Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas Firsts #14 : Royal Christmas Message

In the United Kingdom and in other countries with an attachment to the British Commonwealth, it is a custom to hear the Queen’s annual Christmas message.
The FIRST Royal Christmas message was broadcast in 1932 by King George V, at the insistence of Sir John Reith to introduce the Empire Service (now known as the BBC World Service). The king was most reluctant to deliver a message on the ‘wireless’ but addressed his subjects in a speech written by his friend, author Rudyard Kipling. And so began an annual event …
 King George V delivering a Christmas Day message 
I have been watching the second series of The Crown and discovered that in 1956 for the first time ( and only time) , Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip broadcast separate Christmas messages. Prince Philip was away at the time on the Royal Yacht Britannia touring the Commonwealth, and delivered his Christmas message from there. The Queen, spending Chtistmas with the family at Sandringham House, not only delivered her prepared speech but responded to the Prince’s speech with a personal message
Her message to Philip was: “From all the members of the family gathered here today our very best good wishes go out to you and to everyone on board Britannia, as you voyage together in the far Southern seas. Happy Christmas from us all.”
From "The Crown" -  still of Prince Philip delivering his message from Britannia 
 Queen Elizabeth broadcast her first Christmas message in 1952 and the 1956 one was the last on radio. In 1957, the Royal Christmas message was telecast for the first time. She was anxious about her first televised broadcast . The microphone  was concealed  behind  sprigs of holly but  the queen’s nervously clasped and unclasped hands  were visible. 
Queen Elizabeth II-  first telecast 1957 
Author Daphne du Maurier prepared draft suggestions to help her, and BBC announcer Sylvia Peters gave her a tutorial on the “five best ways to make a speech on TV”, but in the end the final draft was Prince Philip’s.
She reportedly  said to one of her staff after the first telecast : “I hope your Christmas went off well. Ours was upset by the television, which was nerve-racking.”
Note : There were only three years when there have been no Christmas messages from the reigning monarch .... 1936 when Edward VIII abdicated in December, reigning less than a year, 1938 - (no recorded reason) and in 1969 when a documentary about the Royal Family was released  and the investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales took place. A reassurance was made by the Queen that the Christmas messages would resume in 1970... will you watch the Royal message this Christmas? 
Sources :

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Firsts #13 - Bondi Beach

If you are visiting Sydney (Australia) from another country at Christmas time, and especially if you are a backpacker, it has become a tradition to spend Christmas Day celebrating on Bondi Beach.   I can’t work out exactly when this first became a popular destination for Christmas tourists, but by the 1980’s there were numbers like 20,000 international visitors enjoying a summer Christmas Day at the beach.
For years, backpackers and Bondi Beach on Christmas Day were synonymous. The beach was transformed into a drunken party scene, as those from colder climes lived out their fantasy of spending Christmas on the beach under a scorching sun. 

A similar Bondi Beach Christmas Day happened annually until 1995 when a “riot” occurred. Media reports called the affray a “riot” and here is a description of what occurred according to a Waverly Council document.Aggressive drunken revellers mar Christmas Day on Bondi Beach. Lifeguards report being overwhelmed with 146 surf rescues, mainly due to drunken people entering the surf. The trouble begins in the late afternoon when cool weather moves approximately 20,000 backpackers off the beach and onto Queen Elizabeth Drive blocking the road. Aggressive young people (described as ‘male youths from the Western suburbs’) arrive in cars and clash with backpackers. Violence erupted and police attempts to move the crowd saw it turn on them, throwing bottles and trashing police cars. The event was described across the Sydney media as a ‘riot’. In the clean up Council removed 30 tonnes of litter at a cost of $20,000. For weeks afterwards broken glass was reported in the sand. 

In 1996, for the FIRST time, Bondi Beach on Christmas Day was declared an alcohol free zone. Waverly Council, in an attempt to maintain a spirit of goodwill to tourists, and to encourage a more family oriented scene on the beach enforces the ban on alcohol,. However, a party of food, drinks and entertainment is organised in the beach Pavilion for most of the day for about 3,000 people, while the rest enjoy a more peaceful Christmas on the beach outside. So my contention is- the idyllic Bondi Beach Christmas Day, so popular now with young and old alike, FIRST occurred in 1996 with the banning of alcohol on the beach. What is it really like? 

