Back in time for Christmas dinner: the modern desire for a bygone age

James Cronin, Lancaster University

Nostalgia is now a key strategic consideration for business and retail. The marketisation of our fondness for a remembered past has stimulated the endless reboots of 1980s movie classics and children’s television series, the remarketing of retro videogames and even the re-appreciation of vintage commercials.

Beyond providing us with emotional access to objects and things from our previous and personal “lived” experiences, there are also aspects of today’s “retro revolution” that appeal to imagined experiences of a more distant past. This has been particularly evident in our desires to find inspiration when it comes to eating.

The BBC’s Back in Time for Dinner and Back in Time for Christmas are examples of consumer curiosity to seek out, understand and rediscover forgotten ways of eating and drinking.

As we approach Christmas, it seems that our insatiable curiosity – and desire – for more real, more authentic, and more fun than even that which we are personally familiar with might mean looking past the Christmas dinner of our own memories to that of the ancestral memory instead.

Christmas dinner as the “real thing”

For many, the contemporary British Christmas dinner conjures up images of turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, gravy, pigs in blankets, sprouts, pudding and, of course, the copious festive tubs of chocolates. The instantly recognisable blend of features of the Christmas dinner are so essential to the holiday experience that they have been appropriated by various businesses on the high street – whether it is Greggs’ Festive Bakes, Subway’s Festive Feast Sub or Pret A Manger’s Christmas Lunch sandwiches.

The very special, moreish (and mass marketed) nature of the contemporary “taste of Christmas” echoes the work of psychoanalytic philosopher Slavoj Žižek on the dynamics of “surplus-enjoyment” and insatiable, bottomless desire.
It is conceivable that Christmas dinner has become for many, what Žižek might call, “the Real Thing”.

It is not so much that the taste of Christmas dinner has become iconic, or that the food itself satisfies us like no other. It is what Christmas dinner represents – happiness, togetherness, material abundance. These are the “real” things which we can never have too much of and we are forever trying to fill ourselves up with.

As a consequence, people often find themselves always wanting more over the festive period. Ultimately, this insatiability culminates in the copiousness and lavishness of the Christmas Day feast. Though this often is not the end, thanks to the leftovers. And we are destined to recreate the feast without fail every year afterwards. Some might even wish that it could be Christmas every day, as it were.

The notion of a pure surplus of enjoyment surrounding Christmas dinner could mean that enjoyment of it is premised on a ceaseless quest to realise and quench abstract desires. While we might have everything and more right now for a great Christmas dinner, that is still never quite good enough.

Christmas feasting through the ages

The trappings of the modern Christmas dinner originate in Victorian England, between the birth of urban industrialisation and modern consumer culture. The prototype of what we eat now is captured in representations of the Cratchit family dinner in the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Although Dickens did not himself conceive of what would become the modern Christmas dinner, authors such as Cathy Kaufman make it clear that “his story was a road map for middle and working-class pleasures at the precise moment when both meal structures and the nature of Christmas celebrations were changing.”

The changes catalysed by the Victorians are not just seen in their foods of choice but also in accompaniments they introduced to the dinner table (the Christmas cracker,for example). They constructed Christmas dinner as a way of signifying conviviality, playfulness and community – a way of staging desire.

A Christmas cracker.

Before Victorian times, feasting at Christmas served a more raucous and crude means of breaking up the hardship and scarcity of the cold winter months. In the late Middle Ages and Tudor England for example, the feasting during Christmas time may have often been organised less elaborately around various pies, whatever game birds were in availability, or the meat of livestock that could not overwinter and needed to be culled. There may also have been a great divide between what the rich and the poor ate during Yuletide Feasting.

A new old desire

To tap into consumers’ insatiable desire for more fun, more authentic and more real festive experiences The National Trust has promoted the opportunity to experience a historic Christmas where visitors can enjoy a period-specific “Tudor Christmas feast beside a roaring log fire”.

Various businesses provide full-service catering based on authentic Victorian-themed food, tea carts and props – and a host of restaurants now offer “Victorian Christmas” menus and themed dining experiences. Elsewhere, the BBC and The Telegraph each provide DIY guides “to making your very own Victorian Christmas”.

The ConversationThe taste of modern Christmas as we know it now certainly fills us up. But ultimately it never fully satisfies consumer desire. We forever want more and consumers might slowly be realising that this little bit extra might not be available to them in the present but rather lies buried in the past ready for excavation.

