We don’t have to explain the importance of Thanksgiving to our friends over the pond. But here in the UK, it’s still a bit of a mystery. What exactly is it?
The First Thanksgivings
It all started with those first European settlers in America. In Canada it’s traced back to 1578. Explorer Martin Frobisher had been trying to make his way by sea from Britain to the Pacific around by a northwest passage. He held his thanksgiving celebration of surviving the journey. He held the ceremony on Nunavut Island, with a service to give thanks to God.
And then again French Canadians trace it the early 1600s and the first French settlers celebrating their successful harvests.
New elements to the celebrations were added as new immigrants from Europe arrived, but the turkey thing didn’t really get there until American Revolution when those fleeing the revolution settled in Canada.
In the USA, the first thanksgiving is usually attributed to the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621. Puritans emigrated from England in the 1620s. They took with them traditions of fasting and thanksgiving with them. Their Thanksgiving was for their harvest. But we have to remember that the USA was being settled by people from all over Europe. They all brought their own individual traditions with them, and put them in the melting pot. There are claims for instance that Spanish explorers in Texas celebrated thanksgiving feasts much earlier.
Whatever the origins, it was much much later that an actual date was settled on. And wasn’t until 1941 that the US settled on the third Thursday in November. Canada celebrates it on the second Monday of October.
So that’s the background. I guess we’ve all watched enough movies to get the idea of the celebration. Traditionally there’s turkey on the menu, as far as the food is concerned. And Pumpkin Pie. And it’s all about friends and family. It’s often a much bigger social occasion than Christmas. There’s obviously a religious part to it, with Thanksgiving to God, but it’s also a cultural secular celebration.
The days after Thanksgiving are given as holiday for many. Except retail staff, who probably have their busiest day of the year. Retailers take the opportunity to offer huge incentives for people to start their Christmas shopping. The Friday after Thanksgiving has become known as Black Friday. And Cyber Monday: when everyone returns to work and presumably uses their works’ internet to do their online shopping.
But it’s Thanksgiving itself that has the real cultural significance for Americans. We wish you all a very happy day!
It’s Thanksgiving this Thursday, so all our US friends will be getting ready for the big celebration. But wherever you are, the third week in November means it really is time to get your shit together with Christmas shopping. So how’s this for a bit of motivation: our Black Friday sale will give you a MASSIVE 30% off in our shop from this Friday 25th to Monday 28th. Just use the the code: BF30 at checkout.
The Gold Standard
Don’t forget the Thankyou card for all those fabulous presents you’re going to get!
Have you seen our glorious new DYP mugs? I bet you’re thinking “just the ticket for drinking Prosecco” aren’t you? But wait, there’s so many other things you could try.
How about the old Irish Coffee. I always thought the name was just another of those dodgy things that gets “irish” bunged in front of it with no regard for actual Irishness. But apparently I’m wrong. it was invented by Joe Sheridan in 1943 at Foynes Port in Limerick for cold damp passengers. Actual provenance. Provenance of my recipe, cold wet field somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales circa 1993. Here it is: Make a cup of coffee. Put whisky in it. Top tip: don’t use your mother’s single malt because her wrath will spoil the taste.
Soup is a problem. Do you eat it? Do you drink it? Putting it in mugs only confuses the issue further. I’ll definitely eat mine with a spoon. But try this mushroom soup anyway: Chanterelle mushrooms, shallots, stock, cream, garlic, salt, pepper and large dash of dry sherry. Sounds like the sort of supper that needs to be accompanied by Prosecco. Which raises another problem: you’re gonna need two mugs.
Now I used to think mulled wine was wrong. I mean who would do that to wine? A travesty second only to putting red wine in the fridge. But I have since revised my opinion. It’s not red wine really, and it is rather nice. I’ve tried loads of recipes including those kits people give you for Christmas. And none of them are that great. Plus you have to waste a perfectly good bottle of red wine. So here’s one that works. Go to nearest supermarket. Buy bottle of mulled wine. Pour into a pan, heat, serve. No red wine was harmed in this recipe.
