May I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year. May all your dreams come true in 2017!
The ancient Druids believed that mistletoe could cure infertility, illness and ward off evil. They held it especially sacred as it remained green even in the most harsh of winters.
In Roman times, enemies would settle their differences under the mistletoe. To them it was a symbol of friendship.
Kissing under the mistletoe was largely an English tradition. It was said that a kiss beneath it would bring luck, lasting friendship or even love. You were also supposed to pluck one of the berries from the mistletoe after each kiss. When all the berries had gone, the kissing was to stop.
The idea of kissing under the mistletoe is thought to have originated in Scandinavia. Loki, according to Norse legend, made an arrow out of mistletoe and used it to kill Balder, the Sun god. Balder's mother, Frigga, revived her son and declared that mistletoe would forever become a symbol of love and peace.
Mince pies were originally known as Christmas pies and contained a variety of meats as well as fruit and spices.
Christmas pies used to be oblong or square in shape. They were known as ‘crib pies’ because they were similar in shape to the manger. They would also feature the figure of the baby Jesus on the crust. These later came to be known as mince pies and contained ingredients similar to the ones we use today.
Another name for them was ‘wayfarers’ pies since they were given to visitors during the Christmas period. It was thought to be lucky to eat twelve mince pies in twelve different houses during the twelve days of Christmas to ensure a prosperous year ahead.
Christmas crackers have a relatively recent origin. A Victorian confectioner, Tom Smith, visited Paris and noticed bon-bon sweets being sold in colourful twisted paper tubes. He brought the idea back to England and developed it by placing a small love motto and gift inside. The 'snap' was added after he heard a crackling log in his fireplace. It was first known as the Cosaque (Cossack) but was soon replaced by the name cracker. The hat was later added by his son, Walter Smith.
The wearing of festive hats dates back to Roman times and the Saturnalia celebrations.
John is a TV/radio presenter and author living in Suffolk