, and this was a sign that the winter snows were coming.

Laps homes had one opening, which was both door and smoke hole. They were dome shaped houses, usually covered with skins, and usually with top openings. A reason for the subsequent romantic story that Santa comes down the chimney.

1400AD Over 500 songs and hymns had been written in honour of Nicholas by this date.

1492AD Christopher Columbus arrived in Haiti on December 6th, naming the port St. Nicholas in thanks for the safe journey.

1500AD More than 700 churches in Britain alone, were dedicated to St. Nicholas by this date.

There is some small evidence to support the fact that in Europe, street parades were held led by a man dressed in Bishops robes and Mitred hat, riding a horse, on the feast of St. Nicholas, in the late middle ages.

In Britain, each parish would employ a man from outside the parish to dress in long hooded guise, and go to each home leaving a small gift and taking back any important news of the needy to the priests.

1616AD Ben Jonson presented his play, ‘Christmas, his Masque’ at the Court of King James . In this the Season of Christmas is represented by an actor, and his entourage consists of the special characteristics of Christmas impersonate. Minc’d Pie, Plum Pudding etc.

1626AD A fleet of ships, led by the ‘GOEDE VROWE’ (Goodwife), which had a figurehead of St. Nicholas, left Holland for the New World. They purchased some land from the Iroquois, for $24, named the village ‘NEW AMSTERDAM’ (Now New York), and erected a statue in the square to St. Nicholas.

1645AD A Broadsheet appeared on the streets of London, taunting the Government by a humorous political ‘scandal’ about the conviction and imprisonment of Christmas, and the Hue and Cry after his escape therefrom.

1647AD Christmas was banned in England, and the traditional mumming plays were visited by Father Christmas, who issued a taunting challenge to the government. “In comes I, Old Father Christmas, Be I welcome or be I not, I hope that Christmas will ne’er be forgot”

1678AD A book was published in LOndon entitled ‘The Examination and Tryal of old Father Christmas’ and his clearing by Jury.

From the 17th – 19th century it was the country mummers plays which kept Father Christmas alive in Britain. With the ‘cleansing’ of religious popery, it is interesting to note that the saintly bishop, represented by the Parish giftbringing visitor was replaced once more by the half pagan Impersonation of the Element or Season of Christmas.

1651AD The State of Massachusettes, settled by English Puritans, banned all observation of Christmas. 1664AD New Amsterdam was fought over and won by the British, who named it New York. They first banned St. Nicholas, and his statue fell. But later came to accept the pleasures of the festival of the saint, not associating it with Christmas, it being held on December 6th.

1773AD St. Nicholas first made the news in the New York Gazette which referred to him as otherwise known as St. A. Claus.

1809AD American writer, Washington Irving, described St. Nicholas in his ‘History of New York’, in a description of the figurehead on the ship Goede Vrowe, as being …”equipped with a low brimmed hat, huge pair of Flemish hose and a pipe that reached to the end of the bowsprit…..”

1810AD The New York Historical Society held the first official St. Nicholas celebration, and the occasion was commemorated with the production of the first portrait of St. Nicholas in the USA, and a full description of his characteristics.

1821AD A learned professor, student of European folklore, and poet, Reverend Clement Moore, gathered together all the elements of European lore, deities and folk-characters, added them to the descriptions of his fellow countrymen at the Historical Society and Washington Irving, and created a poem which was to become the gospel of Santa Claus for every writer and artist for a century to come. Called ‘A visit from St. Nicholas ‘ or ‘The night before Christmas’ But he did this poem for his children, and when it was published by a friend, Moore did not allow his name to be associated with it until 1837.

There were subsequently many different publications, each illustrated according to the characteristics dictated by the poem, published from 1823 onwards, and while Thomas Nast has been attributed with being the first to illustrate Santa Claus, this assumption has long since been corrected by a vast number of earlier illustrations being found.

1863AD Thomas Nast did a political cartoon of Santa entitled ‘Santa in Camp’, for Harpers Weekly Journal. Dressed in Stars and Stripes Santa had joined the civil war on the side of General Grant in the North .