Mugs of Hot Chocolate
So I googled this one and now I wish I hadn’t. Bacon, Hazelnut Bourbon and Frangelico Hot Chocolate anyone? I like the sound of the “Irish Hot Chocolate” with Guinness, whiskey and Baileys though. Even though the last time I drank Baileys it mostly ended up down a friend’s broken toilet.
If all of this sounds way too scary, we’ll not penalise you for using your mugs for a good old cuppa tea. But we’re diggin around in the back of auntie’s sideboard for some Frangelico. Which according to Wikipedia is made of ancient Italian monks. And hazelnuts. Enjoy.
2016 is turning out to be memorable for all the wrong reasons. The Grim Reaper has been at it again. Tearing his way through the music industry. Just in the last week he’s had Leon Russel, Leonard Cohen and today Mose Allison. What a bloody year! In 2015 we lost Lemmy, Errol Brown, B B King, and Allen Toussaint, so maybe every year is a good year for the Reaper. But really, we think he’s had his share this year. Some of these guys were old, we know they had to go some time. But please no more! We asked our resident muso/social media manager to put together a bit of a playlist for us.
Influential jazz and blues musician, Mose Allison, who died today
The Grim Reaper’s 2016 Haul
Just incase you’re too young to know who these guys and gals are, here’s a quick guide to the 2016 departed.
Mose Allison, influential jazz and blues pianist, singer and songwriter
Leon Russel, American musician and record producer
Leonard Cohen, singer, songwriter, guitarist
Pete Burns, singer, songwriter and tv celeb, founder of Dead or Alive
Cultivating internal kindness is the way to release energy, creativity and resilience says Anna Pinkerton of Kindness Incorporated.
“If an entrepreneur knew that being kind to themselves was true responsibility for themselves, they’d be up for it.”
Successful businesses rely on entrepreneurs pushing themselves to extremes. We work long hours, neglect our family, miss lunch. We constantly jump outside our comfort zones. We push on through fear and anxiety. Because to be successful, we must ignore our weaknesses. Or so we are told.
Not some wishy washy stuff
But this week we met experienced therapist and trauma expert Anna Pinkerton. And she’s turned all that on its head. Anna runs Kindness Incorporated. Her mission is to help people be more kind to themselves. This isn’t some wishy washy hippy stuff. It’s seriously saving people from breakdowns and helping them recover from trauma, depression and anxiety.
We asked her how it works.
“We are trained by society and our culture to carry on regardless. To ignore internal feedback. We are hardwired to survive. But if you consistently ignore what you want and need, your brain will give up and that will lead to a breakdown.”
We’re taught that being resilient is all about being “tough” and ignoring pain. But Anna explains that if you don’t look after yourself, then you are less resilient.
At the centre of this is what Anna calls “being fully human”. We’re not supposed to be happy all the time, she says. Sometimes we feel anger or jealousy or fear. Being fully human means accepting all of your feelings, including the negative ones.
“If you allow the feeling it will be transient, like all feelings are transient. If you say you’re not allowed to feel that, then the feeling will still be there, but it will stick around and not go away. The trick is to acknowledge that we feel bad, and to sooth ourselves. Be kind to ourselves.”
How does this affect us as entrepreneurs? There’s a culture in business that is constantly expecting more of ourselves than we’re giving. Pressure to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. And if we don’t do that? We are told we are resistant to change.
Being resistant to change is safety behaviour says Anna.
“Everyone’s resistant to change, it’s what their neurology tells them to do. If someone is not wanting to change, there’s a good reason for it.”
But so often we are told to ignore our own safety behaviour and get with the programme. If someone is telling you embrace the change whether you like it or not, then they are ignoring your needs.
“You need to be able to voice your agony around the change. Say you’ve got two children, you’re not particularly well, you’re already doing a 40 hour week and you can’t see how you can do this new thing. Your business coach or leader needs to say, yes I get that, you have a choice, you don’t have to do this.”
“Having no choice means you are entrapped. It’s scary, and you’re neurology is telling you it’s not even possible, you can’t do it, you’re not good enough.”
“What would happen if your coach instead asked What do you want for you? What does success look and feel like for you? Your safety behaviour has no need to kick in. You’re not in danger. It might be that you are up for something new, but it’s ok to say no too.”
