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2018: Top ten facts about the new year

1. 2018 will celebrate the centenary of the end of fighting in the First World War.  2. 2018 will also be celebrated as the 250th anniversary of the first circus, in London in 1768.  3. In February, the Winter Olympics will begin in PyeongChang in South Korea at an estimated cost of a record $10billion.  4. In order not to be confused with the North Korean capital Pyongyang, PyeongChang has changed its spelling, capitalising the C in its name.  5. 2018 will mark the 400th anniversary of the death of…

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Odd news: Top 10 facts about the strangest news stories

1. Eight donkeys were jailed in India after eating some very expensive plants outside a jail.  2. A flight from Shanghai was delayed after a woman threw coins into its engine “for good luck”.  3. A man arrested on a drugs charge in Minnesota gave the officer a Monopoly “get out of jail free” card. He is said to have carried it “just in case”.  4. The British Embassy in Jordan has appointed a cat named Lawrence of Abdoun as chief mouser. He is said to be the embassy’s first…

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World records broke in 2017: Top 10 facts about new milestones met this year

1. In January, Matej Kodes created a soap bubble around a record 275 people and a car in the Czech Republic. 2. In March, Lily Connors, 13, of Swansea was confirmed to have the world’s largest collection of Dr Who memorabilia with 6,641 items. 3. In April, Markus Jürgens of Germany set a new record by running a marathon backwards in 3hr 38min 27sec. 4. In May, an Australian cat named Omar was confirmed as the world’s biggest cat. He is 3ft 11in long and weighs in at an enormous…

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Christmas Eve: Top 10 facts about this festive day

1. In much of Europe, shoes rather than stockings are left for Santa to fill on Christmas Eve. 2. Kiritimati, or Christmas Island, in the Pacific Ocean ought really to be Christmas Eve Island. James Cook discovered it on December 24, 1777. 3. Italian-Americans celebrate Christmas Eve with the seafood based Feast of the Seven Fishes. 4. According to an old superstition, bread baked on Christmas Eve will never go mouldy. 5. In Bolivia, Mass of the Rooster is celebrated on Christmas Eve with roosters brought to midnight mass. Supposedly…

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Snow White: Top 10 facts about the Disney film

1. The story of Snow White, more or less as we know it, was first published in German by The Brothers Grimm in 1812. 2. The original German version is rather more violent and bloodthirsty than the Disney story we are all used to. 3. The wicked queen tries to kill Snow White several times, starting with a silk bodice which she laces so tightly, Snow White cannot breathe. 4. At the end of the Grimms’ tale, the queen is forced to dance herself to death in red-hot slippers.  5.…

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Christmas cards: Top 10 facts as today marks last day to send them out second-class

1. The first commercial Christmas cards were designed in 1843 for senior civil servant Sir Henry Cole by his artist friend Sir John Horsley. 2. Cole was Assistant Keeper at the Public Record Office which was later to become the Post Office.  3. Horsley was a painter who was so passionately opposed to the use of nude models that he acquired the nickname Clothes Horsley. 4. His first Christmas card design had two panels showing people caring for the poor and a centre panel of family having a large Christmas…

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Kissing under mistletoe: Top 10 facts about the plant commonly used at Christmas

1. There are around 1,300 species of mistletoe worldwide, around 20 of which are endangered.  2. Mistletoe is a parasite, sinking its roots into a tree from which it obtains it nutrients.  3. Phoradendron is the scientific name for mistletoe, meaning “thief of the tree” in Greek.  4. The word mistletoe comes from an observation in Anglo-Saxon times it often grew around bird poo. “Mistal” meant “dung” and “tan” was “twig”. 5. Several birds, butterflies and bees live off the berries, leaves and nectar of mistletoe, making it an important…

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Christmas: Top 10 facts about the festive period

1. The date of December 25 was chosen to celebrate Christ’s birthday at the Council of Nicaea in AD325.  2. The date was earlier used by the Romans to celebrate the winter solstice and the Sun God.  3. The first evidence we have of Christmas being celebrated on December 25 was in Rome in AD336. 4. December 25 was also chosen as being nine months from March 25, which was said to be when archangel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary.  5. Some Eastern Orthodox churches still use the Julian calendar,…

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Tea: Top ten facts about about Britain’s favourite brew

1. The first mention of tea in English was in 1598 when it was referred to as “chaa”.  2. The first reference to “tea-time” was in 1740, the first use of the phrase “tea-strainer” was in 1906 and “tea-break” was first seen in 1948.  3. Around 165 million cups of tea are drunk in the United Kingdom every year.  4. The earliest known monograph on tea was written in China by Lu Yu around AD760… 5. …it includes descriptions of the 28 items used in the preparation and drinking of…

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Monkey see, monkey do: Top 10 facts about man’s closest evolutionary relatives

1. Monkey Day celebrates monkeys and “all things simian” including apes, tarsiers and lemurs. 2. The Burmese sneezing monkey, discovered in 2010, clears its nose by sneezing when it rains. 3. On the Japanese island of Yakushima, monkeys have been seen riding deer.. 4. Last year the National Portrait Gallery marked Monkey Day by tweeting a painting of the Earl of Rochester putting a laurel on a jabbering monkey. 5. The Emperor tamarin is said to have been named for German Emperor Wilhelm II as both had impressive white moustaches. …

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