Whilst this may have fallen out of favour and children are given their presents at home, the idea behind a centralised group or charity doing this is very much in the spirit of Saint Nicolas of Myra's secret gift giving.
Because where you have children who have nothing, this way, they would get a present
But behind the random acts of kindness in Saint Nicolas of Myra's history, we now have a Father Christmas or Santa Claus who has lists of naughty or nice children where those on the bad list get lumps of coal.
For me, I like to think of a few years ago when I helped to wrap up presents at the local Salvation Army. These were being given to families who really have nothing at Christmas. All said that they were from Father Christmas.
For those children who have nothing, a present that their parents didn't have to worry about affording, was literally a God send.
Whilst Christmas has become commercialised, so has Father Christmas.
A Visit from St. Nicolas by Clement Clarke Moore, published in the early 1820s, brings us the idea of reindeer and also names them. And as this idea of the personification of Merry Christmas merged with the man in the red suit, so he starts to appear in commercials.
By1931, Coca-Cola commissioned ilustration Haddon Sundblom to paint Sanata for Christmas adverts and the trend was born.
In 1939, Montgomery Ward, a Chicago based department store commissioned ad man Robert L. May to create a colouring book as an instore holiday giveaway. The book; Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer inspired the Jonny Marks song of the say name. May was Mark's brother-in-law.
In the same article that I've linked about Montgomery Ward, the author suggests you search Santa and cigarette ads on google. Don't. You will be horrified to see the number of times Santa was used to promote smoking.
Amongst all the commercialism, I'm reminded of a couple of years ago when I went to the local Salvation Army and wrapped up presents for families who literally had nothing at Christmas.
These gifts, for their children, were marked as from Father Christmas and embodied the real spirit of Saint Nicolas, giving secretly to people who need it.
Today, was a Spa day, a present from work for our team after completing a massive project.
I was all warm and relaxed from my massage, snuggled in my complimentary robe, knitting and doing my other favourite activity, in these situations; listening to snatches of conversations.
The two ladies, opposite we’re talking about Christmas and work secret Santas. One of them asked if the other if they knew of this German tradition where you take a nice, unwanted gift, wrap it and then you play a game to see who will get which gift.
Of course, there is nothing stopping you from creating your own rules to fit who you are playing with.
The idea of making New Year's resolutions goes back to ancient times when people would make promises to the gods to improve their behaviour or to atone for past misdeeds.
The ancient Babylonians are believed to be the first civilization to make New Year's resolutions, and they would make promises to their gods to pay their debts and return borrowed objects.
In ancient Rome, the custom was to would make promises to the god Janus, who was the god of beginnings and endings. They believed that by making resolutions and keeping them, they could bring good luck and prosperity in the new year.
The modern tradition of making New Year's resolutions has its roots in these ancient customs.
Today, people around the world make resolutions as a way of setting goals and making positive changes in their lives. Some common New Year's resolutions include resolving to lose weight, quit smoking, save money, or spend more time with family and friends.
In 2020, the New York Post reported that:
Feb. 1 is the day we call it quits on our New Year’s resolutions, according to new research.
A new poll of 2,000 Americans found that it takes just 32 days for the average person to finally break their resolution(s) — but 68% report giving up their resolutions even sooner than that.
In fact, one in seven Americans never actually believe they’ll see their resolution through in the first place.
The top reason our resolutions don’t stick is a self-aware lack of discipline (52%), followed by busy schedules and lacking the proper time to see them through (43%).
Nowadays, people will often decide to take part in national initiatives in order keep their motivation up. After the excesses of Christmas Dry January or Veganuary may seem attractive. And you will start to see posts on social media where people will tell you all about what they are planning on doing. The idea is that by making your resolution public, you are more likely to keep to it as it puts peer / social pressure on you.
12% of all new gym members join in January [IHRSA - 2019] but by February the memberships are normally gathering dust in someone's wallet.