Ignoring your internal voice is so cruel says Anna. Ignoring our humanity is inhuman. We need to cultivate a less brutal approach. Treat ourselves and our needs with respect and kindness.
“Being kind to yourself takes courage. It takes you through everything you are and everything you’re not. It takes you through everything you’ve been through. It’s taking full responsibility for yourself. It’s not pretending to be something you aren’t. By being kind to yourself you are taking full responsibility for your physical and mental health.”
We all know people who have reached burnout. The biggest risk for entrepreneurs says Anna is ignoring signs of stress.
“There’s incremental steps to breakdown. People will say damn, why can’t I just keep going, what’s the matter with me that I can’t do this 70 hour week. The cruelty becomes normalised. The early warning signs are nothing to do with mental health usually. They are to do with dehumanising yourself, not allowing yourself to have a full range of feelings. Not allowing yourself to feel vulnerable or have needs or wants of your own. Other signs include skipping lunch because it takes up time, and thinking that’s ok. It’s not ok, it’s ignoring your basic human needs. If you carry on doing that, your body and mind will take you down. People are expecting the first signs to be psychological responses – feeling you can’t go on, crying etc – but it starts earlier, with dehumanising yourself.”
Anna’s top tips for business leaders and coaches
1 Take care of YOURSELF. Don’t speak about something you’re not prepared to do yourself.
2 Permit people to be fully human
3 Encourage people to be open to their full range of feelings. You can’t get feelings wrong.
4 Help people understand the energy lost in being cruel to yourself, compared with the energy released in being kind.
5 Alert people to the power of kindness. Brutality takes energy because you are fighting. Being kind to yourself releases you from the fight.
Thinking of ditching the Christmas cards this year and sending emails instead? Do you know how many emails are sent every day? 205 billion, that’s how many. Office workers receive an average of 121 emails every day. Even our personal inboxes are full of Social Media notifications and sales emails from companies we don’t really care about. Most of them go unopened. Those that are opened are usual unremarkable. We delete them with a click of a mouse and forget about them.
The first commercially produced Christmas Card 1843
You want to send your Christmas wishes by email? Sure, it saves money, and yes there’s a valid environmental concern too. And it saves time too. And isn’t that just the point? We want to think that our friends think about us. Maybe only occasionally. Maybe only as much as bothering to write our name and address. But certainly more than being part of an email mailing list.
There’s lots of reasons why people don’t send cards – maybe they’re skint, or ill, or they have lots going on, or they’re out of the country at the crucial time. But don’t be that friend that didn’t send cards because you couldn’t be arsed!
Five Reasons to Send Christmas Cards
The Personal Touch. Everyone wants to cared about. Sending a card says you thought about your friend. You thought about them enough to find your address book. And spend money on a stamp. That’s enough to warm the cockles of someone’s heart.
Everyone likes to receive cards. Look how many cards I’ve got on my mantelpiece. I must be REALLY loved. If you send, you will receive.
Cards = Happiness. Knowing you are cared about increases your happiness. Spread happiness. Especially for people who are isolated, or who don’t use social media.
Don’t lose touch. It would be so easy to never ever speak to a cousin or a great aunt or your old mate from school. Stay in touch with a Christmas card and a personal note.
You can’t delete cards. Yeah you can throw them away. Or even better, recycle them for next year’s gift labels. But they are hanging around for a couple of weeks. Reminding you that people care and like you. Email cards don’t do that.
We know you Brits know EVERYTHING there is to know about Bonfire night, (or do you?) but what about the rest of you? We weren’t even sure we knew ourselves. So we thought we’d check it out.
It all started on the 5th November 1605. Guy Fawkes and —- others were ready and waiting for the biggest explosion ever. The plan was to blow up the house of Lords, and with it King James I.
Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspiritors
Why? In the 17th Century politics was seething with religious sectarianism. Every since Henry IIX had parted with the Catholic Church, Catholicism had been under fire. Catholic rebels were plotting though. The were determined to replace the protestant King with a Catholic head of state. And so there sat Guy Fawkes, guarding the gunpowder and waiting for the signal to ignite. But the government had got wind, and Fawkes was caught and arrested. Of the whole gang he was the only one who didn’t escape.
