Bah Humbug!30th Nov 2012
Little did I know when I went for my interview to become a Mercat tour guide, in the days when they just took one look at the ageing goth seated before them and said "you`re in", that my future career would involve being a drunken alewife, a broken hearted medieval countess, a jumper outer, be given vocal training in the art of opening coffin lids and wearing a mask and wedding dress for the National Trust.
But now I do feel Mercat are taking the proverbial mince pie...."research Christmas” the chief witch says...'for tours and storytelling, discover the traditions, superstitions and curiosities'. After weeks of studying mince pies, turkeys, crackers, yule logs and trees, all I can say is 'bah humbug'.
Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor to Edinburgh and when working on a novel he would often go out walking. One day he found himself in the Canongate graveyard and came upon the grave of Ebenezer Scroggie a meal man (corn merchant) Dickens misread meal man as mean and so Ebenezer Scrooge was born. Scroggie was in fact a generous man and a bit of a character, he once halted the proceedings of the Church of Scotland General Assembly by grabbing the Countess of Mansfield’s buttocks during a heated debate. Now you don`t get that in Dickens.
- Superstitions and traditions abound at this time of year.
- When making the Christmas pudding one must stir east to west in honour of the wise men and use 13 ingredients for Jesus and his disciples.
- There must be 9 dishes served at dinner and an even number of guests.
- Turkey became popular in Victorian times. Turkey farmers from the north of England would put leather foot protectors like shoes on the feet of their turkeys and march them 80 miles to London.
- St Nicholas aka Santa Claus was from Turkey!
The first Christmas cracker was known as 'a bang of expectation' and the prize Christmas gift for a poor Victorian child was a block of wood.
These curiosities and more are what I have uncovered. Do not get me started on mince pies, they used to be in the shape of a rectangle like the manger and even had a pastry baby in them. It is said to be good luck to eat a mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas, the pies should always be eaten in silence and never cut with a knife.
Oliver Cromwell banned mince pies and Christmas, I am beginning to warm to the Lord Protector.