Awesome Advent


Click on each day to for an advent surprise or scroll down the page. Each day will either have a video, song, some facts or a special HH Christmas surprise!

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Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 25

Awesome Advent Day 25: Christmas Conclusion

Through the past 25 days, with the help of HH, we’ve taken you through both some festive things people have done throughout time and some horrible happenings going on before Christmas. For many Christmas is the time of giving, just as the Kings of medieval Scotland would do on Daft Day. People have also bought some strange new traditions-Christmas Trees, wassailing and some festive food.

Not everyone has been so jolly-some people have been Christmas Scrooge’s. Oliver Cromwell banned it (luckily Charles II restored the monarchy and Christmas!), Queen Elizabeth wasn’t too thrilled about her Christmas presents and some early Emperors and Priests killed men who soon became Saints.

Coming up to the New Year, Christmas has been a time of new beginnings, not necessarily forgiveness though! The Glorious Revolution kicked out James II and welcomed Mary II and William III, which pleased most of the country; the French Revolution got rid of the French monarchy when their King pushed his luck. Going back to the Middle Ages the throne saw Stephen become King, and most famously in 1066 William the Conqueror was crowned starting the tradition of doing so at Westminster Abbey. Also, Columbus set ahead for new expeditions, the Stuarts saw the first woman on stage and Charlemagne came to power, eventually to complete a conquest of the Saxons of North Germany.

And so, throughout time people have celebrated Christmas in many different ways. Whether you believe it was the birth of Jesus, or whether Christians stole the Winter Solis celebrations off from the Pagans and claimed it as Christmas, it’s a time where we all gather together and celebrate life. The Germans and Brits held a truce in WWI and played football, Victorian prison masters gave prisoners a Christmas meal and overall we have all exchanged Christmas traditions from around the world and globally celebrate a day of love and peace.

Merry Christmas folks!

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 24

Awesome Advent Day 24: Seasonal Saints

Through the Christmas holidays there are many saintly days, each with a story behind them.

26th December: Saint Stephen

Stephen was one of the first Christians. The priests of Jerusalem said he was wicked and put him on trial for his life. Instead of pleading for his life he shouted rude words at them and was stoned to death.

27th December: John the Apostle

John was one of Jesus’ original followers in the Bible, and the only one to live to old age. Emperor Domitian had him thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil but the Saint stepped out unhunt!

1st January: Saint Telemachus

The Romans loved to watch gory gladiator games, however Telemachus did not. He thought it was cruel and wicked and once stepped in the middle of a fight and told them to stop. The crowd was so upset that they stoned him to death. However, Emperor Honorius did put a stop to gladiator fights.

2nd January: Saint Basi of Caesarea

This Saint brings gifts to children every January the 1st in Greece (whereas Father Christmas brings gifts on Christmas Eve). On St. Basil’s Day families serve ‘vasilopita’, a rich bread baked with a coin inside.

3rd January: Saint Gordius

Gordius was a Roman soldier who thought it was a holy idea to shed some blood for Jesus. He went to the arena and told the Roman Governor: “I am a Christian, kill me.” The Governor had Goridus killed with swords.

4th January: Thomas Plumtree

When Elizabeth I was on the throne she was having Catholics tortured and executed all the time. Thomas joined a revolt against Elizabeth but was captured when the rebellion failed. He was told he could go free if he gave up the Catholic Church. He refused and was hung in Durham Castle.

5th January: Charles of Mount Argus

Saint Charles was a Dutch priest who worked in Ireland and became famous for curing the sick. A 12-year-old boy who lost the use of his leg was blessed by Charles. In a few minutes the boy was walking again-a miracle! Crooks started selling bottles of water and said it was Charles’s holy water. That got him banished to England for a few years. On the 5th of January 1893 he died of old age.

For more Seasonal Saints check out Terry Deary’s Horrible Christmas/The Big Fat Christmas Book, with awesome illustrations by Martin Brown.

That’s our Awesome Advent Calendar complete! Come back for one more Day tomorrow and check out our Christmas conclusion.

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 23

Awesome Advent Day 23: ‘Orrible Overthrowing

Today in 1688, as part of the Glorious Revolution, King James II of England fled from England to Paris after being deposed in favour of his nephew, William of Orange and his daughter Mary.

The Glorious Revolution was when people of England decided they’d had enough of Catholic James II, and wanted his daughter Mary to become Queen instead of him. They revolted and exiled James II France, putting his daughter Mary II on the throne with William III.

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 22

Awesome Advent Day 22: Christmas Coronations

As the years have to come to a close in December, several new beginnings have started. Today in 1135 Stephen became King of England, and most famously on Christmas Day in 1066 William the Conqueror was crowned. These Christmas coronations started of the big long line of English monarchs-see if you can learn this off by heart!

