Thursday, 3 December 2009

Christmas Carols


Each day from now until Christmas day one article will be devoted to a subject connected with Christmas. Today we take a look at Christmas carols.

A Christmas carol (also called a noel) is a carol (song or hymn) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.
The tradition of Christmas carols hails back as far as the thirteenth century, although carols were originally communal songs sung during celebrations like harvest tide as well as Christmas. It was only later that carols began to be sung in church, and to be specifically associated with Christmas. Carols suffered a decline in popularity after the Reformation in the countries where Protestant churches gained prominence (although well-known Reformers like Martin Luther authored carols and encouraged their use in worship), but survived in rural communities until the revival of interest in carols in the 19th century
The first appearance in print of "God Rest Ye Merry. Gentlemen", "The First Noel", "I Saw Three Ships" and "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" was in Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (1833) by William
B. Sandys. Composers like Arthur Sullivan helped to repopularize the carol, and it is this period that gave rise to such favorites as "Good King Wenceslas" and "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear", a New England carol written by Edmund H. Sears and Richard S. Willis.
Today carols are regularly sung at Christian religious services . Some compositions have words which are clearly not of a religious theme, but are often still referred to as "carols". For example, the sixteenth century song "A Bone, God Wot!" appears to be a wassailing song (which is sung during drinking or while requesting ale), but is described in the British Museum's Cottonian Collection as a Christmas carol.
It is often difficult to draw a distinction between a Christmas carol and a Christmas song. To be sung by a church choir or sung in the street by amateurs, a song would have to have a fairly rapid, regular beat, which would therefore exclude a meandering crooning song such as "White
Christmas". A country music song such as "Blue Christmas" might qualify, but in this case it would have to be adopted by many choirs, over many years to be truly "vernacular", and so far it has failed to gain wide acceptance. The Concise Oxford Dictionary is more generous, as it defines a carol as a "religious song...associated with Christmas".
Nineteenth century antiquarians rediscovered early carols in museums. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, about 500 have been found. Some are wassailing songs, some are religious songs in English, some are in Latin, and some are "macaronic" — a mixture of English and Latin. Since most people did not understand Latin, the implication is that these songs were composed for church choristers, or perhaps for an educated audience at the Royal courts. The most famous survival of these early macaronic carols is the "The Boar's Head". Allegedly, it has been sung at Christ Church Cambridge since 1607. The tradition of singing carols outside of church influence, early in the nineteenth century is best illustrated by Thomas Hardy's novel "Under The Greenwood Tree" (1872). In England and other countries, such as Poland (kolęda), Romania (colinde) and Bulgaria (kolidari), there is a tradition of Christmas caroling (earlier known as wassailing), in which groups of singers travel from house to house, singing carols, for which they are often rewarded with gifts, money, mince pies, or a glass of an appropriate beverage. Money collected in this way is now normally given to charity.
Singing carols in church was instituted on Christmas Eve 1880 in Truro
Cathedral, Cornwall, England (see article on Nine Lessons and Carols), and now seen in churches all over the world. The songs that were chosen for singing in church omitted the wassailing carols, and the words "hymn" and "carol" were used almost interchangeably. Shortly before, in 1878, the Salvation Army, under Charles Fry, instituted the idea of playing carols at Christmas, using a brass band. Carols can be sung by individual singers, but are also often sung by larger groups, including professionally trained choirs. Most churches have special services at which carols are sung, generally combined with readings from scripture about the birth of Christ; this is often based on the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College Cambridge.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a castlefortress which dominates the sky-line of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle here since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of Crowns in 1603. As one of the most important fortresses in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has been involved in many historical conflicts, from the Wars of Scottish Independance in the 14th century, up to the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and has been besieged, both successfully and unsuccessfully, on several occasions. From the later 17th century, the castle became a military base, with a large garrison. Its importance as a historic monument was recognised from the 19th century, and various restoration programmes have been carried out since.
Few of the p
resent buildings pre-date the Lang Siege of the 16th century, when the medieval fortifications were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment. The notable exception is St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, which dates from the early 12th century. Among other significant buildings of the castle are the Royal Palace, and the early-16th-century Great Hall. The castle also houses the Scottish National War Memorial, and National war Museum of Scotland.
The castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland, and is Scotland's second-most-visited tourist attraction. Although the garrison left in the 1920s, there is still a military presence at the castle, largely ceremonial and administrative, and including a number of regimental museums. It is also the backdrop to the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and has become a recognisable symbol of Edinburgh and of Scotland.
A mass prison break in 1811, in which 49 prisoners of war escaped via a hole in the south wall, persuaded the authorities that the castle vaults were no longer a suitable prison. This use ceased in 1814, and the castle began to take on a different role as a national monument. In 1818, Sir Walter Scott was given permission to search the castle for the Crown of Scotland, which had been stored away since the union of Scotland and England in 1707. Breaking open the Crown Room, he retrieved the Honours of Scotland, which were then put on public display, with an entry charge of one shilling. In 1822, King George IV made a visit to Edinburgh, becoming the first reigning monarch to visit to the castle since Charles II in 1651. In 1829, the cannon Mons Meg was returned from London, and the palace began to be opened up to visitors during the 1830s. St Margaret's Chapel was "rediscovered" in 1845, having been used as a store for many years. Works in the 1880s, funded by the publisher William Nelson and carried out by Hippolyte, saw the Argyle Tower built over the Portcullis Gate, and the Great Hall restored after years of use as a barracks. A new gatehouse was built in 1888. During the 19th century, several schemes were put forward for rebuilding the whole castle as a Scottish Baronial style château. Work began in 1858, but was soon abandoned, and only the hospital building was remodelled in 1897. Following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, the architect David Bryce put forward a proposal for a 50-metre (160 ft) keep as a memorial, although Queen Victoria objected, and the scheme was not pursued. In 1905, responsibility for the castle was transferred from the War Office to the Office of works, although the garrison remained until 1923, when the troops moved to Redford Barracks in south-west Edinburgh. The castle again became a prison during the First World War, when "Red Clydesider" David Kirkwood was confined here, and during the Second World war, when it housed German Luftwaffe pilots. The position of Govenor of Edinburgh Castle, which had been vacant since 1876, was revived in 1935 as an honorary title for the General Officer Commanding in Scotland, the first holder being Lieutenant-General Sir Archibald Cameron of Lochiel. The castle passed into the care of Historic Scotland when it was established in 1991, and is a Scheduled Ancient Museum. The buildings and structures of the castle are further protected by 24 separate listings, including 13 at category A, the highest level of protection for a historic building in Scotland.The castle is now run and administered, for the most part, by Historic Scotland, an executive agency of the Scottish Government. It undertakes the dual, and sometimes mutually contradictory, tasks of operating the castle as a commercially viable tourist attraction, while simultaneously having responsibility for conservation of the site. Edinburgh Castle is Historic Scotland's most visited site, and is the most popular paid visitor attraction in Scotland, with over 1.2 million visitors in 2007.
Historic Scotland maintains a number of facilities within the castle, including two cafés/restaurants, several shops, and numerous historical displays. An educational centre in the Queen Anne Building runs events for schools and educational groups, including re-enactors in costume and with period weaponry. There are also a number of re-enactors employed for the general public.
The One O'Clock Gun (pictured below right) is a time signal, and is fired every day, except Sunday, at precisely 13:00. The gun was established in 1861 as a time signal for ships in the Firth of Fourth, and complemented the time ball, which was installed on Nelson's Monument in 1852, but which was useless during foggy weather. The gun could easily be heard by ships in Leith harbour, 2 miles (3.2 km) away. Because sound travels relatively slowly (approximately 343 metres per second (770 mph)), maps were produced in the 1860s to show the actual time when the sound of the gun was heard at various locations in Edinburgh. The original gun was an 18-pound muzzle loading cannon, which needed four men to load, and was fired from the Half Moon Battery. This was replaced in 1913 by a 32-pound breech loader, and in May 1952 by a 25-pound Howitzer. The present One O'Clock Gun is an L118 Light Gun, brought into service on 30 November 2001.
The gun is now fired from Mill's Mount Battery, on the north face of the castle, by the District Gunner from 105th Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers). Although the gun is no longer required for its original purpose, the ceremony has become a popular tourist attraction, and is also fired to mark the arrival of the New Year as part of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations. The longest-serving District Gunner, Staff Sergeant Thomas McKay MBE, nicknamed "Tam the Gun", fired the One O'Clock Gun from 1979 until his death in 2005. McKay established the One O'Clock Gun Association, which opened a small exhibition at Mill's Mount, and published a book entitled What Time Does Edinburgh's One O'clock Gun Fire? As of 2009, the current District Gunner, the 27th man to fill the post, is Sergeant Jamie Shannon, nicknamed
"Shannon The Cannon".

