Where Did the Tradition of the Christmas Tree Come From?

Each year, when the weather gets colder and December approaches, many Americans who celebrate Christmas will get together to decorate a Christmas tree. But why in the world do we decorate these (often artificial) fir trees in the first place?

It turns out, the meaning behind Christmas trees as holiday decor goes back further than you might realize.

Both the ancient Egyptians and Romans saw the bright hue of plants that remained green all year, such as palm rushes and evergreen boughs, as a way to give warmth and hope to people during the winter, according to

Ancient people would mark the winter solstice (the shortest day and longest night of the year, which typically falls on December 21 or December 22) by using evergreens. These plants served as a sunny reminder that other greens would grow again once spring and summer returned.

People in some countries believed evergreens stood for everlasting life and even had the ability to ward off evil spirits and illnesses—another reason for the tradition of hanging evergreen boughs above doorways and inside homes.


Some say the first-ever Christmas tree was in London, near what is now Leadenhall Market. However, it seems it was a one-time trend, as Christmas trees wouldn’t be back in Britain until the 19th century.


Many believe Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, began the tradition of adding lighted candles to a tree, which is why we decorate trees with strands of lightbulbs today. The story goes that while Luther was walking home one winter evening, he saw twinkling stars among evergreens and wanted to re-create the magical moment for his family.


While Christmas trees were appearing in Germany years earlier, the trend really caught on after writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited Strasbourg, near the German border, and included the concept in his novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther.


The first record of a decorated evergreen tree in America was that of German settlers in Pennsylvania.


Queen Victoria, German Prince Albert, and their children were shown standing around a Christmas tree in the Illustrated London News. Because Victoria was very popular with her subjects at that time, the Christmas tree trend took off in both Britain and the East Coast of the United States.

Christmas with Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, their children and Queen Victoria’s mother, in 1848 as depicted in the Illustrated London News.  Getty Images


When Edward H. Johnson, the vice president of Edison’s Electric Light company, decorated a tree with 80 red, white, and blue lightbulbs and displayed it in his New York City window, a newspaper in Detroit helped him earn the title “Father of the Electric Christmas Tree.”


Some Americans were still skeptical about using electric lights on their Christmas trees, although apparently not President Grover Cleveland. He is said to have introduced the first electrically lit White House Christmas tree.


General Electric began selling Christmas light kits so that people could decorate their Christmas trees more easily than ever.


But it was Albert Sadacca who is believed to have really made Christmas tree lights mainstream. The New York teenager had heard about a candlelit tree that burst into flames and started stringing lights for his family’s novelty business. Painting the bulbs proved to be the ticket—and one day his business became NOMA Electric Company (National Outfit Manufacturer’s Association), the largest Christmas light manufacturer in the world for many years.


The first Christmas tree went up in Rockefeller Center—only it was a lot smaller than the ones debuted these days. And instead of an official lighting before a crowd of spectators, this one was orchestrated by construction workers.


Two years later, a lighted tree was placed in Rockefeller Center, sparking the city’s annual tradition.

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza on December 20, 1934.Getty Images



After a rich history, Christmas trees (both real and artificial) have become the centerpiece of the season—and a classic Christmas tradition that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

How to write a book

For a writer, announcing that you’ve scored a book deal is the professional equivalent of the engagement or baby announcement on Facebook: it’s life-defining, it’s exciting, it gets you hundreds of likes and comments from people you haven’t spoken to in years.

