Happy New Lunar Year

Happy New Lunar Year. Welcome to the Year of the Dragon.
A few days ago, millions of people around the world celebrated the beginning of the Lunar New Year. To some it’s known as Chinese New Year,  in Vietnam Tet, and in Korea, Seollal. There are other names in other cultures and my apologies if I’ve missed yours out. I also apologize for generalizing about the traditions followed. In China, it’s also known as the Spring Festival, the name introduced in 1914 by the republican government. 

For those who celebrate it, the Lunar New Year is a fresh start. In the days leading up to it, houses are cleaned from top to bottom to make way for good luck to come. Windows and doors might be decorated with red paper cutouts and lucky tokens, red being regarded as a lucky color. New clothes are purchased to be worn in the new year and small red envelopes containing money will be given. (Photo by Maud Beauregard on Unsplash)

Celebrations traditionally start on the eve of the first new moon between the 21st January and 20th February, often with a big dinner with special foods, auspicious dishes and dumplings. It’s very much a family affair, where ancestors and the elderly members of the family are honored. In the days following, people will visit relatives and friends, often exchanging gifts.

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Anne here, and today, I’m taking an easy way out (as I race towards a deadline) by  riffing off an article I recently read about Monopoly, the board game with which I’m sure we’re all very familiar. When I read this article I got a big surprise. You see, I’d always assumed it was first invented in the UK, because here in Australia we all grew up with the English version.

In fact, it’s pretty common for Australians visiting London to visit some of the monopoly squares. “Hey, I’m on Park Lane,” (which we all know has got to be pricey. <g>) I had no idea there was even an American version, set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and it turns out that not only was it the original version, but there are hundreds of different variations, including Dog-opoly and Cat-opoly, as well as all kinds of variations in many different languages. (Photo above by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash)

Monopoly was first patented in the USA December 31, 1935 by a man called Charles B. Darrow. But his version was based on a game invented by an American woman called Lizzie Magie, who in 1904, patented a game called The Landlord’s Game, which was, at its heart, an educational tool to teach players about taxes, and which effectively opposed the values implicit in the later game of Monopoly, where the grabbiest landlord wins. The Landlord’s Game became very popular with university students, and Darrow first came across it when his friends Charles and Esther Todd introduced him to it. (More detail here.)

Apart from the shock that the version that I knew so well was not the original, what fascinated me as I read on were the many ways in which Monopoly has been adapted and used. For instance During World War II, British intelligence created special Monopoly game boxes that they sent to British prisoner of war held in Nazi camps, containing not only the original board, but maps, compasses, small metal tools such as files, real money, and other objects useful for escaping. They were distributed to prisoners by fake charity organizations created by the British Secret Service. (Photo above by Robert Linder on Unsplash )

The maps were the crucial items. Paper maps were too fragile and also cumbersome and so they printed them on silk. Silk maps wouldn’t tear or dissolve in water as easily as paper ones and were light enough to stuff into a boot or cigarette packet. Best of all they didn’t rustle. (That’s a silk map below. Read more about this here.)

The company that produced these maps  was John Waddington Ltd. a company that was used to printing things on silk, for instance programs for grand celebrations and royal occasions. They were already printing maps on silk for airmen to carry. As well they were the  printer and board game manufacturer that happened to be the U.K. licensee for the Parker Bros. game Monopoly. Fascinating, eh?

That’s it from me today. I hope you enjoyed this brief dive into a short history of Monopoly. If you want to know more, click on some of the links in this post. Do you play Monopoly? Which version do you have, and do you have a favorite token? Mine was always the horse or the dog.

Choosing a Word for 2024

Anne here, with the final post in our Christmastide series of short posts. As from next week, we’ll be back to our normal posting schedule. I hope you’ve all had a peaceful and happy festive season.The photo on the right is of dawn on a beach on the east coast of Australia.It was taken by my friend Fiona McArthur, and I’m hoping we can all celebrate the dawn of the new year.

For many people a new year is a time for making resolutions — you know the kind of thing: doing more exercise, losing weight, giving up certain bad habits, taking up new virtuous ones. I don’t do that any more. I tried it when I was younger and I felt I was always setting myself up for failure. These days I do something slightly different — I choose a word.

I learned this from a writers’ group I’m a member of, and these days it’s spread to other friends as well. We choose one word, not a “thou shalt or thou shalt not” kind of word, but a word to inspire us, motivate us, maybe to make us smile, and to have as a kind of talisman for the year ahead.  We wenches blogged about it in 2022.

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A Christmas Diorama

Anne here, continuing our daily Christmastide posts for the 12 days of Christmas. When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do in the lead up to Christmas was to make a diorama of the nativity scene in a shoebox. I made it all from scratch. A diorama is just a scene, and there are all kinds — military ones, dolls house ones, there’s no limit. But today I’m talking about a Christmas diorama.

First I’d paint the shoebox and thatch it with glued-on grass. And scatter more dried grass on the floor, for hay. The manger was usually the tray part of a matchbox, also lined with dried grass. And a star, stuck on a piece of wire hovered above my stable.

The people were the most fun. I used the old-fashioned clothes pegs as a body, and pipe cleaners for arms. And I’d clothe them in scraps of fabric; Mary in blue, Joseph in brown and the kings in whatever fancy fabric I could get hold of. My godmother, who always spent Christmas and Easter with us, was clever with all kinds of craft and could always be relied on for snippets of glittery braid and things like that.

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Another Christmas Quiz (2023)

Anne here, and since Christmas is less than a week away, I’m offering you  a Christmas Quiz. However, since I’m working madly towards an imminent deadline, I have recycled some of the questions from my previous quizzes. How many do you remember? You might know some, you might not, but as always, this is just for fun.

Write down your answers as you go, then pop over to the link at the end to see the answers. Then come back here and tell us how you went.

1)     Which Christmas carol might have been sung by Regency people?
a) Hark the Herald Angels Sing
b) The First Noel.
c) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
d) We Three Kings of Orient Are.

2) The first member of the English royal family to display a Christmas tree was        a) Queen Adelaide in 1820
b) Queen Charlotte in 1800
c) Queen Victoria in 1848
d) Queen Caroline in 1825

3) Mince pies in the Regency contained:
a) ground nuts
b) dried fruit and meat
c) minced steak
d) chicken and other kinds of poultry

4). Stir-Up Day is:
a) The last Sunday before Advent, when the minister traditionally gives a fiery sermon to stir the congregation from sin and complacency.
b) The day when in the country, the winter hay is turned, to prevent it going moldy.
c) the day when all the members of the family gather to stir the Christmas pudding.
d) The day when the foxes are stirred from their dens to prepare for hunting on Boxing Day (26th December).

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