"We absolutely love it," says Natalie William, a 23-year-old backpacker from London ( Christmas 2016)
She is busy frolicking on the beach, showing off her full Santa body suit, hat and beard, as we talk about Christmas Day on the other side of the world.
"Normally, I'd just be at home and it would be cold, probably raining. This is so much better."
But she has to admit, not being able to drink on the beach was a slight disappointment.

Christmas Firsts #12 : Poinsettia

Today, 12 December, is Poinsettia Day in Mexico and USA. In Mexico, the poinsettia is called La Flor de la Nochebuena or  Flower of the Holy Night and is displayed on Dia de la Virgen (Day of the Virgin) which is celebrated today. Today also marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, an American botanist and Minister to Mexico who in 1828 sent cuttings of the plant he'd discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in Charleston, South Carolina … and thus began the introduction of poinsettia outside of Mexico where it is a native plant. 

When did the poinsettia FIRST become a symbol of Christmas?

Sometime in the 17th century according to legend….

A young girl wanted to honour the Baby Jesus in a Christmas procession, but was very distressed as she had nothing to offer as a gift. An angel told her that any gift given with love is a perfect gift. (There is another version of this story which suggests that her cousin was the one with the good advice). The girl picked some weeds by the roadside to make a poor version of a bouquet. However, when she offered them and knelt by the Baby Jesus with her bouquet, the weeds suddenly turned into beautiful red star shaped flowers - poinsettia.  This is how the poinsettia got its Mexican name, meaning flower of the holy night and this story  established  the beginning of the flower's connection with Christmas. 


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Arty Alphabet Days 10-16

Another week of Arty Alphabet ( Instagram challenge #everydaycreativeatoz) ..... 
J : Jolly Jesters - little handmade dolls from an elinorpeace bailey pattern.  
K: Kangaroo -  Australian applique on a background of paper and fabric with an overlay of organza and stitching
L: Lino cut print -  only my second attempt at lino block printing  
M: Mask - blackwork embroidered mask 
N: Needle cases - I own quite a few, some made by me - the beautiful beaded one was made for me by my daughter-in-law. 
O: Origami - It took me a long while to learn to do this, but finally got there, with tuition from my mother. 
P: Penguin soft toys - Just finished last week for a challenge at Gumnut Dollies Newcastle. We were challenged to create something with a Christmas theme from a free downloadable internet pattern.  The pattern comes from PurlSoho. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Firsts #11: Penguins

This year, I fell into the sentimental trap of making some penguin softies for Christmas .... and I am not the only one - penguins seem to be everywhere at the moment dressed in Christmassy costumes, with trees, bells, and all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia.   Should penguins really  be associated with Christmas?   Probably not  and not as Santa's helpers as they often depicted. Penguins inhabit the Antarctic region in the South Pole, while Santa Claus it has been established has his home in the North Pole. The theory is that somehow penguins are associated with snow, then Winter, then Christmas, but what about us in the southern hemisphere. Perhaps they are just cute? 
Whatever the reason, when were penguins first seen as part of the Christmas scene

While there is no verifiable answer, it would seem that Monty the Penguin in the John Lewis Christmas advertisement in 2014  popularised  the trend. (If you are not familiar with the  Christmas  advertisements  of John Lewis, a British department store chain, they are always abound with goodwill, love and peace  and celebrate the joy of giving. )  Monty the Penguin was 'given the Christmas he was wishing for"... 

I really don't think Monty can take the credit for being the FIRST penguin to be associated with the festive season. Think about the penguins of Madagascar in a Christmas Caper in 2005.

And in  South Korea, Japan, Britain and USA ,  penguins have been dressing up for Christmas at least since 2010 for aquarium and zoo displays. There may well be many other countries which have similar festive displays, but the Japanese penguins have had the most publicity for the daily walks in costume,  leading up to Christmas.   

While Monty the Penguin in 2014 certainly consolidated penguins' popularity as part of  the Christmas magic..  Even if penguins other than Monty  might have a claim to being the first Christmas penguin,  it would seem that penguins defy all logic and remain sentimental favourites amongst the Christmas menagerie.

Sources :