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Five easy Christmas decorations to make with your children

Making Christmas decorations is a great way to keep your children busy over the festive season. With the right project, they can be kept busy for hours. Their efforts make great little gifts for family and friends, and can add a lovely homemade touch to your Christmas table or tree. Here are five of the best ideas for your little ones: Make mini-Christmas trees from pine cones: We love this idea from Elementary Art Fun because it’s so simple: paint pine cones green, cover with sparkles, et voila! The little plaster bases are really simple to make too – consider painting them brown to look like pots as an additional touch. Pine cone art! Perfect for little fingers. Image credit:...

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Why we should borrow Ireland's idea of 'Women's Christmas'

This time next month, when you’re thoroughly sick of all things festive, cheer yourself up with the thought that women all over Ireland are celebrating. The 6th of January is known as Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas), or sometimes Little Christmas. It’s the day when Irish women finally catch a break after the festivities, and the men take over the running of the household for the day. Just a small sherry (bottle) please. Image credit: Sinead Gleeson Women's Christmas used only to be a thing in the Irish-speaking areas of Ireland, generally the west and north west. Women would visit each other’s houses for tea and cake, chatting about their Christmas and the plans for the New Year.  In recent years,...

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Traditional, just not Christmassy: where our favourite parts of Christmas really come from

You will hear someone every year bemoan the fact that Christmas has become secularised, that we should keep the old traditions and remember the Christian story. Next time someone says this you can dazzle them with your knowledge that in fact these traditions aren't Christmassy, or even Christian, at all. Like other big events, Christmas is a collection of stories, myths and traditions from a range of times and cultures that have been squished together to make something we think of as timeless. It isn't that simple. Jingle Bells:  This song, beloved of small children and the inebriated everywhere, isn’t actually about Christmas. It’s about Thanksgiving. James Pierpoint wrote it in 1857, and it gets progressively more louche after the...

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What were the first things people decorated Christmas trees with?

The first Christmas tree ornaments were apples, pomegranates and paper roses, and by the sixteenth century candles were being used. But the earliest ornaments we might recognise were the glass baubles first produced in Laushca in Germany. This small town is the birthplace of Christmas decorating as we know it. Starting in 1820, glassblowers in Laushca would compete to see who could produce the biggest glass balls at Christmas. They were known as kugels, and the glassblowers filled them with mercury silvering to produce that shiny shimmer that we associate with Christmas ornaments to this day. They were initially stuck in the ground by the glass spikes that were a remnant of the glass-blowing process, or hung from the ceiling...

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Nine songs to decorate your Christmas tree to

The songs you play at Christmas quickly become a tradition, and certain tunes become strongly evocative of certain Christmases, or certain periods of your life. It's a tradition it's easy to add to, too, as kids grow up and add their own favourites. Here are some starters to help you punctuate another lovely tradition, decorating the tree together.   Putting up the tree Heigh-Ho by The Dwarf Chorus Childhood and memory, silliness and fun, that's the Christmas spirit. Howk that tree in from the garden or down from the loft to the strains of seven animated dwarves extolling the virtues of hard work.   Fetching the ornaments Once In Royal David's City, The Choir of King's College, Cambridge Treat it...

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