I just announced my book news on social media the other day, and felt the temporary glow of achievement. But then I swiftly returned to the rather gnarly reality: that writing a book is a lonely, doubtful, at times excruciating experience that causes you to question your abilities, your life choices and yourself. There’s a reason people always say it’s like giving birth to a literary baby: it’s an enormous undertaking and you’re literally creating something out of nothing.
And yet… Writing a book is one of the most popular life ambitions in the world. There are millions of half-finished debut novels, just-started memoirs and nearly-there works of non-fiction tucked away in desk drawers, and millions more ideas for books on secret bucket lists. Everyone thinks they could maybe whip up a bestseller, and there’s always been something glamorous about the perception of a writer’s life. Like tapping on a typewriter or a laptop is the most romantic thing a creative person can do with their brain. Writers in movies and books are always depicted as brilliant and a little bit tortured, because writing, really writing, is like extracting a piece of your soul every time you open a Word document. Or so legend would have us believe.
Given how many people desperately or casually wish to write a book, I thought I’d give you a few brutal hints about what it’s really like to actually sit down and do it. Because that’s the real difference between the people who do write a book and those who don’t: the actual physical act of forcing words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters and chapters into a book.
The first thing you should know about book-writing is that when you strip away the loveliness of getting a book deal and the thrill of having an idea worth chasing, it really is just you and a word processor in a room. There are few things on this planet more solitary than writing a book. It can get pretty lonely. As a freelance journalist, I’m used to the solitude of the thinking-writing cycle, but if you’re unaccustomed to it, it could be a shock. Sure, you’ve got editors and friends and loved people who can offer an opinion – and they’re all fantastic – but ultimately, your book doesn’t exist until you make it exist through sheer force of will and hard work.
And it is hard work. It’s not all stringing together beautiful sentences, moving plots and writing characters into life. It’s dogged, diligent research, planning, scheming, thinking and then bashing out words at the rate of your imagination until you have the right amount. It’s an arduous, baffling, exhausting task that could bring you to the precipice of your sanity again and again. Somehow, every time you feel like you’ve run out of inspiration, you’ve got to find the courage and the stamina to keep moving words onto pages in time for your deadline. That’s what I’m trying to do right now – I’ve been stuck on 35,000 words (out of my required 80,000) for three weeks. The inspiration has just stalled and quite frankly, all I can do is blindly trust that it will return because it has to. That’s what a deadline and a cheque will do: it’ll make the act of writing urgent, inevitable and terrifying.
Through all this external pressure, you’ve got yourself to contend with, too. Maybe you’re the kind of writer who lays down a sentence and whispers aloud, “Oh, well done! What a sentence!” Maybe you’re the kind of writer who sees the beauty in their own writing immediately, and often. And that’s terrific for you.
If you’re anything like me, though, or indeed any other writer I’ve ever spoken to, you will more likely hate every word you’ve written as soon as you’ve written it. I’m at the stage now where I just focus on churning out words and hope that the noise of my fingers on the keyboard will drown out the sound of my self-doubt. My confidence in my own work comes and goes like a pernicious cat: it visits me for reassurance only on its time and its terms.
Some days, I like my idea for a book. I can imagine people reading it, even liking it. Most days, I berate myself for ever having the audacity to think I could be a published writer. It’s exhausting. And I’m not a timid, self-loathing sort of writer typically – apart from a brief time where I thought I might follow my mother and grandparents into acting, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. Writing is what I’ve chosen to do with my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To do it, you have to push through layers and layers of fear, doubt and guilt. You have to have the sort of ambition that carries you through all that and the tenacity to get the job done, no matter what. It’s intense and difficult – but that’s just what it’s like to write a book.

Float through London in your hot tub

One thing you do come to realise, quite quickly, is that you’ve never seen it all at The Handbook office. Hot tubs are the coveted summer accessory that we desperately seek out during the season. After all, little beats a bubbling pit of water, champers in hand as the tan tops up a treat. Well, that’s what we thought anyway until we saw something sure to go down even more swimmingly. Drifting in this summer are HotTug UK’s floating hot tubs. Bath tubs and hot tubs aside, these super human tubs will transport you through the capital’s iconic cityscape, Camden Hells beer in hand, whilst you drift away with friends into the sunset.

The HotTuggers will set sail from the company’s newly announced second location, West India Quay this August, with the experience lasting for 90 minutes. HotTuggers will be surrounded by the scenic Canary Wharf – in other words, have a good wave at the bankers and workers whilst you sashay past in an inflatable tub with a beer. Sounds alright doesn’t it?

To celebrate the launch, HotTug are giving away a chance to name a HotTug. The winner will then get the chance to have a free trip aboard a floating hot tub…bet there’s something you don’t hear every day! You simply submit your suggested name and the winner will be picked by Founder, Tommo Thomson.

So, if you do like to be beside the quayside, jump aboard.

HotTugs will open for business on 1st August every Wednesday through to Sunday, at West India Quay,



The Handbook

What’s new on Netflix in October 2017 – best films and TV shows to watch


There’s a range of new titles popping up too, and less familiar names – though Designated Survivor is back along with Riverdale Season Two on October 12.

The Day I Met El Chapo is worth a punt as well if you’re not checking out the classic The Little Mermaid and Ace Ventura.

There’s quite a bit to keep you occupied as the night’s get colder. So huddle up under your blanket, get that junk food ready (or wine, we’re not averse to a glass of wine) and get watching.

Here’s what to watch on Netflix this October.

