Monday, 24 December 2012

All Tied-Up By Tradition

I've spent the last few days in the build-up to Christmas watching festive films while fashioning a giant neck tie out of cardboard and stapling/sticking fluorescent yellow velvet fabric onto it. Every year I watch Christmas films to get myself in the Christmas spirit and this year, avoided the dire looking Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger but unfortunately stumbled across Noel on DVD in a charity shop. Noel managed to steal the title of “Dodgiest Christmas Film” from previous joint winners Jack Frost ( and Santa Who? ( But I'm sure anyone actually reading this is more interested in the reason behind my bizarre over-sized creation...

Every Christmas my family dress up on Boxing Day according to whatever theme the person hosting Christmas has selected. I can't quite remember when this tradition began but we have had all sorts of costumes since; My sister's are generally always the best while mine tend to be more surreal. She made a fabulous kebab shop owner (Turkish), jerk chicken (Caribbean theme), chorizo (Spanish) and Gandhi (Indian) while my cigar and Dali melting clock required some explaining. In the absence of any more exciting costume ideas, I'm going to be a giant tie for this year's Thai theme. This whole tradition may sound strange but I've recently discovered some odder ones in foreign lands:
  • In Austria, Krampus is Santa's evil accomplice who kidnaps naughty kids and takes them back to his lair in a sack so on December 6th men dress up in scary demon costumes and try to scare local children.

  • In the Czech Republic on Christmas Eve single women stand opposite a door with their back to it and throw their shoes at the door and if they land face up a wedding is to be expected.

  • In Japan, KFC is so popular reservations are required over the festive period.

  • In the Ukraine, the person who finds the fake spiderweb hidden among the tree decorations is said to have good luck.

  • In Venezuela, church-goers traditionally wear roller skates to morning mass while slumbering kids are supposed to tie string around their big toe and trail it out of their bedroom window - this way, passing skaters can alert those not already awake Santa has been and gone.

  • In Norway, legend says that on Christmas Eve witches and evil spirits come out looking for brooms to ride on so to ruin the plans of these pesky witches, all brooms in the house are hidden and men go outside to fire a shotgun and scare the evil spirits away.

  • In Chicago, the Chicago Tribune holds an annual "Scared of Santa" contest for the best photo of a kid shrieking on Santa's lap. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

“Tomatoes Almost Every Day Keep The Doctor Away”

Having chomped on vast amounts of cheese this weekend (16 types to be precise), it's good to know my favourite festive-coloured fruit will help combat the post-Christmas blues. Chinese and Japanese researchers have reinvented the old “apple a day” phrase by suggesting eating tomatoes two to six times a week makes people 46% less likely to suffer serious dips in their mood:

A woman in Germany has also given new meaning to the term “happy endings”, apparently trying to smother her boyfriend with her double D breasts:

Other recent findings from School Stickers (“the leader” in school rewards) perhaps tempts fate and may be equally interesting food for thought for my many pregnant chums. School Stickers looked at data from 63,000 pupils to reveal which names cropped up most frequently among the best-behaved children in 2012:

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sometimes British Is Best

The last few years I have decided to escape my Birthday by being abroad but as we went away earlier this year, I missed out on our normal Christmas market crawl. To make up for it I have spent the last two weekends touring nearby UK markets and alongside Leeds Christmas market I have taken in Knaresborough, Manchester and Skipton.

I love the festive season and everything that comes with it (except traditional foods) but rarely purchase anything other than snacks and mulled wine when shuffling around markets. Each year my family send individual Christmas lists to each other and there's seldom anything on there I'm likely to find in any of the markets I visit.

This year's lists include an array of toiletries I'll have to raid Wilkinsons for and some exceedingly specific items like “jigsaw puzzles with no sky and lots of interest” and “silk ties with little animals on them”. For the first time I can remember, I actually bought a few gifts from Knaresborough market and have decided it's definitely my favourite. I'm not knocking markets imitating traditional German ones but it was a refreshing change to find wholly unpredictable items for sale. Being a smaller market with only a two day lifespan, it also had a really festive vibe with lots of friendly and enthusiastic stall holders.

Lincoln market is the only other market I'd previously been to that despite having German roots, felt pretty British. Although I enjoyed Lincoln's sprawling stalls, its one-way system and tannoy announcing the market's imminent closure made it feel far less friendly than Knaresborough. Skipton's market also felt more low-key and had an array of festive local entertainment but many of the stalls were clearly regulars to the town's weekly market. Manchester is another biggie with many repeat stalls so this year's winner is Knaresborough hands down. Although, Manchester did bring the number of random cheeses I have purchased up to a whopping ten. Looking forward to tasting the madras curry cheese, Norwegian Gjetost, chilli & lime cheddar... But that's another entry...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

This Is The "News"?

Another week on and I've finally ditched the bag of old newspapers. Combing through old news I came across yet another series of “bizarre-but-true” stories. I used to have a bit of a thing for Jared Leto after watching My So-Called Life so was amazed by almost unrecognisable images of him after he's shed some serious pounds in preparation for his role as a transvestite aids patient in The Dallas Buyers Club:

As an avid fan of Groupon, a light-hearted human interest story about a man proposing through the voucher site's newsletter caught my eye. Since trying to do a Google search for Amir Michaeel's proposal, I've discovered more Groupon unions:

The start of December heralds the beginning of Christmas and the end of Movember. I was rather taken with Gillette's retro style ad campaign supporting the annual fund-raising event. If, like me, Gillette's “revivalist” campaign managed to pass you by, images of the adverts are available at:

As the festive season is now officially upon us, our Christmas decorations go up today and I'm going to wrap the first of my Christmas gifts. Having read a ridiculous story about the cost of Christmas, I'm going to avoid purchasing anything listed in The 12 Days Of Christmas – particularly the swans that now apparently cost around £625 each:

With British Heart Foundation research in mind, as we power through December towards the New Year, I'll be contemplating resolutions: