Pete Gillings column: ‘Christmas – It’s all thanks to the Germans and Dutch’

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Latest Community News from the Diss Express, dissexpress.co.uk, @diss_express on Twitter

Well it’s that time of the year again, I must admit I wasn’t feeling the Christmas spirit at all until I walked into the Roydon White Hart and was hit with the full English, it was like being dropped into a Dickens street about the time he wrote A Christmas Carol.

Then I got thinking, (always dangerous), how much of our Christmas is English? Well for a start the tree was almost certainly given fame by Queen Victoria’s husband Albert (German), even before him George III’s wife brought the tree with her (another German). It even pre-dates Christ himself being a pagan tradition celebrating the winter solstice with Santa Claus (Dutch) or Sinter Klass, yes you guessed it, yet another German, who probably got it from St Nicholas (a Greek).

One legend about St Nicholas was that a poor man in his village had three daughters and could not afford a dowry for them to get married. In those days if you remained unmarried you would probably end up as a prostitute, so on hearing of the situation Nicholas thought he would help them without the world knowing. He went to the house at night and as the house was locked he dropped three purses of gold coins down the chimney. One of the daughters had washed her stockings and hung them over the fire to dry. One of the purses fell into a stocking.

Today of course he would have been arrested as a pimp, trying to bribe underage girls by putting money in their stockings. The father would have been charged with living off immoral earnings and we haven’t even started on the health and safety side of it, from getting involved with climbing on to a roof without scaffolding and without a harness.

What would we have done without Henry Cole and Tom Smith? Who? I hear you cry. Well Cole invented Christmas cards in London and Tom Smith, the Christmas cracker. In 1953 he moved from London to Norwich amalgamating with Caley Crackers and became the world’s leader.

My mum and dad always called crackers bon bons (sweets) so I had to look it up and it turns out good old Tom Smith was a bon bon maker and as sales slumped he started putting them into a twisted wrapper (the origins of the sweet wrapper) with little success, but then as he sat in front of the fire when a log crackled, it gave him the idea of putting a snap in his cracker. He then dropped in the sweet for a trinket and bingo, today’s cracker was born.

So that’s it folks, Christmas cards and crackers, thank goodness for cider. Happy Christmas.




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