James Cronin, Lecturer in Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Lancaster University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Schnapps, whipping and sacks: how Christmas traditions evolved around the world

Carole Cusack, University of Sydney

Christmas has become a cultural event, associated with the giving of gifts and lavish meals with friends and family.

But the traditional understanding of Christmas is that it’s a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.

The idea of giving gifts may be traced to the Bible, in which the infant Jesus was presented with gold, frankincense and myrrh by the Three Wise Men, named in apocryphal texts as Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior.

This received a boost in the Middle Ages, when Boxing Day, December 26, became a holiday when masters gave their apprentices and other employees “boxes” – that is, gifts.

Yet the celebration of Christmas has distinct variations around the world. Some of these local traditions are very interesting and arise from particular historical circumstances.

The figure of Santa Claus, the jolly bringer of presents to good children, is derived from St Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian bishop of Myra.

Two famous stories are told of him, that associate him with gifts and children:

  1. He rescued three girls from a life of prostitution by giving their father three bags of gold for their dowries.
  2. He brought back to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled by an evil innkeeper.

Santa Claus has elves and reindeer as companions in general Western folklore. But in other traditions around the world, Santa’s helpers are far less friendly.

Sinterklaas arrives each year at a different port and children prepare by leaving carrots for his horse and putting out a shoe.

The Netherlands: naughty kids are taken to Spain

In the Netherlands, Sinterklaaas brings children presents on December 5 (the day before the feast of St Nicholas, December 6).

Dutch traditions say that Sinterklaas lives in Madrid, wears a red clerical robe and a bishop’s mitre, and has servants called “Zwarte Pieten” (Black Peters).

He arrives each year at a different port on November 11. Children prepare by leaving carrots for his horse and putting out a shoe for presents to be put in.

The Zwarte Pieten keep lists of the naughty children who receive pieces of coal rather than gifts. Very naughty children are put into sacks and taken to Spain as a punishment.

The reason Sinterklaas lives in Madrid is because between 1518 and 1714 the Netherlands was under the control of the Holy Roman Empire, at that time ruled by the Hapsburg Dynasty of Spain. Spain, therefore, meted out both punishments and rewards to the Netherlands (as the Zwarte Pieten and Sinterklaas do to Dutch children).

Though Zwarte Pieten are black because they spent so much time in chimneys, in the modern Netherlands many are concerned that they may be racist.

The companion of St Nicholas is the sinister Krampus, a terrifying creature with fangs, horns and fur, who punishes naughty children by whipping them with sticks.

Central Europe: St Nicholas’ companion is a sinister creature that whips bad children

In central Europe, including Austria, Bavaria and the Czech Republic, the companion of St Nicholas is the sinister Krampus, a terrifying creature with fangs, horns and fur, who punishes naughty children by whipping them with sticks, called “ruten bundles”. These whippings are intended to make bad children good.

Those who cannot be whipped into niceness are put into Krampus’ sack and taken back to his den (somewhat akin to the Zwarte Pieten and Spain).

Also similar to the Zwarte Pieten is Krampus’ gift of coal, though he also gives ruten bundles (sticks sprayed with gold paint displayed in houses all year round) to remind children to be good throughout the year.

Krampus has pagan origins and is claimed to be the son of Hel, the goddess of the dead in Norse mythology.

The den to which he takes bad children is the Underworld, which literally means that if you are naughty you will die.

This pagan origin made the Christian churches in central Europe hostile to Krampus, in particular the Catholic Church, which banned rituals dedicated to him.

In the 21st century, as the influence of Christianity has receded, these traditions have been revived with great enthusiasm.

Groups of men dress as Krampus and rowdily parade through towns on Krampusnacht (December 5, before the feast of St Nicholas), drinking Krampus schnapps – a traditional fruit brandy brewed extra-strong for the occasion – and scaring children.

Some Krampuses bear more than a passing resemblance to Chewbacca, with horns! Krampus has now been immortalised in film, with “Krampus”, a horror comedy directed by Michael Dougherty, being released in 2015.

Santa can sometimes wear a blue suit.

South Korea: a family occasion where it’s fashionable to attend a Christmas church service

South Korea has more Christians than many Asian countries and Christmas is a public holiday there, even though 70% of the population is not Christian.

Christmas trees abound, decorated with twinkling lights and often with a red cross on the top. Lavish Christmas displays in shop windows are common. It’s also a time of family celebration.

For many non-Christians, it has become fashionable to attend a Christmas church service, and groups of people walk through neighbourhoods singing Christmas carols.