Perhaps he could have also appeared (being Santa, and strictly neutral) dressed in rebel gray for the South, but if so it was a private drawing as the South did not have the publishing resources of the North.

1864-1886AD Thomas Nast continued to draw Santa Claus every year, and became known as THE Santa Claus artist of the mid-1900’s.

Meanwhile Britain was importing illustrations and cards depicting Santa Claus from Germany. He was called Father Christmas by the English, following the 17th. changes, and that name stuck. He was usually represented as a tall, almost aesthetic character, saintly and stern rather than the ‘Jolly Elf’ character being portrayed by the Americans.

1860’s The English custom of a visit from Father Christmas was revived and established as the character visiting on Christmas Eve and leaving gifts for children in their stockings. Images, dolls and artwork from Germany helped to strengthen this custom.

The Germanic images showed him as a saint, in bishops robes, as a winterman in furs, as a saintly old man, often seen in the company of the Holy Child, and as a giftbringer in robes of every colour from brown, white, green blue to golds, pinks and red. Even in this latter guise, his countenance was serious more often than jolly, though laughing Santas did appear. These were usually those which were influenced by the American imagery, and intended for export to the USA.

1870’s SantaClaus began to put in appearances in Department stores in the USA and Canada.

1873 Louis Prang of Boston published the first American Christmas Card. His images showed Santa Claus much in the same tradition as the earlier American images, but with a softer, gentler look. More the saintly old gent than the jolly old elf.

1890’s Father Christmas began to appear in English Stores.

1922AD Norman Rockwell created a perfect blend of saintly and jolly when he created Santa for the Saturday Evening Post.

1931AD Coca Cola began their major promotion using Santa to promote their drink. Their artist, Haddon Sundblom created Santa in his own image! It is the Coca-Cola Santa which springs to mind now as the traditional Santa.

1948AD Department Stores in Britain increased the thrill of their Santa Grotto with train rides, sleigh rides, trip to the moon and elaborate animated scenes.

c. mid-1950’s English Father Christmas slowly gives way to American Santa Claus.

1980’s European traditions of Giftbringers begin to give way to Santa Claus. Spains’s Three Kings , Italy’s Befana, and Sweden’s Tomte in particular have all given way to Santa as the anticipated Giftbringer, sometimes even as an additional giftbringer.


From the christmas archives..:

CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS A Potted History of Decorating

Around December every year it happens – out come the boxes of tinsel, the tree baubles and the Creche. Off children go with dad, if they are lucky enough to live in the country – to find the best berried holly, and other evergreens to decorate their homes in festive style. But why do we do it? Even the grumpies, who moan and groan about the fuss and the bother will decorate a tree, grumbling all the while.


The reason is that it is inherent in man to do so. Many millennia ago, ancient man believed that by decorating the bushes in the winter time, they could make them attractive for the spirits, which they believed had fled for shelter from the harsh weather.

We do not know of course what they decorated with, maybe bits of coloured cloth, stones etc. The people of old Mesopotamia (Babylonia in the middle East, Modern Irac) put great store on fringes. Fringed garments were a status symbol, and the fringe would be taken off and put onto a new garment when the old one was discarded. Maybe they occasionally used fringes to decorate their bushes.

Later, people began to take branches into their homes to give warmth and shelter to the spirits of nature, releasing them in the early spring when the first buds began to appear on the trees. From this we get two customs.

  1. The bringing of evergreens into the home at Christmastime
  2. The superstition that all decorations must be taken down by the end of Christmas, or we shall have bad luck.

Originally, people kept up their decorations for much longer than we do now, the Christmas season ending on Candlemas, the 2nd February, which was more in keeping with the earliest signs of Spring. So we can see how the ancient pre-Christian custom of bringing in branches for the spirits and putting them out again in Spring, fits into the later medieval pattern. In the middle ages, people still believed that there were indeed tree spirits which inhabited the evergreens, and that these little spirits would cause havoc in the home if not released!

From this you can see that ancient custom did not die out with the coming of Christianity. Many beliefs continued for hundreds of years, encouraged by a largely illiterate people in a time before books and learning were available to everyone.