October 1

26 Years

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

 America 3000


Bitten: Season 3

Boys in the Trees


crazy che

Equestria Girls: Tales of Canterlot High: Season 1

Ernesto Guevara – El Che

Fish Don’t Blink

For a Few Dollars More

Forever the Moment

Generation Iron 2

Ghost Patrol

Good Will Hunting

Grean House: Season 1

Ha Unlimited 1

Ha Unlimited 2

Horror Story: Season 1

How to Steal a Dog

I’m in Love with a Church Girl

Ice Guardians

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Joint Security Area


Kon Kon Kon: Season 1

Like Water for Chocolate

Lockup: Disturbing the Peace: Collection 1

Lovesick 1

Lovesick 2

Major League

Men on a Mission: Series 1

My Bromance: Season 1


Part Time the Series: Season 1

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

 Rush Hour 3


The Betrayed

The Bounce Back

The Extra: Season 1

The Host

The Lion Woman

The Perfect Guy

The President’s Barber

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

The School: Season 1

The Time of Their Lives

Time Travel: Season 1

Timeline: Season 1

Too Much Stress From My Heart



What She Put on the Table: Season 1

When Calls the Heart: Season 4

Whitechapel: Season 4

Wrong Side Raju



October 2

Footprints in the Sand: Season 1

In Laws: Season 1

La Femme: Season 1

Laws of Attraction: Season 1

Moving on: Season 1

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown

Chesapeake Shores: Season 2

Hallows Eve

October 3

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Rodney Carrington: Here Comes The Truth


October 4

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

October 5

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Bonus Family (Bonusfamiljen): Season 1

NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE Designated Survivor: Season 2 (new episodes weekly)

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt Pepper And Beyond

Designated Survivor

October 6

Auntie Duohe: Season 1


Kibaoh Klashers: Season 2


NETFLIX ORIGINAL Skylanders Academy: Season 2

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Suburba: Season 1

NETFLIX ORIGINAL The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Word Party: Season 3

October 7

Chris Brown: Welcome To My Life

Mossad 101: Season 2

October 10


Barakah Meets Barakah

Chesapeake Shores: Season 2

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Christina P: Mother Inferior

Once Upon a Time Season 7

The Little Mermaid

October 12

NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE Dynasty: Season 1 (new episodes weekly)


NETFLIX EXCLUSIVE Riverdale: Season 2 (new episodes weekly)

October 13

NETFLIX ORIGINAL El Especial de Alex Fernández, el Especial



NETFLIX ORIGINAL Mindhunter: Season 1

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Super Monsters: Season 1


NETFLIX ORIGINAL The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 4

October 14

Jane The Virgin S4

October 15

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

Aji Bas Shukriya

Alibaba Aur 40 Chor




Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses

Hamare Tumhare


LEGO: City: Season 1




Power Rangers Ninja Steel: Season 1

Power Rangers Series 2017: Season 1

Pyar Ke Do Pal



Siffredi Late Night – Hard Academy: Season 1


The New Guy

The Pledge



West Coast Customs: Season 6

October 17

Live from the BBC: Season 1

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Patton Oswalt: Annihilation

October 18

What We Did on Our Holiday

October 19


Madame Bovary

Wedding Unplanned

October 20


NETFLIX ORIGINAL Haters Back Off: Season 2


NETFLIX ORIGINAL The Day I Met El Chapo: The Kate del Castillo Story


October 22

Scorpion: Season 3


October 24



October 26

Strange Weather

October 27

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Stranger Things: Season 2

October 28


October 30

NETFLIX ORIGINAL Judah Friedlander: America Is The Greatest Country In The United States

Max 2: White House Hero

October 31


NETFLIX ORIGINAL Zumbo’s Just Desserts: Season 1

We’ll have the November listings next month.

November 5 is the day when Britons everywhere set fire to things and let things off. But why?


What is bonfire night?

November 5 – which this year falls on a Saturday –  commemorates the failure of the November 1605 Gunpowder Plot by a gang of Roman Catholic activists led by Warwickshire-born Robert Catesby.

When Protestant King James I acceded to the throne, English Catholics had hoped that the persecution they had felt for over 45 years under Queen Elizabeth I would finally end, and they would be granted the freedom to practice their religion.

When this didn’t transpire, a group of conspirators resolved to assassinate the King and his ministers by blowing up the Palace of Westminster during the state opening of Parliament.