Christmas cake (though not European-style fruit cake, but either sponge cake with cream, or ice-cream cake) is a popular seasonal indulgence. Christmas dinner, however, is firmly Korean and usually includes noodles, beef bulgogi and kimchi (pickled cabbage).

Santa Claus also features and is called Santa Kullusu or Santa Haraboji (Grandfather). He may sometimes wear a blue suit instead of a red suit, something that was common in the 19th century, when Santa Claus was often portrayed wearing blue or green, until red became the most popular colour.

Yet Christmas is not the great consumerist event that is common in the West; Koreans generally give one gift only to close friends and family.

The ConversationNew Year, which is a huge festival in all East Asian cultures, has far more extravagant celebrations. But Christmas is very popular with younger Koreans and is likely to become a larger part of cultural life in the future.

Carole Cusack, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Five things to consider about glitter this Christmas

Claire Gwinnett, Staffordshire University

Does glitter bring to mind the prospect of shiny, sparkly, Christmassy, harmless fun? I’m afraid it is a bit more complicated than that. The popularity of glitter and the sheer volume used at Christmas presents us with a growing problem. Here are five reasons to rethink your glitter habit.

1. All that glitters is … plastic

Millions of items are adorned with glitter, from baubles to wrapping paper. Christmas is not Christmas without sparkly accessories and flamboyant decorations, but is it really? Modern glitter originated in 1934, when an American farmer named Henry Ruschmann created a way of cutting mylar and plastic sheets into tiny shapes. He formed Meadowbrook Inventions, which today is still one of the main global suppliers of glitter.

The majority of commercial products that contain glitter, whether these are single use items, such as Christmas cards, or more permanent items such as Christmas tree decorations, use inorganic glitter – chiefly plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and also polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Glitter is usually layered with other materials, such as aluminium to provide extra sparkle. Underneath the microscope, it is possible to see the huge variation of glitter shapes and sizes: hexagons, squares, rectangles and even hearts and stars ranging from 6.25mm to a truly tiny 0.05mm.

2. Glitter is not fabulous (for marine life)

Most people now understand that microplastics, such as fibres from clothes or microbeads in facial scrubs, are dangerous to sea life. Glitter is a microplastic too, classed as a primary type of microplastic as the particles are less than 5mm in size and have been purposely manufactured to be of microscopic size.

Glitter can enter seas and oceans from rivers, via wastewater from our homes and via run-off from landfill sites. Although many microplastics are removed at wastewater treatment plants, a huge amount of microplastics still find their way through to the oceans. The size of these particles means they are easily consumed by small marine organisms, who cannot discriminate between particles of food and plastic.

Microplastic particles attract inorganic and organic chemicals to adhere to them, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s, which have been banned since 1979) and toxic heavy metals. A big risk to wildlife comes from the bioaccumulation of these toxins in the food chain – as recently highlighted in the final episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet II television programme on Earth’s oceans, which showed how young dolphins have been found dead, possibly killed by toxins accumulated in their mother’s milk.

Microplastics are a menace to the planet’s ocean life.
oregonstateuniversity, CC BY-SA

3. Glitter is not just for Christmas

Microplastics break down under UV light which changes the structure of the plastic, by the mechanical action of water and by microbes. Some plastics such as PVC contain plasticisers, which can extend the degradation time of plastic. Given that plastics already may take hundreds, possibly even thousands of years to decompose, this is a concern. Glitter, like any other plastic, will degrade in the marine environment into further smaller pieces, called secondary sources of microplastic, but while it may grace your Christmas card only for a few weeks, it will hang around for much longer.

4. Glitter is hard to dispose of

Knowing the problems posed by glitter, you may be wondering what now to do with it all. This is a difficult question to answer, as whichever way you dispose of it there is a chance it will end up in the oceans. Most importantly, do not wash glitter down the sink. Instead, try reusing the glitter (or item adorned with it) for a future festive project. This still does not eliminate the risk, merely potentially prolonging the moment it enters the ocean. So what to do?

Where possible try not to buy cards or paper that features glitter, or make-up containing glitter particles. Nurseries in Dorset have already banned the use of glitter – could you do without it too? Ultimately, the only way to prevent this type of plastic adding to the global microplastic problem is to get rid of it completely, and opt for an eco-friendly alternative.

Google Trends data shows growing interest in searches for ‘biodegradable glitter’.