So how did it become christianised? In the 6th century, missionaries were sent to Britain from Rome. St Gregory was a wise man with understanding beyond his time. He realised that it was not possible to expect people to convert and change the ways of centuries of tradition overnight. So he told his missionaries to make allowances. ‘If the people decorate their temples to Saturn, let them in future still decorate them – but for the festival of Christ’s Birth’ was the message.

So St Augustine, who founded the first great church in Britain, followed this rule, and gently converted, it is said, some 10,000 people one Christmas, to the new teachings of Christianity.

People did decorate still, but as a celebration to honour the Birthday of the Son of God, and if they retained some superstitions from their earlier beliefs, it did not matter so much as long as they understood about the teachings of Christ.

For many centuries the natural evergreen boughs were the only decorations people had for Christmas. Branches of holly or ‘Holm’ as it was usually called, were popular because of their red berries. Mistletoe also was used because it too had berries which provided contrast to the greenery.


Many people assume that Mistletoe is used because of its Druidical associations. And because people kiss under the mistletoe, it is assumed it is because it was a fertility plant.

In fact neither of these reasons is directly related to the use of Mistletoe as a Christmas decoration.

In the middle ages, people used to make a double hoop of evergreens twined around a pliable wood such as willow. This made a spherical object with four side of evergreens – anything which was green would do, such as holly, bay, rosemary, box, yew. In the middle they would put a symbol of the Holy Family, or maybe a Baby Jesus set on a mossy bed. The bough later became decorated with ribbons, gilded nuts, fruits etc., and mistletoe was used again for its decorative quality.

This bough, called properly, a Holy Bough, was set up hanging from a beam just inside the house entrance. The local priest would bless the boughs in his parish at a special ceremony. Rather like the Kiss of Peace in many churches today, the idea was to embrace under this bough, any visitor who came to the house over the Christmas Season, as a sign that all bad feeling and enmity was forgotten. The custom went to Britain from Germany, where a small Fir tree top was hung upside-down in the same way.

When the Parliamentarians and Puritans under Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas and all its associations, these Holy Boughs were banned too. But people who lived well away from the prying eyes of the soldiers, in the very rural areas of Britain, still hung up a rough bunch of evergreens to remind them of the custom. Of course there was no baby Jesus, and no ribbons and gilded nuts, just a bunch tied to a hook, usually in the kitchen, where they could say that they were drying herbs, or hanging greens to dry repel flies in the summer. Secretly they still exchanged a symbolic embrace under the boughs, and some of them were still blessed by recusant priests, who under pain of death would travel around the Catholic and Anglo-Catholic houses tending the spiritual needs of their people.

Although this ban lasted a few short decades, many customs did not re-establish as they were before, but remained country customs in their new form. By the 18th century the Holy Bough had become known as the ‘Holly Bough’ or ‘Holly Bunch’. The quick kiss under it largely done as a tradition rather than as a symbol of peace. It was also known as the ‘Mistletoe Bough’ and the ‘Kissing’ Bunch’. The name change marking the change in the custom from Holy Bough to Kissing Bunch!

When Queen Victoria ascended the British throne, she, in her later years disapproved of some of the ‘vulgar’ customs associated with Christmas. So there began a new custom, each time a kiss was stolen under the mistletoe , a berry was plucked off, and when there were no more berries, there were to be no more kisses!

This custom remained a British custom for a long time, and only in the mid-20th century did it begin to spread to other countries. At the same time, natural evergreens began to be superseded by artificial decorations. Crepe paper twists and glued paper chains were popular in both America and Britain in the late 19th century, but usually still sharing a place with Holly stuck behind mirrors and pictures, which had enjoyed undisturbed popularity for centuries.


In America, decorations differed in different areas. Thus areas which had Germanic settlers predominating tended to have wreaths and candle decoration, while in areas such as Williamsburg, where the gentry supported the Anglican church, Holly stuck into the windowframes was well established in the mid-18th century.

The modern idea popular both sides of the Atlantic, of having fruit decorations in an attempt to reproduce the natural decorations of our forefathers, is, sadly misplaced! In both countries, fruit was far too expensive a commodity in the middle of winter to waste on door decorations, and only the richest and most wasteful of households would ever do such a thing.

