JANUARY 2ND – THE 9TH DAY OF CHRISTMAS OR IS IT?

But is it? Wikipedia says it is the 9th Day as the first is Christmas Day. But the Perpetual Almanac of Folklore by Charles Kightly counts from Boxing Day so for him it is the 8th Day and I have seen this in other older sources. For example: Gervase Markham’s ‘The English Husbandman of 1635 says:

‘What weather shall be on the sixth and twentieth day of December, the like weather will be all the month of January.’

This is the idea that the weather on each day of Christmas is linked to the weather in the corresponding month. So the first day of Christmas for Markham is the 26th not the 25th.

But if it is the 9th Day we can therefore expect the weather in September 2022 to be unusually warm and sunny. Otherwise an unusually warm August!

JANUARY 1ST – NEW YEAR’S DAY & ALMANACS

From the Kalendar of Shepherdes (illus. 1529)

We are probably too pained to think about the New Year and our resolutions but we might begin to turn to an almanac to see what the year has ahead. Newspapers and the web have now taken over largely from Almanacs. They print articles about the upcoming highlights of the Sporting Year or the Musical year and so one. But almanacs are still produced and arguably grew from medieval manuscript Books of Hours and, in particular, the 1493 Kalendar of Shepherdes which was published in Paris. Each month was described with the addition of important information for farmers. By the 1600’s almanacs were the most published form of book other than the Bible. Lauren Kassell in ‘Almanacs and Prognostications’ reports estimates that by 1660 one third of every household had one.

Not an advert but a screen shot!

Originally, they had a Calendar for each month, and information about the phases of the month, and the tides, predictions of the weather, and health issues likely to occur at that time of the year. Astrology was an important element of them. London Almanacs contained further information about the year and its ceremonies and elections of officials. And this informational side to the almanac grew, they began to include lists such as lists of monarchs, and interesting stories, verse foretelling the weather, recipes and cures. This are the source of most of the quotes used in blogs such as mine which look at all things calendrical.

Cover page of the Illustrated london almanack for 1867

So here, translated from the French is January.

Verse about January from the Kalendar of Shepherde's (translated from the 1493 Paris edition)
January from the Kalendar of Shepherde’s (translated from the 1493 Paris edition)

DECEMBER 27TH -FORECASTING THE WEATHER

On the third day of Christmas
My true love sent to me:
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Folklore is full of risible methods of forecasting the future and Gervase Markham’s ‘The English Husbandman of 1635 is no exception. He says:

‘What weather shall be on the sixth and twentieth day of December, the like weather will be all the month of January.’

Then and so on for the 12 days of Christmas. So today’s weather will be the weather ‘the following February’ and so on.

Thanks, Gervase, so January and February are going to be very wet and miserable.

This is St, John’s Day, he who was loved by Jesus and wrote the Gospel making him the patron saint of booksellers, publishers, printers and writers. Lecterns in the Church of England are normally shaped as an Eagle as this is the symbol of St John, as a writer of grace and power, and a messenger of Authority from God.

Black and white advert for a lectern with an eagle at the top from 19th Century Ecclesiastical Suppliers Catalogue
19th Century Ecclesiastical Suppliers Catalogue

Remember, on 2nd January 7.30 I am doing my annual ‘Ring in the New Year’ virtual walk where I look at all things new year. To see more details click here:

DECEMBER 21ST WINTER SOLSTICE

Mass Clock Steventon

The Sun is at its lowest at midday; the sun rises and sets at its most southerly. If it continues, life will be extinguished as the world has no light and no heat.

But on this day the Sun begins its rebirth, it begins to rise further north each day, the Sun at noon is higher, its sets further north. so the days are longer.

Symbolically, solstice is an ending as well as a beginning; a turning point and a promise by the Deity that the world will continue. It will turn, the wheel will turn. Warmth and growth will return. Buds already growing in the earth will break out and bring new growth

Culturally, its a time to have a party before the weather gets really cold, its a time to evaluate your life and begin, like the sun, a new and hopefully better cycle.

Note. so if the Sun is at its shortest and weakest why is not the coldest time of the year? That is because the earth and particularly the oceans retain the heat of the Sun, and so the coldest time is at the end of January.

HAPPY EPONALIA – DECEMBER 18TH

Roman Horse from Bunwell, Norfolk. Illustration by Sue Walker

I’ve been too busy working on my Jane Austen and Christmas Virtual Tour (Sunday 19th December 7.30) to post over the last few days. And I have, therefore, shamelessly stolen this post off my facebook friend Sue Walker, who is a talented archaeological illustrator, artist and a very good photographer.

She wrote: ‘the 18th December is the festival of the Celtic goddess Epona, the protector of horses she was adopted by the Romans and became a favourite with the cavalry. This finely sculpted bronze horse with a head dress and symbol on its chest is 37mm high – found in Bunwell #Norfolk #Archaeology’

DECEMBER 7TH – 9TH – ROSEMARY & ROBINS

Rosemary from the Author’s garden

According to the Perpetual Almanac by Charles Kightly this is the time when Robins are much to be seen singing their winter song, and when it is time to protect plants, particularly Rosemary against winter frosts.

Rosemary was one of the most important plants at least metaphorically. Mrs Grieve, in her ‘Modern Herbal’ says it is used in medicine for illnesses of the brain and was thought to strengthen the memory. And as they help the memory, they are symbolically useful for friendship, love, worship. At Christmas it was used to bedeck the house; at Weddings it was entwined in the Bride’s wreath; but also used at funerals to remember the dead.