5. There are guilt-free glitter alternatives

In line with the 2017 ban on microbeads in toiletries, there have recently been calls to ban glitter.. This has been met with some resistance and accusations that this represents scientists “wanting to take the sparkle out of life”. But we don’t have to go all the way from bling to bland.

Just as manufacturers of facial scrubs are looking at using natural exfoliating materials, such as apricot or walnut husks, glitter manufacturers have now started producing biodegradable glitter, available from many online stores (such as Glitterevolution and Ecoglitterfun). Biodegradable glitter is made from the cellulose of plants, such as the eucalyptus tree, grown on land unsuitable for food crops using sustainable forestry initiatives that require little water. On top of that, it is also compostable – truly an eco-glitter.

The ConversationEven the company where modern glitter was born is getting environmentally friendly: Meadowbrook Inventions also now supplies biodegradable glitter, which means that with such a major supplier on board, there is hope for sparkly yet environmentally friendly Christmases in the future.

Claire Gwinnett, Associate Professor in Forensic and Crime Science, Staffordshire University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Critical time ahead for NT tourism industry

THE Territory’s tourism economy will be forced into an overhaul once major projects like Inpex reduce, the Tourism NT chairman Michael Bridge said.

Mr Bridge, who is also a director of Airnorth — Australia’s second oldest airline — said high airfares were just one part of the challenge ahead.

The cost of flying to and from the Territory has again surfaced with independent MLA Terry Mills pressing for the lifting of restrictions allowing international carriers to move passengers to domestic destinations.

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The Yolngu: Mining their own business

IN 1963 the Yolngu people of Northeast Arnhem Land sent their bark petitions to the Federal Government, protesting the Commonwealth’s granting of mining rights to the North Australian Bauxite and Aluminium Company.

In a struggle that’s lasted more than five decades, Yunupingu’s argument has never been that mining should not be allowed on Aboriginal land. Rather, he’s argued that the industry should be conducted on the traditional owners’ terms as a means for creating economic opportunity and escaping the welfare trap.

“This bauxite we are mining is ours,” he said.

“We used to own it before the land was taken away by the Commonwealth. We still own the land and the bauxite.

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Multi-instrumentalist Tay Oskee brings the viewer into his childhood with his “Like Waves” music video

Dynamic performer Tay Oskee has unveiled a new music video recently, putting his roots and childhood centre stage. For “Like Waves”, Oskee took a trip up to North East Arnhem Land, an area of the country he still counts himself privileged to have grown up in, and over the course of eight weeks, documented life up there.

As he explains about the video, “In the clip you can see the story of a young lost Indigenous man who takes a journey back to his homeland to regain his connection with land and culture. I was lucky enough to spend a big chunk of my childhood living in Yirrkala which is situated in North East Arnhem Land, and it was here that my family was welcomed into the Yolngu culture which is still so strong to this day.”

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Christmas Newsletter

Nhamirr Bukmak?

It’s almost the end of the year, and there are few important things going on in the lead up to Christmas.

Firstly, I’d like to clarify my position in relation to the Space Base/ Rocket Launch facility. My main concern is not about the project itself. I’m not against this project, although I do have concerns that jobs for Yolŋu people will not be sustained and that key jobs will be held by outsiders. However, the main issue is that many clan leaders in East Arnhem Land have not been included in the decision making process. Yolŋu communities were concerned after hearing an initial briefing about where rockets may fly, fall, land, be retrieved. People are still feeling worried and confused about the project and the leaders have not been properly consulted. My job is to listen to everyone and voice concern of the people, particularly the people that aren’t being heard.

The NT Land Rights Act made provision that decisions should be made based on traditional law. In Yolŋu law, decision making process must involve multiple clans and includes the Yothu-Yindi, Märi-Guthurra, Waku-Yapa clans. Many clans are involved in a decision making process through rringitj alliances. This is how we maintain harmony and interconnection, and this runs through Ŋarra, Garma and any official business. This is Yolŋu Law, it is how we maintain Law and respect authority.

The current system employed by the NLC leaves many Yolŋu disempowered on their own land. As part of moving towards solid business enterprise for the region I want the issues of land ownership to be resolved, and proper consultation processes employed, so that there is a strong foundation for business and the region can prosper.

Another area of concern, I have been informed by the Department of Education that all Indigenous schools in the region will be losing funding in 2018. Schools need to be funded for all the students in the community, so that the hard-working Yolŋu and Balanda teachers can create relevant programs that engage all the children in the school. I know that teachers, school councils and school leadership are working hard, and losing funding just makes their jobs harder. Some of these schools have lost funding every year for the past decade. This is disappointing for the schools and the communities and I will continue to advocate for a better system for all.