King James has survived the attempt on his life. And celebrate, fires were lit and celebrations held all over London. Soon after, the Observance of 5th November Act was passed, enforcing by law, an annual public day of thanksgiving.
In the following years, the celebrations spread throughout England. In 1607 Carlisle, Norwich and Nottingham all had big celebrations with music and military salutes. In that same year, Canterbury exploded 106 pounds of gunpowder as part of the celebrations.
The the 5th November became the most important State Celebration day in England. But it was also infused with anti-Catholic sentiment. Preachers used the occasion to rail against Papism and the dangers of Catholicism. Effigies, not just of Guy Fawkes but of the Pope were burnt on the bonfires.
The anti-Catholic element of Bonfire night waxed and waned throughout the 18th Century. During the 19th Century, the government became concerned that the violence against Catholicism was getting out of hand. In 1859 the government decided to repeat the Observance Act to try and diffuse the violence. Gradually, the 5th November became less and less sectarian (in England at least). And by the turn of the 20th Century, the day had become a social event with little political meaning.
Some historians have suggested that the 5th November was a Protestant commandeering of ancient Pagan celebrations and rituals connected with Autumn. A lot of the traditions. they say, are borrowed from the older tradition of Samhain and Halloween. But others have pointed out the day is specifically about the Gunpowder plot and the attempt to blow up the King and the House of Lords.
Bonfire Night in the 21st Century
We may have largely lost sight of the origins of Bonfire Night, but it’s still an important tradition. Health and Safety rules have changed the way we celebrate. But we still turn out each year, to oo and ahh at the fireworks, eat bonfire toffee and stand around fires. What will you be doing tonight?
Opening scene of James Bond, Spectre, it’s a Day of the Dead parade. A spectacular scene, in itself, make all the more memorable for it’s costumes. Of course we know it was all staged for the film. But here’s a thing, Mexico City has never had a real life Day of the Dead festival. Until now. The film created a huge interest and eventually the government said YES to a parade.
The Day of the Dead festival has a long history. It dates back some 3000 years to an Aztec tradition. It was a summer festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. Don’t ask to pronounce that, we’d only embarrass ourselves.
Meanwhile in Europe, pagan traditions of honoring the dead, merged with Christian festivals celebrating saints (All Saints, or All Hallows day). The result was Halloween (literally: the eve of All Hallows). The whole lot got stirred up into a slightly confusing matter (some sectors of the Christian church have never been comfortable with the celebration of Halloween). And then delivered to Central America during the 16th century. Gradually, as Central American traditions morphed with pagan traditions from other parts of the world. The festival moved from the summer to the 1st November in line with All Hallows. And it came to be a celebration honoring dead souls.
Celebrating the dead
So what happens on the day? Well, graves are swept and decorated with flowers. Alters are built in houses, and decorated with photos of the deceased. There are picnics (sometimes by the graves of the dead relatives). And sometimes even campouts by the graves. Food is left out for the souls of the dead. Prayers are said. And of course, like all festivals worth the name, there’s special food.
The Food, tell us about the food
If there’s nothing else, there’s always bread, water and salt. They’re needed for feeding the dead souls. (Who take the soul of the food, leaving the earthly bits behind for the living).
But of course, there’s traditional party food too. Day of the Dead bread is pretty essential. It’s a sweet, bread that is sometimes decorated with shapes like bones. Or shaped into animal or human or skull shapes. Then there’s the sugar skulls, and figurines.
It all sounds like a blast. It’s already such a popular festival, it’s spreading to the southern parts of the USA, along with it’s Mexican community. Wonder how long it will be before it takes off in the rest of the world?
It’s nearly Halloween. We know you are as excited as us about being haunted! But hang on a min, what about those pesky scientists who say “NO” ? Some of them seem hell-bent on taking away our ghosts.
Throughout history ghosts are a feature across all cultures. How can we explain all the sightings and hauntings if they’re not real? So many people cannot be wrong can they?
Scientists and rationalists have been debunking ghosts for a long time. Here’s some of their explanations. Which do think is the most plausible? The science or the paranormal?
