Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve Traditions

Image result for new years eveToday is New Year's Eve. Or if you're in Scotland, Hogmanay. Or, if you're in Wales, Nos Galan.
This is where tradition dictates you get totally and absolutely sloshed out of your mind, head-butt four random strangers in a game of No-I-Love-YOU-The-Most (this is where the Klingons got the ritual, in case you were wondering), urinate in a policeman's hat (but only if you're pregnant), and then forget where you live.
It's a tradition that dates back to the Norse over a thousand years ago, when Thor, the Asgard god of thunder and hair products, descended on Scotland during the dark days between Avengers films, to demonstrate the virtues of over-drinking and public displays of this-is-just-embarrassing-you-can't-get-married-to-a-lamppost.
There are some pretty strange and interesting local traditions around the United Kingdom.
For example, in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, in north-east Scotland, they have a rather dangerous way of celebrating the festivities. After the local blokes spend the entire day, evening and night consuming many gallons of cheap beer, lager and why-has-this-whiskey-not-killed-me-yet, they pretend they are Klingons, and then set their balls on fire.
Oh, I jest you not.
They really do.
The locals construct massive balls of chicken wire (two feet in diameter), stuff them with old newspapers, sticks, rags and other flammable materials, attach the balls to a chain, or non-flammable rope (because, yes, that's the type of rope you want in a situation like this), and then, when the bells strike midnight, they set fire to their balls.
Crowds of 12,000 people have gathered to watch the locals walking up and down the High Street, swinging their massive flaming balls around in circles above their heads. The Stonehaven Fireballs tradition has been going on for over 150 years. Check out the Stonehaven Fireballs website for details: 
In Allendale, Northumberland, England, their merriment is cut short for the Tar Barl Ceremony. A tradition dating back to 1858.
The local 'Guisers' gulp down an entire barrel of whiskey, usually in one gulp, and then fill them with tar. Now, I know what you're thinking: no one can drink an entire whiskey barrel in one gulp. Most normal people take between three gulps and nine hundred thousand sips and three hundred years for one barrel. But these Guisers are a hardy bunch. They aren't known as One-Gulp-Guisers for nothing.
And besides, they need all that whiskey to cope with the pain that follows.
After the obligatory belch and seven hiccoughs (that's one belch and seven hiccoughs, no more, no less), they set the tar on fire and put the barrel on their heads.
What the heck? Are you kidding?
Nope. Not kidding.
They carry the burning barrels, on their heads, through the streets of Allendale to the town centre. At which point no-one is complaining about the freezing temperatures, just how slow those in front are walking.
They then head-butt the barrels onto a bonfire, called the Baal Fire, and shout, "Be damned to he who throws last."
Usually, this is quite apt. As the guy who throws last is on fire.
Side note: Allendale has the highest concentration of bald men anywhere in England (No one is quite sure why). And the highest count of "Death-By-Headbutting-A-Burning-Barrel-Of-Tar" anywhere in Britain. Northampton was second. Mostly by accident. The guy was trying to recreate a scene from Lord of the Rings. It didn't go well.
In Wales, New Year's Eve is called "Nos Galan".
There is a tradition called Mari Lwyd in the land of the dragon, and, strangely, it doesn't actually involve fire. Or a dragon.
Very disappointing.
Instead, false ears and eyes are attached to a horse's skull, along with bells, reins and ribbons, and then it's covered with a white sheet, before inserting a pole right up its.... well, skull. They don't bother with the rest of the horse.
The Mari Lwyd, or, the thing you wouldn't want the Mafia to put on your pillow, is carried from house to house by a crowd of merry-makers, who are traditionally tipsy and singing Tom Jones songs.
At each house, they pause their tributes to Tom Jones, to recite Welsh poetry. Which, because the merry-makers are hammered, sounds a lot like Klingon poetry. Those in the house then recite poetry back at the them. This goes back and forth a bit until someone wins the fight. Yep, that's how the Welsh fight. Not with fists and feet, but with Klingon poetry.

If only the wars of the past were fought under Welsh rules.

No guns.

No bombs.

Just a few well written poems spoken with passion in the romantic language of the Klingons, whilst holding the bow-and-ribbon-decorated head of a dead horse.

To end the New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay, or Nos Galan celebrations is a tradition started by the Scottish and carried around the world. The folding of arms and holding of hands and the singing For Auld Lang Syne, a traditional poem by Robert Burns, a Scottish Poet, played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

So, wherever you are, whoever you be, have a Happy New Year, and Oche Aye Your Hogmanay.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

On This Day In History - 30th December

Richard, Duke of YorkOn This Day in History - December 30th
On this day in history, in 1460, Richard-Of-The-Grand-Old-Duke-Of-York (who didn't have 10,000 men, only about 8,000) marched his men up a hill, down a hill, then right back up the hill, and went too far, so came down a bit, and a bit more. After many hours, he finally decided they were at the half-way point. And died.
Soon after, a rainbow appeared and he came back to life, briefly, to ask his trusted friend, the unicorn, to remember him every time she saw a rainbow.
This is why we now remember the colours of the rainbow using the mnemonic Richard-Of-York-Gave-Battle-In-Vain (Red-Orange-Yellow-Groot-Bilbo-Indigo-Viagra).

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

On This Day in History - 29th December

On This Day In History - 29th December
On This Day, 29th December, 1170, Thomas Becket had a knight problem on a cold winter's night. That is to say, he was stabbed to death by four knights.
Long story short, in 1161 King Henry II made Thomas Becket the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church's highest ranking bloke in England.
After nine short years, Henry got really miffed with him, because of reasons. Henry is said to have remarked, "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" Which the four knights took as an order to travel back to England and kill Thomas Becket. And then kill him a lot more, slicing and dicing away, hacking and whacking, dipping and skipping.
When King Henry II heard about the death of Thomas Becket, he was heard to say, "What the frigging frack did you do that for? It was a sodding rhetorical question. Bunch of twaddling dingbats. Now, go look rhetorical up in the dictionary. Write it a thousand times on a piece of paper. And, whilst you're at it, someone write me a really long apology letter to the Pope. He is so going to make me pay for killing one of his stupid troublesome priests."
Which is why, a mere six Henrys later, the King separated from the Pope and formed his own Church of Never-Going-To-Be-Rhetorical-Again, Off-With-His-And-Her-Troublesome-Heads.

Monday, 28 December 2015

On This Day In History - 28th December

On This Day In History - December 28th
On this day in 1065, Westminster Abbey was concentrated, copulated, discombobulated, err, nope, they don't sound right. Oh, I mean consecrated. Yes, consecrated. It's when two lovers decided they had done every other room in the house, so might as well do it here, too.
That's what consecrated means, right?
Err, it might actually mean to make something sacred and to dedicate something formally to a religious purpose.
Anyways, every coronation of a king or queen in England has been held at Westminster Abbey since that day. King Edward-The-Confessor, called that because he liked to hear people confess before he shot them in the head with a AK-47, had started the process of the Abbey being consecrated, but had fallen ill and couldn't attend the love-making ceremony on the day. He died a week later, looking at porn on the internet instead. He was the first king to be buried at the Abbey.