The seventh day of Christmas: New Year’s Eve

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I thought my photograph of Hampton Court on New Year’s Day 2009 might be suitable for today’s blog, as 2012 draws to a close. It has been a difficult year for me personally but a tremendous year to be British. Tonight I am celebrating in another place rich in British history, Dartmouth in Devon (of which, more another day).
A very brief potted history of New Year’s celebrations: Julius Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year. January is named after Janus, the Roman god with two faces that looked into the past and into the future. Romans celebrated New Year by making sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts, decorating their homes and throwing parties. In medieval Europe, Pope Gregory XIII established January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582. But the celebrations today retain much of their more pagan origins. One ancient tradition that still continues, particularly in Scotland, is ‘first footing’. At midnight, the Old Year is let out through the back door and the New Year let in through the front door. The first person at the New Year to pass over the threshold should bring coal or, more likely(!), whiskey for luck in the year ahead.

Wishing all my blogging friends a very happy New Year.

The Fourth Day of Christmas; lighting up time!

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Cartier store decoration, 2009

This post is a brief history of Christmas lights, chronology taken from Christmas: A Very Peculiar History by Fiona MacDonald.  Photos, as always, by me.

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Window display at Richard James, Saville Row, London 2008

Macy’s department store in New York, USA, pioneered special Christmas window displays in the 1870s.

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Display at Richard James, Saville Row, London, 2008

Edward H. Johnson, of Edison Electric Light Company, USA, was the first to decorate his tree with electric light bulbs, in 1882.

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Shopping Arcade, London

In 1904, Christmas lights were first used to decorate outdoor trees, but they were not yet electric.

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Claridges hotel, London, Christmas 2009

In 1927, the first organised outdoor Christmas light displays were held in the USA, called ‘Festivals of Lights’.

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Christmas floodlighting at RHS Wisley, Surrey

In 1956, electric lights were first used to decorate outdoor Christmas trees.

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Millennium glasshouse at Wisley

Despite the relative safety of electric lights over their predecessors, the US Fire Prevention Authority reported that between 2003-7 fire-fighters were called out to around 250 Christmas tree fires every year.

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Millennium glasshouse, Christmas 2010

Christmas light displays have become ever more spectacular over the decades but, with concerns about global energy supplies growing, perhaps their days will soon be numbered?

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Spooky Christmas lights at Wisley

Westminster Autumn

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Autumn in the Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster. In the foreground (and below) is the Buxton Memorial Fountain, commissioned by Charles Buxton MP to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in 1834, dedicated to his father Thomas Fowell Buxton, and designed by Gothic architect Samuel Sanders Teulon (1812–1873) in 1865.
In the background, of course, is the Palace of Westminster aka the Houses of Parliament, designed by Sir Charles Barry with advice from the great Augustus Pugin.

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Shooting the City

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On the whole, I find photography a solitary activity, and I am happy with that. I very rarely go out shooting in a group. When I do, I usually end up deleting the images I take; I just can’t seem to relax into it.

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But a couple of years ago I did enjoy a stroll around the City of London with fellow members of a Flickr group, T189 Oct-Dec 2008. All members of this group, which I administer, took the Open University’s short digital photography course in Oct-Dec 2008.

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Although activity in the group has gradually waned over the years, there is still a core of supportive and keen digital shooters and it was a pleasure to meet some of them in person on our City photo walk.

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And I didn’t delete every image.

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