Lincoln Christmas Market

Today sees the opening of Lincoln Christmas Market, one of the largest of its kind in Europe. The following article may tempt you to pay a visit to sample the mulled wine and mince pies, it might even get you in the Christmas spirit.

Lincoln Christmas Market, held in Lincoln, England, is one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe, attracting up to 250,000 visitors over the four day event.
Held around three weeks before Christmas, the market spreads around the historic centre of Lincoln including the castle
and cathedral. As well as stalls selling goods there is a funfair with Ferris wheel, open air classical music and rock concerts and traditional events such as beer barrel rolling.
The number of visitors is so great that a circular one-way system for pedestrians around the streets of Lincoln is put into place. The route includes travelling through the grounds of Lincoln
Castle, something not normally possible without paying an entry fee.

Welcome to Lincoln Christmas Market 2009
Thursday 3rd December 4pm – 9.30pm
Friday 4th December 10am – 9.30pm
Saturday 5th December 10am – 9.30pm
Sunday 6th December 10am – 7pm

A contemporary cathedral city with over 2,000 years of history, Lincoln is the perfect place to visit over the festive period. Take a trip back through time and stroll along the cobbles the cultural quarter of the city. The medieval square between the impressive Norman castle and magnificent gothic cathedral is the perfect backdrop for the Christmas Market.
Visitors are welcomed to this beautiful city and the traditional Christmas Market, where you will enjoy cultural entertainment and stroll around 300 stalls nestled within the medieval square and surrounding area.
Lincoln Christmas Market has developed dramatically since it began as the UK’s first German-style traditional market with just 11 stalls. The Christmas Market gives visitors and residents a truly festive experience, with a traditional, high quality event for all the family.
The Dean of Lincoln Cathedral and the Right Worshipful, the Mayor of Lincoln will officially open the Christmas Market on the impressive West Front steps of the Cathedral after evensong on Thursday 3rd December, with greetings being made by a representative from Lincoln’s twin town of Neustadt in Germany.
Evensong is programmed to take place at 5.15, with the Traditional opening between 6pm – 6.30 pm.

Cool Garage Doors

A German firm called 'Style Your Garage' creates posters for garage doors that make it look as if your garage is where it is all happening.


This is quite an interesting brainteaser. It requires clear thought and logic to resolve the problem. See how you get on.

A farmer is standing on one side of the river and with him are a wolf, a goat and a box of cabbages. In the river there is a small boat. The farmer wants to cross the river with all the three items he has with him. There are no bridges and in the boat there is only room for the farmer and one item. But if he leaves the goat with the cabbages alone on one side of the river the goat will eat the cabbages. If he leaves the wolf and the goat on one side the wolf will eat the goat. Only the farmer can seperate the wolf from the goat and the goat from the cabbage.How can the farmer cross the river with all three items, without one eating the other ?