Cold spots are when you when you walk through a building and suddenly you feel cold. Then you move on and it returns to normal. That’s a ghost. Ghosts draw energy from their surrounds, so the environment suddenly feels cold. Or else it’s a draught. You decide!
Yes, mold, would you believe it. There are molds that can affect us physically and, it turns out, mentally too. There’s some research that suggests some molds can cause dementia type symptoms and irrationality. The research is a very long way from proving anything, but there’s some evidence that these kinds of molds exist in “haunted” buildings.
Orbs are the spirits of dead people. You knew that right? They’re the ones that have gone but not quite crossed over yet. They show as glowing circles of light. They can only be seen in photographs. Ahh, you say…. And yes, even fervent believers have a hard time believing those. Get your camera sorted!
There’s magnetic fields everywhere. If an unusual magnetic field occurs, it may well affect the brain. It might feel like a ‘presence’. Tests have been done where people were exposed to unusual magnetic fields and asked if they felt anything. Some scientists have found unusual magnetic fields present in ‘haunted’ places. But other scientists have argued that it all comes down to the power of suggestion. If someone says you might feel a presence, you’re more likely to feel a presence. Which end are you most attracted to? See what I did there?
The Power of Suggestion
A 2014 study by phychologists at Goldsmiths University in London conducted tests on participants which showed that the power of suggestion is very strong. They paired participants up to watch videos of paranormal events, but one of the pair was always a plant. The plants were working with the researchers. When reporting back, if the plant reported that they saw paranormal occurrences, so would the real participant. If the plant said no, then so did the real participant.
Ouija Board and Table Tilting – Even true believers know that there’s always been con-men involved in the Spiritualist movement. But surely not all Ouija board and Table Tilting is fraudulent ? At the height of Spiritualist popularity, in the mid 19th Century, physicist Michael Faraday said not. What he showed was that something far more interesting than fraud. He did a series of tests and experiments. What he found was the Ideomotor phenomenon. That’s when the body reacts to ideas without us being conscious of it. It happens in response to pain, but it can also happen in response to ideas. So if the participants really believed that table would tilt in a certain way, they may have subconsciously tilted it.
Do you believe in ghosts?
So there you have it. Ghosts are mold, magnetic fields, draughts, or our overactive imaginations. Or are they? What do you think? Woooooooooooo…
Halloween sure is a big thing in the USA. Costumes, Trick or Treating, parties, the lot. Here in the UK, we’re a bit prone to dismissing it as new-fangled American stuff. But stop right there fellow Brits, because …..
The origins of Halloween
There’s lots of evidence to suggest that Halloween has it’s origins in Celtic and Pagan traditions. The end of summer – Samhain – festival was seen as a time of year when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld was thinner. That meant that spirits could easily pass through into our world. It was a time when souls of the dead could visit their families.
Then came Christianity. The festival of All Hallows is a time for honouring pious souls and saints. Did they impose a Christian meaning on this Celtic Pagan tradition, or did the two just mingle? We don’t know. Anyway, the result is the Halloween we have today. Which of course varies from one part of the world to another.
At All Hallows it was customary for children to go door to door collecting Soul Cakes in exchange for praying for the dead. Soul Cakes were bread usually marked with a cross, a bit like Day of the Dead bread. Will that be Soul Cakes for the kids round your neighbourhood this year then?
Trick or Treat
One tradition from the Middle Ages is the belief that not all the visiting souls were benign. Some were looking to wreak vengeance on their enemies. People wore masks to that they wouldn’t be recognised by these vengeful souls. So there’s the origins of Trick or Treat and Halloween costumes.
Lanterns were made to frighten away souls from homes of the innocent. And on the subject of lanterns: Here in the UK, before it was easy to get pumpkins, we made lanterns from turnips. Now that was hard work. While our US friends had easy access to pumpkins. Thank goodness for pumpkins!
Break out the Binbags
So, time to start making your Halloween costumes. Get out there with your binbag witches dresses, and your pumpkin lanterns (or turnips, go on, we challenge you!). Pray for some souls! Or just stay in and eat the kids’ chocolates.