On a happier note, I have been honoured to sponsor awards for many schools in the Electorate and I wish to congratulate all those students that have tried their best during 2017. I also congratulate the teachers and communities who support all the students of the region. Congratulations also to all the students graduating at every level of study. A great achievement.

It is with sadness that I want to remind people about the dangers of alcohol and drug use. Just a kind reminder with Christmas around the corner and my main message is for our beautiful teenage young people who might be celebrating. You might want to celebrate your graduation by getting drunk on alcohol and or getting high on drugs. Just remember that is not a wise decision to make, and it’s not necessary, and is not compulsory to life. It can and it has led people into addiction and dangerous situations. So stay safe and use your intelligence for something useful and preserve your cultural knowledge systems to show your children and the future generation that life is worth living.

Also in relation to health, I have been in contact with the CEO of FCD Health Limited and they advise the town of Nhulunbuy that they have secured a regular ongoing service with a long-term Territory doctor, Dr Gerry Goodhand who is based at Endeavour Health Service from Wednesday to Friday each week, with evening appointments. The practice has also secured a full-time registrar who will work at Endeavour Health service full-time from January 2018. This will be a great outcome for Nhulunbuy to have two doctors working each week in January. I wish to thank all the Doctors, Nurses and health professionals who are working hard across the communities to look after us and our families. And thank you to all the carers of family at home too.

I know that many people across the electorate are unhappy about the Airnorth Service. I have been in contact with Airnorth about these concerns from the electorate earlier in the year but I intend to follow up with the CEO again, and advocate for better service and prices. In April this year I lobbied the Chief Minister to consider remote travel subsidies. His response was not in favour of subsidies. His response outlined that the Government is working with the East Arnhem Regional Economic Development Committee and local stakeholders, to develop and implement a range of regional air, road and sea transport and freight services. Please contact his office directly about this process. I am also aware that there is a Senate Committee Inquiry announced in November into Regional Airline Services. The committee has announced they will hold a consultation in Darwin, and I have invited them to come to Arnhem Land to consult with communities here. Anyone can make a submission and they are open now:

In November, I met with some people of the Uluru Statement of the Heart and they continue to work towards Treaty. There is momentum as the nation continues to move towards Treaties. Also in November I attended the Annual Report Hearings at Parliament. This is a good opportunity to question Ministers and Departments. I have a MLA facebook page where I detail these questions and other information. Please send a friend request if you want to see more; Yingiya Guyula MLA.

Thank you to everyone who has supported my office this year. With 5 towns, many homelands and 12 weeks at Parliament, I do not get to spend long in one place. I appreciate the time people have made to meet with me and as I have always said I will try to represent the needs of the people in this electorate fairly, both Yolŋu and Balanda.

I’d like to wish everyone a very happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

Thanks to all those many people who have dropped into the office, called or emailed me with your concerns. I really appreciate hearing from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Electorate Office if there’s anything we can possibly help you with. Djutjtjutj.

Contact Information
MLA Office is located upstairs Arnhem House, Endeavour Square, Nhulunbuy Town
Ph: 8987 0125 Email:


Airfares to Darwin, Alice Springs to get Senate scrutiny as airlines ‘take advantage of monopoly’

Top Enders forking out for sky-high airfares will get the chance to air their frustration when a Senate inquiry visits Darwin next year.

The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee is calling for first-hand experiences of flight prices in regional, rural and remote locations and will scrutinise the factors that determine pricing.

“It’s looking at regional routes and seeing what can be done from a federal perspective, from a regulatory perspective, to try and improve our connectivity,” Member for Solomon Luke Gosling said.

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First Aboriginal owned and operated mine in Australian history opens in Arnhem land

The colour of the dirt might have been different, but according to the Gumatj clan, the moment was no less significant.

At Gulkula in Northeast Arnhem Land, Gumatj leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu poured a handful of bauxite into the hands of Rio Tinto workers Jim Singer and Ken Kahler, just as Gough Whitlam had done with Vincent Lingiari at Wave Hill 51 years ago.

‘I feel proud. I feel more proud than ever before,’ Dr Yunupingu said.

The moment marked the opening of the Gulkula Mine, the first Aboriginal owned and operated mine in Australian history.

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Garma 2013

Aboriginal child protection laws being ‘broken’

Aboriginal child protection laws being ‘broken’ by NT Government: Member for Nhulunbuy