Guy (Guido) Fawkes, from York, and his fellow conspirators, having rented out a house close to the Houses of Parliament, managed to smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder into a cellar of the House of Lords – enough to completely destroy the building.

(Physicists from the Institute of Physics later calculated that the 2,500kg of gunpowder beneath Parliament would have obliterated an area 500 metres from the centre of the explosion).

The scheme began to unravel when an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, the 4th Baron Monteagle, warning him to avoid the House of Lords.

Guy Fawkes tried and failed to blow up Parliament in the Gunpowder Plot

The letter (which could well have been sent by Lord Monteagle’s brother-in-law Francis Tresham), was made public and this led to a search of Westminster Palace in the early hours of November 5.

Explosive expert Fawkes, who had been left in the cellars to set off the fuse, was caught when a group of guards discovered him at the last moment.

Fawkes was arrested, sent to the Tower of London and tortured until he gave up the names of his fellow plotters.

Lord Monteagle was rewarded with £500 plus £200 worth of lands for his service in protecting the crown.

Who were the Gunpowder Plot conspirators?

Guy Fawkes, Thomas Bates, Robert and Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Christopher and John Wright, Francis Tresham, Everard Digby, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes, Hugh Owen, John Grant and the man who organised the whole plot – Robert Catesby.

The conspirators were all either killed resisting capture or – like Fawkes – tried, convicted, and executed.

The traditional death for traitors in 17th-century England was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in public. But this proved not to be the 35-year-old Fawkes’s fate.

As he awaited his punishment on the gallows, Fawkes leapt off the platform to avoid having his testicles cut off, his stomach opened and his guts spilled out before his eyes.

Mercifully for him, he died from a broken neck but his body was subsequently quartered, and his remains were sent to “the four corners of the kingdom” as a warning to others.

The aftermath

Following the failed plot, Parliament declared November 5th a national day of thanksgiving, and the first celebration of it took place in 1606.

Following the plot, King James I sought to control non-conforming English Catholics in England. In May 1606, Parliament passed ‘The Popish Recusants Act’ which required any citizen to take an oath of allegiance denying the Pope’s authority over the king.

Observance of the 5th November Act, passed within months of the plot, made church attendance compulsory on that day and by the late 17th Century, the day had gained a reputation for riotousness and disorder and anti-Catholicism. William of Orange’s birthday (November 4th) was also conveniently close.

Guy Fawkes Day today

The Houses of Parliament are still searched by the Yeomen of the Guard before the state opening, which has been held in November since 1928. The idea is to ensure no modern-day Guy Fawkes is hiding in the cellars with a bomb, although it is more ceremonial than serious. And they do it with lanterns.

The cellar that Fawkes tried to blow up no longer exists. In 1834 it was destroyed in a fire which devastated the medieval Houses of Parliament.

Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom, and in a number of countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, with fireworks, bonfires and parades. Straw dummies representing Fawkes are tossed on the bonfire, as well as those of contemporary political figures.

Dummies have been burned on bonfires since as long ago as the 13th century, initially to drive away evil spirits. Following the Gunpowder Plot, the focus of the sacrifices switched to Guy Fawkes’ treason.

Traditionally, these effigies called ‘guys’, are carried through the streets in the days leading up to Guy Fawkes Day and children ask passers-by for “a penny for the guy.” Today the word ‘guy’ is a synonym for ‘a man’ but originally it was a term for an “repulsive, ugly person” in reference to Fawkes. The fireworks represent the explosives that were never used by the plotters.

In Ottery St Mary, south Devon, in a tradition dating from the 17th century, barrels soaked in tar are set alight and carried aloft through parts of the town by residents. Only Ottregians – those born in the town, or who have lived there for most of their lives – may carry a barrel. Lewes, in southeastern England, is also the site of annual celebration. Guy Fawkes Day there has a distinctly local flavour, involving six bonfire societies whose memberships are grounded in family history stretching back for generations. The only place in the UK that does not celebrate Guy Fawkes Night is his former school St. Peter’s in York. They refuse to burn a guy out of respect for one of their own.

