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Word Geek is back with some festive fun words. Do you know what it means to scurryfunge? Or are you a yuleshard? Maybe at this time of year you get a bit steamin’ or enjoy going for a Christmas dander?

This time we’re staying closer to home with a look into unusual festive words and traditions from the four corners of the UK.

From England we bring you long-forgotten Christmas words

  • Crump: that crunching sound you hear when you walk on frozen snow. 
  • Gawby-market: describing a market or fair held on the first day of trading after Christmas.
  • Yuleshard or yule-jade: a person who leaves a lot of work to be done on Christmas Eve night, instead of trying to finish everything in advance of the holidays.
  • Scurryfunge: last minute tidying when unexpected guests arrive. The word might not be used these days, but Word Geek would argue everyone has to scurryfunge at some point during the Christmas period!
  • Bull Week: a Yorkshire word for Christmas, dating back to the 1800s when the owners of Sheffield’s cutlery factories rewarded their workers with a whole roast bull if they managed to finish all the pre-Christmas work on time.

    Wales provides us with some interesting festive traditions

    • Holming: a 19th century tradition of whacking the last person out of bed on Boxing Day with holly sprigs
    • Plygain: dating back to the 13th century when people would gather in rural churches and the men would raucously sing their favourite Welsh carols from 3am to first light
    • Wassail: move over mulled wine, try this bowl of spiced warm mulled cider. Traditionally when taking a sip the drinker makes a wish for a healthy harvest or good fortune for the coming year.
    • Nos Galan road races: commemorating 17th century runner Guto Nyth Brân, when nearly 2,000 runners descend on the town of Mountain Ash on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. Legend has it he was so fast, he could run to Pontypridd and back (seven miles) before his mother’s kettle had boiled. 
    • Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Welsh speakers!

      While in Scotland it’s all about celebrating start of a new year

      • Hogmanay: traditional word for New Year’s Eve, but origin is unknown with various different spellings over the years.
      • Redding the house: the tradition of cleaning your house and removing any old ashes from the fire to make sure you start the year ahead with a clean slate.
      • Auld Lang Syne: celebrating old friendship, from a poem by Robet Burns and first seen in print in 1796.
      • Lang may yer lum reek: long may your chimney smoke, more commonly interpreted as ‘long may you live’.
      • Slàinte Mhath: wishing you good health, however you bring in the new year

      And finally from northern Ireland, colourful words for everyday actions

      • Scundered: to be embarrassed, annoyed or frustrated 
      • Craic: one of the most popular words, it means fun and is often used in the phrase ‘where’s the craic?’ or ‘what’s the craic?’
      • Houl yer whisht: a polite way to ask someone to be quiet
      • Steamin’: very merry!
      • Going for a dander or a walk
      • Taps ‘aff: warmer weather when you spot men walking round with their taps (tops) off.

      Embracing the language of the festive season

      At The Language Factory, we love learning more about the range of languages spoken across the UK and the traditions of the season. Word Geek is looking forward to embracing these festive traditions and reinvigorating some of the more unusual words and phrases this Christmas!

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