Because of its size and wide variety of climate, parts of America did have fruit a plenty in wintertime, and while we have scant evidence to support the theory that fruit was used for Christmas decorations in those areas, it is conceivable that they might. Also, later immigrants from Mediterranean countries such as Italy, will have taken memories of fruited garlands to America with them. Which, as fruit became a common commodity in more modern times, could have been used. But for most of America, and all of Britain, who have got this new decorating tradition from American fashion, it must be accepted that this is just a pretty idea with little substance!


Fruit has of course always been associated with Christmas. In Europe fruits and nuts and gingerbreads were popular gifts, and small locally grown apples and hard pears and nuts were often placed on Christmas trees throughout Europe and Britain. But ONLY locally grown and plentiful fruits, which were later eaten from the branches as part of the Christmas feasting.


The Christmas Tree decoration began really with the European Christmas Markets. These began in Nuremburg, Germany in the 16th century. At that time they were practical markets with everything a housewife needed to prepare for Christmas – from the knife-grinder to the toy-maker.

The Gingerbread makers used honey in their baking, and in those days the honey came raw in honeycombs straight from the beehives. They were left with large quantities of wax, which they began to clean, and press into the carved wooden moulds used for making the gingerbread. In the 16th-17th century these moulds were often scrolls, cherubs and plaque shapes, which were used in the making of plaster cornices for architectural work. Later, they were scenes from the Nativity story, men on horseback, animals and many other designs.

These wax models were fixed with a ribbon before the wax set, and painted or gilded and sold as ‘Fairings’, souvenirs of the Christmas Fair. People would take them home an place them on their trees. The most popular were angels and cherubs, and it was not uncommon to have a tree with many angels on it, collected from many years fairs.

In the 18th century, a special kind of Angel was made in Nuremburg, called a ‘Rauschgoldengel’, which means gilded tin angel, it had a wax face and hands, and a gown and crown made from tiered gilded tin.

The glass ornament industry did not begin until the mid 19th century, so wax ornaments were very popular.


Glass making was done in Bohemia (modern Czechoslovakia) and along the border areas with Germany at a place in Thuringia called Lauscha. In the 17th century, glass beads were made for chandeliers and for decorating dresses. Some of the early strings of chandelier beads also were used for decorating Christmas Trees, an d a type of wooden chandelier with Nativity figures carved along its arms, called a Spinne, because the candlelight reflecting on the strings of tiny beads resembled a spiders web glistening in the frost.

Early Glass balls were made at Lauscha as end of day games. Glass blowing was thirsty work, and the blowers would drink a lot of ale. Mild though it was, by the end of the day, many were a little merry, and would have these glass blowing games to see who could blow the largest ball before the glass burst! These balls were gathered up by the wives, who would silver them, by swirling a silver nitrate solution around the insides, and take them to the Christmas markets at Coburg etc. There they were sold as Christmas balls to avert evil from the home over Christmas, hung or stuck onto sticks in the hallway of the house. This custom was a later version of the Holy Bough customs, a vague memory of keeping bad things from the house at the Holy Season.

Unfortunately, many people believed them to be witches balls, and the consequence of that is that these balls are found to day hanging in the windows of little antique shops – particularly in England, and the shop assistants will not sell them for they believe they will be selling their luck if they do!

In 1863, Lauscha got Gas, and this made glass blowing much easier. The glass could be blown much thinner without bursting, and it was possible to use wooden moulds to blow the glass into to create shapes and ‘figurals’. This idea took off, and by the 1870’s, Lauscha was exporting glass balls to Britain and America. It became a status symbol to have as many glass ornaments on the Christmas Tree as one could afford. Which at first, was not very many, except for the very rich. But by the 1890’s just about everybody in Britain had trees laden with glass shapes. Many areas of pioneer America still used home made decorations such as tinsel and cotton batting shapes, pierced tin stars and lanterns and handsewn or wood decorations of all kinds. But the fashionable East Coast Society filled their trees with glittering glass.

