There are a few words that are ‘thrown around’ this time of year that
I was not completely sure of and wanted to know more about them. I hope
you will put up with another post about Christmas! I just love this time
of year and all the festivities and wonder!
These are words or phrases that I thought I knew but ‘missed the mark’
and learned more about the complete definitions and explanations.
1.) Did you know in the original “Twelve Days of Christmas” that the
Four _________ Birds were not “Calling Birds?” The original English
version calls these birds, “colly birds!” In 1780, this song was
included in a book, entitled, “Mirth without Mischief.” The birds
can be interchangeable in their names. So, we now sing the more
common and the other name is long out of practice.
2.) wassail- noun. 1. An early English toast to someone’s health.
2. A liquor made of ale or wine, spices and often baked apples
served in a large punch bowl, usually at Christmas. 3. Riotous
I wondered why people could go “wassailing” when it was all about
toasting, drinking and having a riot of a celebration? The word
eventually meant to go caroling.
3.) When they say, “We will bring some ‘figgy pudding’ I wondered
what this entailed, also.
By using the definition of “fig” you will find the word “trifle”
within it. A trifle can be a cake or treat…
fig- noun. 1. Usually edible oblong or pear-shaped fruit of a tree
of the mulberry family. Also: A tree bearing figs. 2. Trifle.
(Cake layered dessert.) I also could see that when you say, “I don’t
give a fig about it!” that is a trifle amount. So, there!
4.) myrrh- noun. A brown, slightly bitter aromatic gum resin obtained
from African and Arabian trees and used especially in perfumes or
formerly, in incense. (This is one of the Gifts of the Magi, the
Three Wise Men, who by the way, are not really numerated as “three”
in the Bible!)
5.) I know this is silly but I wondered if people ‘boxed’ on Boxing
Day, this is celebrated in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada
on December 26th! I mean I wrote it on my December calendar but did
not know the meaning of “Boxing Day!” It is a postal holiday that
is observed as a ‘legal holiday’ in parts of the British Commonwealth,
coming from a historical point of view, when they would give the
postmen Christmas boxes for their service as gifts.
6.) In ancient England, kisses were given under the mistletoe as a
ceremonial act of ending grievances! I looked up the definition
and this is not included in my Brittanica-Webster Dictionary!
mistletoe- noun. A green plant with yellowish flowers and waxy,
white berries that grows on the branches and trunks of trees.
In another book, I found out that the word “toe = twig.”
Sprigs over doors were symbolizing Peace to guests; not exactly
the romantic way that we picture it in today’s customs!
7.) Someone at work asked me to look up “partridge” and explain
why this is used as the First day of Christmas. I could not find
why it is the type of bird used, but here is the definition that
did have a pleasant, sweet looking drawing accompanied with it.
partridge- noun. Any of several stout-bodied Old World game birds
related to the common domestic fowl. In North America, a similar
looking bird is called the ‘bob-white’ or ruffed grouse.
8.) turtledove- noun. Any of several small wild pigeons especially
of an Old World genus, noted for cooing.
Both the partridge and turtledove are acknowledged as “Old World”
birds, so interesting to me!
9.) courser- noun. A swift or spirited horse.
No mention of a reindeer but this was the question that my 9 year
old grandson asked, “What are coursers?” while I was reading the
“Twas the Night Before Christmas” book.
10.) frankincense- noun. A fragrant gum resin from African or Arabian
trees that is burned as incense.
This definition sounds familiar, hmmm! the same as “myrrh” in most of
the words chosen to define these.
Last but not numbered, I learned a fascinating tradition about the
Once this was a popular tradition, but rarely continued among the
‘regular’ people these days. It originated in medieval days, when
Yule logs were chosen on a specific date: February 2nd. This log
would be held in a location until New Year’s Eve of that same year.
So, once the log was chosen, it was protected and kept in a special
place of honor. It was dried outside from winter, through all the
seasons, until December 31st. This was a family custom that has
gone by the wayside. I think it would be a wonderful one to start
again, because it has a purpose! It becomes a forgiving force of
Here is how it goes… A piece of this log becomes the way to light
the “yule fire.” The directions say to use this piece of the saved
log as a “foundation of the Yule fire.” Nowadays, to continue this
or renew this meaning as a family tradition, it would include any
log could be used along with decorating it with ribbons or using
chemicals to produce colored flames.
Burning this to “ash” all the bad feeling or hard times of the
past year away. This previous year could also be considered by
writing notes on pieces of paper, folding them, with the content
meant to be the bad feelings, illnesses or hard times family
members experienced. By writing them, then folding them up
and throwing them upon the fire, any problems, quarrels or
grudges may be forgotten.
In France, the bakers in bakeries make delicious cakes that
are called, buche de Noel.” The cakes are in the shape of a
Yule log. Knowing how I love French pastries, I am sure this
would be scrumptious! I would like to have this on New Year’s