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What is a Humbug and other Christmas stuff?

We’ve all read and been told Christmas stories. We’ve watched the movies about Christmas and other stuff. Along with all of it, we’ve also wondered “What the heck does that mean?” or “What is that thing?”. Well, here you go:

Humbug: No, it is not an insect. It is an old term meaning hoax or jest. While the term was first described in 1751 as student slang, its etymology is unknown. I imagine we have all been a part of some humbugs in our lives.

Deck the halls Boughs of Holly: well, first off, this is a traditional Yuletide and New Years’ carol. It is is Welsh dating back to the sixteenth century. Boughs are basically branches of trees. In particular, the main branches.  To “deck” something is to decorate. So, if you deck the halls with boughs of holly, you are decorating the halls with Holly branches.

Shutters and Sash: “Twas the night before Christmas … tore open the shutters and threw up the sash …”. So, what are shutters? You may have seen fake ones mounted on either side of a window. They have louvers and are painted to highlight and decorate windows. Shutters were originally used for a number of purposes and were mounted on hinges so the shutter could be closed over the window. Often the use was for privacy or to prevent air from entering the room at night while you slept. Shutters could be either interior or exterior mounted.  A sash is basically a window with glass panes (or “lights”) separated by narrow muntin bars. The windows typically opened by sliding up or down. So, if you “tore open the shutters and threw up the sash”, you opened the all the closures of the window in a rushed, or panicked manner.

Christmas pudding: “Tiny Tim” in the story “A Christmas Carol” mentioned pudding. We often think of this as the “Jello” or other puddings we see in stores and have probably enjoyed at some point in our lives. But this is not what the Christmas pudding mentioned in the story is at all. Christmas pudding is the dessert traditionally served on Christmas Day. It has its origins in England, and is sometimes known as plum pudding , though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving a lot of dried fruit. So don’t think “Jello” when someone mentions Christmas pudding. 🙂

There are many other terms that we hear around Christmas time that we assume we understand. Maybe I have stirred some interest, or at least curiosity, here and you want to know more. The Internet is full of information. I encourage you to search and find answers. WikiPedia is a good place to start. Research and find you answers, then have a Happy and informed Christmas.

Regards,
Frank


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