Europe tended to be more traditional for longer, alternating glass with traditional fruits (Germany), paper scissorcuts (Poland), and straw (many alpine areas in Switzerland, Austria etc.) The Italians had a Ceppo instead of a tree, which was a pyramid shaped shelves with a Nativity on one shelf and fruits and floral decoration on the others. Scandinavian countries had very different ideas, and used grain garlands, straw goats, little wooden gnomes called Tomte, Nisse or Gubbe. Red and white themes and many candles.


It is said that Martin Luther began the custom of putting candle lights onto trees (see the legend, Martin Luther and the Christmas Tree Lights). Until the late 19th century candles were the only was to light a Christmas Tree. There were many experiments to create safe holders, from hoops in the 18th century to counter balanced metal holders and prettily decorated clips in the late 19th century. At the end of the century experiments with gas lights (many of which blew up!) and early electric lights were done. The first electrically lighted tree was done by Edison in America, in the 1880’s.

Germany created many attractive figural lights using the same technique as for making glass tree ornaments, but after W.W.I, Milk glass lights, so called because the glass was a milky opaque white, were being made in Japan and in America.

Many people still liked to use traditional candles, and it was not until after W.W.II that Britain converted to electrically lit trees generally. Some of the nicest lights made in America were made in the 1940’s. Those made in the late 30’s & 40’s by the General Electric Co. were licensed from Disney, and showed Silly Symphonies, Snow White , and later Cinderella etc. There were also Bubble Lights which were little coloured glass tubes with an oil inside, which began to bubble as the light heated up. These were only sold for about ten years, and so are very rare today – but recently another American company has begun to market bubble lights again.


By the 1950’s most people in America and many people in Britain were using artificial decorations. New machinery, modern methods made such things cheap and easy to mass produce. The housewife generally preferred them to real evergreens, which marked the walls and trampled into carpets. Pretty paper and foil honeycomb garlands were seen in the very best homes and the humble dwelling alike, and this lasted until the new revival for natural decorations and a swing back to the Victorian Christmas look in the late 1970’s America, and late 1980’s Britain. Modern Christmas ‘looks’ tend to come into fashion every so often, and last a few short years before swinging back to the nostalgia of the traditional decorations of old.

From the Christmas archives:



Queen records Christmas message in 3D format 20 December 2012

The Queen made the first televised Christmas broadcast on television in 1957
The Queen has recorded her Christmas Day broadcast to the UK and Commonwealth in 3D for the first time, Buckingham Palace has said.

Her use of the technology comes 80 years after George V first broadcast a Christmas speech on the radio and started the December 25 tradition.

A spokesman said the Queen has watched the 3D message, produced by Sky News, and thought it “absolutely lovely”.

The broadcast at 1500 GMT will also be shown in standard and high definition.

The theme of this year’s broadcast is not known but it is thought likely to feature footage from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, as well as the London Olympic Games.

The Christmas Day address is written by the Queen and usually follows a strong religious framework, reflecting current issues and her own experiences of the past 12 months.

It is one of the rare occasions when she does not seek advice from the government and voices her own views.

Last year the Queen spoke of courage and hope in adversity. She noted the resilience of communities in New Zealand after earthquakes, Australia after flooding and Wales after a mining disaster.

Embracing technology

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “We wanted to do something a bit different and special in this Jubilee year, so doing it for the first time in 3D seemed a good thing, technology wise, to do.

“The Queen absolutely agreed straight away there was no need for convincing at all, she was absolutely ready to embrace something new in this year.”

The text of last year’s broadcast was made available as an e-book download and on Facebook.

In 1918 the Monarchy used lithography to reproduce a letter from George V which was then distributed to returning prisoners of war after World War I.

In 1932 King George V made the Royal’s first Christmas broadcast via radio. Five years later the Coronation of George VI became the first televised outside broadcast.

The first televised Christmas broadcast was made live by the Queen in 1957. Nearly half a century later, in 2006, the speech was podcast for the first time. Then in 2007 it was shown live on YouTube via a dedicated Royal Channel.

Viewers need special glasses and a dedicated television set to watch 3D broadcasts.

While the format has not taken off as widely as manufacturers initially forecast, there are dedicated satellite and cable channels and the BBC broadcast events from the Olympics and Wimbledon in 3D.

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