Studies show that only about 25% of those who make resolutions fail at the 1 week mark, with another 40% reporting failure at 1 month. And those who fail at keeping their resolutions experience lowered self-esteem, sadness and depression.
My 2023 Resolutions
So, I've decided to make some resolutions that I can keep and that will help me with my self-esteem, happiness and wellbeing.
1. Be creative
When you battle with depression, anxiety and, in my case, imposter syndrome, then it's easy to just stop creating.
So, for 2023, I am resolving to enjoy being creative.
There are so many free knitting and crochet patterns out there that you can become overwhelmed with what to choose for your next project. Looking at my fabric stash there are so many projects I could make but I just walk away and don't make anything.
I'm going to go with the flow.
I look at my Ravelry projects and it is reassuring to see all the things I've knitted and crocheted these past few years. I learnt to crochet in March 2013 when I made 72 flowers as part of a flower bombing at the Radcliffe Camera. Then, in 2017 I taught myself to knit. I have also made and taught lacemaking since 1988. Creating things gives me an immense sense of satisfaction. Not just from the finish item, but from the process of choosing what to make and that act of creation.
This year I've made things that I've liked the look of, used interesting materials or taught me a new skill. I've made things using my stash and also made things where I've bought the yarn and materials for.
I'm going to go into 2023 and make things that bring me pleasure.
2. Be a little selfish
I have been conditioned to put other people first. My father used to tell me how I was born to look after him in his old age ... After all, that's why you have children!
So, in 2023, I'm going to be a little bit selfish. At my work, I'm encouraged to put time in my diary each month for self-study and professional development.
I'm going to do that in my personal life. I'm going to put time aside to read, to make and to listen to music.
3. Do little things to make you happy
It's likely that my sister won't remember this, but she gave me a piece of advice just before my 30th birthday. She told me to always have a bottle of champagne in the fridge so that I had a cold bottle ready to celebrate anything or to cheer myself up.
So, I bought a bottle and put it in my fridge on my 30th birthday. Since then, there has been a bottle of fizz in my fridge until I took it out the week before Xmas when the fridge broke. It's not the same one, I just replace it when it gets used.
I don't drink much these days. I've just got out of the habit. But on the last working day before Christmas, we had a Christmas Quiz and drinks. I treated myself to a can of Pimms and it was wonderful to relax with my colleagues over video, answers silly quizzes and have a drink together.
Each night, just before I go to bed, I have a quick spritz of Eau de Jardins (Clarins) as I love the smell and it reminds me of good times with my sister.
So, I'm going to keep a stash of my favourite fruit tea to indulge myself when I want a pick me up and I'm not going to save the posh shower gel anymore. I'm going to use it as a treat once a week.
Some of this year's makes
Wassail is a traditional drink that is associated with the Christmas season in many parts of the world.
A hot, spiced punch, wassail can be made from a variety of ingredients, including apples, oranges, spices, and ale or wine.
Traditionally, it was served from a communal bowl and was meant to be shared among friends and family.
The origins of wassail can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where it was used as a way to celebrate the winter solstice and welcome in the new year. In the Middle Ages, wassail was a popular drink during the holiday season, and it was often served at Christmas feasts and celebrations.
In some parts of the world, it is traditional to go wassailing, which involves visiting friends and neighbours and singing carols while carrying a bowl of wassail. The tradition of wassailing is still practiced in some areas and is seen as a way of spreading good cheer and celebrating the holiday season.
If you fancy a warm, spiced drink for the New Year, but prefer something non alcoholic, then I highly recommend this recipe that was developed for me, when I ran the cook school, by a wonderful lady called Judith.
Judith's Fruit Punch
The Christmas Spider is a Ukrainian folk tale that tells the story of a poor family who couldn't afford to decorate their Christmas tree. One evening, a spider crawled up the tree and began spinning webs all over it. When the family woke up on Christmas morning, they saw that the spider had turned the tree into a beautiful, shimmering work of art, covered in silver and gold webs.
