‘Tis the season to… learn some stuff

Christmas TreeAs Christmas creeps ever closer and we all look forward to a few days away from our beloved workplace, for some of us, this provides a fine opportunity to acquire some knowledge about all matters festive and where better to begin our research than on the Westminster Libraries webpages?

First port of call for once, isn’t the Gateway to websites but the Libraries Advent Calendar. Full of interesting links to Christmassy things (other winter festivals are included – check out Hanukkah on 20 December), but don’t forget to admire the delightful numbers on the windows which were specially designed for us by the talented young members of Maida Vale Library.

On the Gateway to Websites, a good place to start is obviously the Beliefs & Customs section. At the Sacred Text Archive find the sacred texts of the major religions in a range of translations as well as the original languages. Also useful are the BBC Religion site and Virtual Religion Index both of which hold a wealth of information about belief systems.

For others, Christmas is mostly a time to catch up with family and friends and cook rather more extravagantly than usual. The Home & Garden section of the Gateway is your friend here. Both the BBC Food site and the Sainsbury’s site (other supermarkets are available) offer thousands of Christmas recipes – you can search by ingredients, by chef, specify how long you want to spend in the kitchen, and, most importantly for the residents of Treasure Hunt Towers, be strictly vegetarian (the 12 December page on the Advent Calendar is also your friend here).

While you’re doing your cooking, why not listen to some appropriate music? Check out the Music section of the Gateway for the Naxos Music Library (you may be prompted to type in your library card number when you click on the link). A search for ‘Christmas’ brings up 1310 results including whole carol concerts as well as seasonal favourites such as the Nutcracker suite.

For many, Christmas telly is something to look forward to and the centrepiece of the BBC’s offerings for the past few years has been Doctor Who. This years’ Narnia-style episode looks a real cracker but it may make you nostalgic for days gone by or even arouse your children’s interest in what the programme was like in the olden days. While the BBC’s page is obviously a good place to start, why not see what you can find on the Gateway? Check out the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in the Biography section for the lives of the first and third Doctors (William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee)  as well as Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, and Verity Lambert, the first producer. You can look in the News & Magazines section  of the Gateway to see what the papers thought about it (on 30 December 1964, the Guardian had a story about the Rector of St Paul’s Church, York, taking a model Dalek into the pulpit with him and, apparently, delivering his sermon using a Dalek-style voice. Which must have at least caught people’s attention.)

And finally, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a touch of Dickens. I defy anyone not to be moved by this version of A Christmas Carol, entirely performed by guinea pigs. God Bless Us Every One!

[Nicky]

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