Keen followers of this occasional "blog" will no doubt have noticed that I have left the remaining Christmas letters to the very last minute. I would like to claim that this was intentional, but the truth is that I have found myself far too busy with 'politics' and only now have a few spare minutes to attend to the far more important matter of my Christmas A to Z.
Nutmeg - in the 17th Century, Holland monopolised the cultivation of this little East Indian nut and blocked all attempts to open up the market. Curiously the plant was only found in a few islands of the Indonesian archipelago and the Flemish traders were unwilling to share it, putting up trade barriers and generally making themselves both rich and unpopular. Happily in 1809 the British seized the Banda islands from the Dutch in a violent attack that killed thousands and broke the whole ghastly monopoly, teaching the Netherlanders a valuable lesson in free trade and providing cheap nutmeg for Christmas lunches across the land ever since.
Oven - it is terribly recherché to have an oven. An Aga will cook most things to perfection and keep the basement delightfully warm. In my own experience a cosy kitchen usually means a happy staff.
Partridge (in a pear tree) - there are many interpretations of this verse from the popular Christmas song. Some see the bird as 'symbolic' of Christ on the cross. Others argue that it is a political allusion to George the third and his unfortunate madness. The only thing that we could all perhaps agree on is that once dead, the little bird is absolutely delicious, particularly when served with a decent Margaux.
Quince - I was once given a home-made jar of this as a Christmas present. I confess I have not spoken to the woman since.
Rudolph the "red nosed" reindeer - is a rather irritating song about Santa Claus's "ninth reindeer". Anyone with even a passing knowledge of reindeer husbandry could tell you that it is impossible to pull a sleigh with an uneven number of caribou. We must therefore assume that the story is entirely fictional and give it the full lack of attention it deserves.
Stockings - should be worn not hung above a fireplace. My suggestion is to leave a note by the tradesman's entrance, that your slumber might not be interrupted by a large man in a red suit.
Toboggan - it is very rare to see a white Christmas in this country but even so it is always sensible to keep one's runners well greased just in case.
Unitarians - celebrate Christmas with a plate of out of season asparagus. This is one of the very many reasons why I am not a Unitarian.
Visitors - are always very welcome of course and even more welcome once they have left.
Wreath - one should only put one's wreath up on Christmas Eve. There has been a very unfortunate trend in recent years towards people placing them over their brass knockers well in advance of the festive period. Worse still, there is an increasing habit of buying them pre-made from retailers. One of the great pleasures of Christmas is to watch one's wife or employee carefully weaving reeds and garnering the halo with holly. Much joy is lost if one has purchased it from 'Argo' or some other such place.
X - an ancient symbol of peace, a sign of disagreement, the Roman numeral for "10" and the symbol I hope many of you in the NE Somerset region will choose to place next to my name in May 2015.
Yule log - nothing good ever came of an American reinvention of a German festive 'treat'. Wars have been waged over lesser baked goods.
Zwarte Peit - you may remember this chap from the newspapers a few weeks ago. In the Netherlands young children are told that if they have been naughty he will come and kidnap them and no doubt dispose of them shortly afterwards. "Peit" is portrayed as a 'blacked up' minstrel who strikes fear and terror into the hearts of infants across that very flat land. This year, liberal minded folk in the Netherlands have suggested that this whole portrayal seems rather "racist", while others have countered that a terrifying blacked up man running around threatening to steal children is a charming old Flemish tradition. Both very convincing arguments of course.
I have very much enjoyed talking to many of you over the year and thank you for your kind words and thoughtful insults. Whoever you are and however you may celebrate it, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a productive New year.