Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Trivia

I know that the above photo doesn't have anything to do with Chrsitmas trivia but I coudn't resist sharing it.

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Anyone wishing to have a look at previous posts with Christmas trivia can click on the following past Bytes links from 2010 and 2011:

Some more Christmas trivia for 2014 follows.

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When reading A Christmas Carol for yesterday’s Bytes post, I came across a reference to “smoking bishop”:

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

What would a bowl of smoking bishop be, I wondered.

It turns out that it is a type of mulled wine or punch that was popular at Christmas time in Victorian England.

Oops, wrong pic

Dickens’ book has an illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge sharing some smoking bishop with Bob Cratchit:

It has been suggested that the name smoking bishop comes from the shape of the traditional bowl, shaped like a bishop’s mitre, this being the form in which it was served in medieval guildhalls and universities. 

Here is a recipe for smoking bishop for those willing to give it a try. Drop a line if you make it, let me know how it tastes.

5 unpeeled sweet oranges
1 large unpeeled grapefruit
1/4 lb sugar (a little over 1/2 cup)
30 cloves
1500 ml strong red wine (2 bottles-about 51 oz)
750 ml port wine (1 bottle-about 25.6 oz)

1. Wash the fruit and bake it on a foil lined baking sheet until it becomes pale brown, turning once.
2. Heat a large earthenware bowl and add the fruit. Stud each fruit with five cloves.
3. Add the sugar and the red wine, and store covered in a warm place for about a day.
4. Squeeze the fruit to extract the juice, and strain into a saucepan.
5. Add the port and warm thoroughly, but don't boil.
6. Serve in heated glasses.
7. There are many suggestions for variations in this recipe, including the addition of star anise and cinnamon sticks.
8. There is an alternative suggestion, to bring the mix to a boil, simmer for an hour, and add brandy, brown sugar and orange juice.

There are variations on smoking bishop:
Smoking Archbishop— made with claret
Smoking Beadle— made with ginger wine and raisins
Smoking Cardinal — made with Champagne or Rhine wine
Smoking Pope — made with burgundy

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All the gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas would equal 364 gifts

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The traditional three colours of Christmas - green, red, and gold – symbolise life and rebirth (green); the blood of Christ (red) and light, wealth and royalty (gold).

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Puritan Oliver Cromwell outlawed Christmas celebrations and carols in England from 1649-1660. The only celebrations allowed were sermons and prayers

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It is estimated that the single “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin is the best selling single of all time, with over 100 million sales worldwide.

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The first person to decorate a Christmas tree was reportedly the Protestant reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546). According to legend, he was so moved by the beauty of the stars shining between the branches of a fir tree, he brought home an evergreen tree and decorated it with candles to share the image with his children.

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26 December was traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but is more commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season. This money was then distributed during to the poor and needy after Christmas.

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