At a glance – 7 things you never knew about Guy Fawkes

1. Guy Fawkes did not die from being hung, drawn and quartered:
As he awaited his grisly punishment on the gallows, Fawkes leapt to his death – to avoid the horrors of having his testicles cut off, his stomach opened and his guts spilled out before his eyes. He died from a broken neck.
2. Guy Fawkes was not the Gunpowder Plot’s ringleader:
There were 13 conspirators in the plot, which was masterminded by Robert Catesby, a charismatic Catholic figure who had a reputation for speaking out against the English crown. But it was Fawkes who gained notoriety after the plot was foiled, for he was caught after sneaking into the cellar beneath the House of Lords to ignite the explosives.
3. Guy Fawkes won the unlikely admiration of King James I:
Fawkes withstood two full days of torture and expressed his regret at having failed his mission. His steadfast manner earned him the praise of King James, who described Fawkes as possessing “a Roman resolution”.
4. Guy Fawkes has an island named after him:
He is one of Britain’s most infamous villains, whose effigy has been burned and whose demise has been publicly celebrated for more than four centuries. Yet to the north-west of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands, a collection of two uninhabited, crescent-shaped islands is named Isla Guy Fawkes, or Guy Fawkes Island.
5. The Houses of Parliament are still searched once a year to make sure there are no conspirators hiding with explosives:
Before the annual State Opening of Parliament, the Yeomen of the Guard search the Houses of Parliament to make sure there are no would-be conspirators hiding in the cellars. This has become more of a tradition than a serious anti-terrorist precaution.
6. The cellar that Fawkes tried to blow up no longer exists:
It was destroyed in a fire in 1834 that devastated the medieval Houses of Parliament.
7. The gunpowder would have done little damage to Parliament:
The 36 barrels of gunpowder that Fawkes planted in a cellar below the Houses of Parliament would have been sufficient to raze it to the ground, while causing severe damage to neighbouring buildings. However, some experts now claim that the gunpowder had “decayed”, and would not have properly exploded even if ignited.

Attention Muggles! A Harry Potter Book Club Is Coming To London

It’s kind of scary to realise, but J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel was published 20 years ago this June. While her wizarding world continues to expand with the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been a huge hit in the West End, it’s still hard to beat the captivating storytelling of those original books.
So, it’s exciting to hear that an unofficial but pretty awesome-sounding Harry Potter book club is coming to London. Beginning on the 20th of June, the Wizard Book Club will run every Tuesday evening until the 15th of August. Each week a storyteller will read out two chapters from Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, before proceedings turn a little more interactive. The organisers promise “there will be activities, wizarding treats, and more.”
It’s worth noting that the Wizard Book Club is definitely a grown-up event as “alcohol will be served.” According to the organisers, it’s designed to be a weekly gathering “for giant kids at heart who still love Harry Potter and were brought up with the books and movies. ” That’s pretty much all of us, right?
The location has yet to be announced, but it’s definitely going to take place somewhere in zones 1 and 2. In the meantime, you can find out more over on the Wizard Book Club website.
Oh, and if this isn’t quite enough Harry Potter nostalgia for you, find out all about Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley’s recent reunion in New York City here.

Kitchen Library 2017: Jose Pizzaro



Chef Mark Hix presents a series of intimate suppers to be held throughout the year at his Kitchen Library, Shoreditch. With only 12 seats around the kitchen bar, places are limited, resulting in an atmosphere reflective more of a dinner party than a formal sit down restaurant. The series welcomes critically acclaimed Spanish Chef Jose Pizzaro. Mark and Jose will serve four courses, using seasonal ingredient-led menus, paired with wine and cocktails to compliment.

Piccadilly Gets a Brand New Musical

London is filled to the brim with West End productions, but if you’re like us, you can never say no to a sparkly new one hitting town…especially when it’s in The Crazy Coqs’ unique intimate venue. The Crazy Coqs over the years has become home to the West End’s most up-and-coming performers alongside established stars all taking to the stage beneath Piccadilly Circus.

Childhood friends and creative collaborators, Katie Lam and Alex Parker (the people behind amateur dramatics: A Musical Comedy, The Railway Children: A Musical and All Aboard), were given the task of creating a modern story for The Crazy Coqs. The result? Three classic romances (Brief Encounter, falling in Love and The Way We Were) all mixed together to create a brand new heart fluttering story, After You.

After You is all about falling in love and learning that sometimes we need to keep things to ourselves, despite it being one of the hardest things to do. It follows two characters that met by chance at a cabaret performance and – as you’d hope for on stage – their connection was sudden and deep, which resulted in them just having to meet again. However, like any love story it wasn’t all roses and Champagne; there’s a secret that threatens to rock the worlds that they have both worked so hard to maintain…we wonder what the secret is?

Order a drink from their ever-so-sophisticated cocktail menu, sit back and enjoy the show…

After You will run from 13th to 22nd April at The Crazy Coqs