In the story, the spider is seen as a symbol of hope and perseverance, reminding us that even in difficult times, we can find beauty and joy. The story is often used to teach children about the value of hard work and the importance of being grateful for what we have.
In Ukrainian tradition, it is also believed that the Christmas Spider brings good luck to the household and protects against evil spirits. Some people even hang small, spider-shaped ornaments on their Christmas trees toto honour this tradition
The Yule or Christmas Cat is a figure from Icelandic folklore. According to legend, the Christmas Cat is a large, black feline that lurks around homes on Christmas Eve, waiting to pounce on anyone who has not received new clothing as a gift. The story is meant to encourage people to be generous and give gifts to others, particularly during the holiday season.
In Icelandic tradition, it is believed that the Christmas Cat is the pet of the Yule Lads, a group of mischievous, gift-giving figures who visit homes during the Christmas season. The Yule Lads are said to leave small presents or treats in the shoes of children who have been good, and rotten potatoes in the shoes of children who have been naughty.
There are many variations of the Christmas Cat legend, and it is not as well-known or widely celebrated as some other Christmas traditions. However, the story serves as a reminder of the importance of giving and sharing with others during the holiday season.
The Yule Goat is a figure in Scandinavian folklore that is associated with the Christmas season. According to legend, the Yule Goat is a mischievous creature that visits homes on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts to children. In some versions of the story, the Yule Goat is accompanied by elves or other helpers.
The origins of the Yule Goat tradition are somewhat unclear, but it is thought to date back to ancient Norse mythology. In the past, the Yule Goat was often portrayed as a fearsome figure who demanded that people offer him gifts or risk being punished. However, over time, the Yule Goat has become more closely associated with the holiday season and is now seen as a friendly, gift-giving figure similar to Santa Claus.
In Scandinavian countries, it is traditional to leave out food and drink for the Yule Goat on Christmas Eve, and children often leave out a pair of shoes or socks to be filled with small gifts or treats. Some people also decorate their homes with Yule Goat-themed decorations or hang small, goat-shaped ornaments on their Christmas trees.
Mari Lwyd (pronounced "MAH-ree LOO-eed") is a traditional Welsh folk custom that is practiced around Christmas and New Year's. The tradition involves a group of people going door-to-door, singing carols and performing a play that involves a horse's skull on a pole.
The Mari Lwyd is a horse's skull, which is traditionally adorned with ribbons and other decorations. It is carried by a person who is dressed in a white sheet, and the group is accompanied by musicians who play traditional Welsh instruments. The group goes from house to house, singing carols and performing the play, which usually involves a challenge or contest of some kind.
The origins of the Mari Lwyd tradition are somewhat unclear, but it is thought to date back to the Middle Ages. Some people believe that the Mari Lwyd represents the spirit of the horse, which was an important animal in Welsh folklore. Others see it as a way of celebrating the end of the year and welcoming in the new one.
The Mari Lwyd tradition is still practiced in some parts of Wales, and has become something of a tourist attraction. It is an important part of Welsh cultural heritage and is a unique way of celebrating the holiday season.
Kallikantzari (also spelled Kallikantzaros or Calicantzaros) are creatures from Greek folklore that are associated with the Christmas season. According to legend, Kallikantzari are mischievous, goblin-like creatures that spend most of the year underground. However, they come up to the surface during the Christmas season, causing mischief and causing trouble for humans.
The Kallikantzari are said to be responsible for a variety of things, including causing fires, destroying crops, and causing animals to become sick. They are also believed to be able to shape-shift into various forms, including animals and humans.
In Greek tradition, it is believed that the Kallikantzari are kept in check by the light of the Christmas candles, which are lit on Christmas Eve and burn throughout the holiday season. It is also believed that the Kallikantzari will return underground once the Christmas season is over.
The Kallikantzari are an important part of Greek folklore and are often used to teach children about the importance of behaving well during the holiday season.