Being evergreen it was associated with religion and everlasting life, and called the rose of the Virgin Mary it was especially important for Christmas. A branch of Rosemary was given as a gift to wedding guests, so they would remember the love shown at the ceremony and have loyalty to the couple. Its strong aroma means it was used as a incense and also used in magic spells.

Thomas More let it ‘runne all over my garden walls’ because bees love it and as sacred to remembrance therefore to friendship.

DECEMBER – THE MONTH OF ADVENT OF ‘EXPECTANT WAITING’ LOOKING FORWARD TO CHRISTMAS, YULE, SATURNALIA SOLSTICE

Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. This year it was Sunday 28th November but it can be as last as 3rd December.

Advent divides the world into those who love to plan; who love to anticipate and people like me who buy all my presents in a mad flurry on Christmas Eve. Surely, my nephew will like the Arsenal Yearbook, my father ‘The History of the Spitfire’ and my brother the remastered version of the early Fleetwood Mac LP that I have, he tells me, already bought him three times. (In my defence, not the middle-of-the -road Fleetwood Mac but the one with Peter Green in it and capable of the Green Manalishi).

In my mind, people should be heavily fined for mentioning the C-word before December, and whipped, for mentioning the X word at all. So, not sure advent is my favourite time of the year.

Epulum Jovis – The Capitoline Cult

Capitoline Triad – Museum of Guidonia (Wikipedia)

This was the second festival in the year dedicated to the three most important deities in the Roman pantheon. Jupiter the Sky God, God of Justice, God of Rome. His wife and sister, ‘Queen’ Juno, protector of women. Minerva, Daughter of Jupiter. Goddess of Wisdom and Craft.

The main Temple was in Rome on the Capitoline Hill, known as aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini (“Temple of Jupiter Best and Greatest on the Capitoline”). Similar temples spread throughout the Roman world, normally with a triple cella (inner sanctum) to allow separation of worship between the three cults.

In London, a temple was discovered to the west of the first Forum (built AD 75). There is no clue as to its dedication, but the Capitoline Cult has been suggested as well as for the Cult of the Emperor.

Painting of the Roman Forum of London from the air
Painting of the Roman Forum of London from the air (Note Temple on the left)

Originally posted on November 12th, 2021. Revised November 15, 2023

NOVEMBER 27th – NOVEMBER 30TH St Andrews

27th November – Eels now in Season.

Eel Pie Island . Ordnance Survey In 1871 to 1882 map series (OS, 1st series at 1:10560: Surrey (Wikipedia)

Sad loss of a East End Jellied Eels outlet (author's copyright)
photo of sold sign on Pie and Mashshop F Cooke in Broadway market
Sad loss of a East End Jellied Eels outlet (author’s copyright)

28th November – Time to Wed before Advent

Traditionally, you could not marry after Advent and before 12th Night. So now might be the last chance to marry before that bump gets too big!

19th Century Illustration (Author’s Copyright)

Wedding dresses were traditionally whatever really pretty dress you had. White only became de rigueur once Queen Victoria worn one, and the costs of material reduced because of mass production.

29th November To make a Dish of Snow

Thanks to Zdenek Machacek -unsplash

Snow is increasingly possible, and if you are keen to see some – try this medieval recipe:

To make a dish of Snowe / Take a potte of sweete thicke creme and the white of eight egges and beate them altogether with a spoone then putte them into your creame with a dish full of Rose Water and a dishfull of Sugar withall then take a sticke and make it cleane and then cutt it in the ende fowre square and therewith beate all the aforesayd thinges together and ever as it ariseth take it of and putte it into a Cullander thys done take a platter and set an aple in the middest of it and sticke a thicke bush of Rosemarye in the apple then cast your snowe upon the rosemarye and fill your platter therewith and if you have wafers cast some withall and thus serve them forth

From Medieval Manuscripts Blog. https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/medieval-history/page/2/

30th November St Andrew’s Day

One of the first Apostles. It seems all Christian martyrs have to be killed in a different grizzly way and Andrew was martyred on a X-shaped cross. As he was formerly a simple fisherman so patron of fishermen.

Celebrate with a Haggis and a Whisky!

In Kent and Sussex Andrewtide gave the right to hunt squirrels, and in Hasted’s History of Kent (1782) it allowed the ‘lower kind’ to form a lawless rabble hunting any manner of hares, partridges and pheasants.

The sort of squirrel that might deserve hunting? Cheeky devil.

RING IN THE EQUINOX VIRTUAL WALK

This walk has finished but will be repeated next year.

Listen to Podcast


Tuesday 21st September 2021 7.30pm

Druids on Tower Hill for the Equinox
Druids on Tower Hill for the Equinox


On this walk we look at London at the Equinox, its calendars, folklore and events associated with the beginning of Autumn


The Ancient Britons divided up the year according to the major movements of the Sun and the Moon. On this tour we look at the Equinox and the various calendars associated with the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn, from the prehistoric period to the present.

We walk around the City of London in search of evidence of how the celestial bodies affects our legal, financial, religious, educational, political, agricultural and human systems. We look at different calendars such as the Pagan year, the Egyptian year, the Roman year, the Christian year, the Jewish year, as well as the various secular years, and explore how they began and how they relate to each other.

On the route we examine folk traditions & customs, festivals and events. We find interesting and historic places in the City of London to link to our stories of the Equinox. We begin at Borough Market and walk over the Thames on London Bridge and explore the City of London and the calendars that have ruled it over the millennia.

To Book:


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