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 21

Awesome Advent Day 21: Slimy Stuarts

In the Stuart there were several problems around Christmas time. The first was the fact that Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans banned it! After that, when Charles II restored the monarchy, but there were still some things that went wrong…

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 20

Awesome Advent Day 20: Nifty Nicholas

Here are some foul facts about St. Nicholas, now known today as Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

  1. Bishop Nicholas died in AD 343 and was buried in Myra, but 800 years later, half of his skeleton was snatched by thieves who wanted his bones to perform miracles.
  2. Tests on his bones show that Bishop Nicholas was just 150cm tall and had a broken nose.
  3. As well as being patron saint of children he is saint of merchants and thieves.
  4. In the Middle Ages, Saint Nicholas was always painted in pictures as a man in green. In his home town, in Turkey, there was a beautiful statue of Saint Nicholas. It was taken down by the mayor in 2005, and replaced with a red plastic Santa Claus for tourists

More Seasonal saints on Day 24 of Advent!

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 19

Awesome Advent Day 19: Christmas Kings

Lots of Kings have got into the Christmas spirit throughout the past. Here are 5 facts about some Christmas Kings:

  1. Alfred the Great invented the 12 days of Christmas. Alfred’s law said no free Saxon should be made to work between Christmas and the Twelfth Night.
  2. King Henry III hated people who made copies of his coins and kept a special punishment for them that was carried out on Christmas Day. They would have their right hand and their naughty bits chopped off-by the Bishop!
  3. In Medieval Scotland, on the Twelfth Night, the King gave up his throne and let someone else rule for a day. This was known as Daft Day, and all you had to do was find a bean hidden in the Twelfth Night cake.
  4. On Christmas Day in 1454 Henry VI was suddenly cured of his mental illness which he’d had for over a year. His mental illness meant that he would’ve sat in silence like a  statue for hours, lost his memory, didn’t recognise his own family and struggled to move. A happy Christmas for him and his family that year!
  5. When George V gave his Christmas speech on the radio, he sat on his favourite chair (not the throne) and it collapsed! He cried out “God bless my soul.”

Not every King was so jolly, though. Good King Wenceslas was quite different to the carol you sing. The truth is…

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Awesome Advent Day 18: Foul Food

Henry VIII certainly loved his food, and when it came to Christmas he made the traditional treat of mince pies a little more interesting…

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 17

Awesome Advent Day 17: Daft Donkeys

The Bible says a donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The Donkey was there on the first night of Christmas night, so we now associate the animal with Christmas.

People through the ages have had some daft ideas about donkeys.

Top 10 donkey beliefs:

  1. Donkeys have a cross of dark hair on their backs, on the spot where Mary sat and she was carried to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus. People believe this cross is the mark of God.
  2. People also believe that the donkey cross has the magical power to cure all sort of problems, including toothache and fits.
  3. Passing a child three times under and over a donkey was believed to cure a whopping cough.
  4. Sometimes donkey hairs were mixed with bread and eaten for luck.
  5. Sometimes people would have to put a sick person’s hair in the donkey’s food for it to eat to cure the person’s illness.
  6. In the fifth century poet Aurelius Clemens said that donkeys and other animals in the stable where Jesus was born could speak. He said it was so they could join the angels in praising Jesus.
  7. In 1223, the Pope allowed St. Francis of Assisi to use live animals, including a donkey, on stage to tell the Christmas story in a play. These ‘Nativity’ plays became popular all around the world.
  8. The nativity stories added the tale of Aurelius Clemens and the talking animals. The plays showed that God had given the animals in the stable the power to speak for an hour at midnight on Christmas Eve.
  9. People also believed it was very bad luck to catch the animals chatting. One thing you may hear is the donkeys debating whether their master will die before next Christmas.
  10. In Britain the story has changed- the animals in British legends never do their Christmas chatting when there is a human a round to hear.

Want more Horrible Christmas? Check out the book, Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas.

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Awesome Advent Day 16: Cruel Cromwell

Today in 1653 Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. He built up several parliaments and ran the country, but was not an easy man to impress!

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Awesome Advent Day 15: Foul Football

When soldiers signed up to fight for their country in 1914, everyone said the war would be over by Christmas. Four brutal years later the war finally ended. One of the most remarkable things about it, though, was what did happen in 1914 on Christmas Day. Although technically the war still going on, soldiers called  a truce, got out of their trenches and had a game of football over no-mans-land!

The next days soldiers refused to fight each other but were given strict orders by their officers to carry on fighting.

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 14

Awesome Advent Day 14: Terrible Trial

Today in 1542 Princess Mary Stuart became Mary, Queen of Scots. Unfortunately she only ruled until 1567 before being locked up by Elizabeth I for 20 years and then executed in 1587. By this point the two cousins really didn’t like each other, and so a trial was held to determine what would happen to Mary. Poor Mary was stuck in the English court under an English Queen and so didn’t stand much chance of the truth!

Watch her court trial, Marys Rhapsody:

Sing along with the lyrics!

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 13

Awesome Advent Day 13: Potty Pantos

In the Second World War a lot of fun had disappeared. Guy Fawkes bonfires were banned because of the blackouts and Germans dropped much nastier fireworks. Summer holidays for workers in the factories were short because they were needed to make bombs and bullets. Chocolate was hard to get so Easter Eggs vanished. But Christmas fun was still around.

In 1940, bombing stopped from Christmas Eve till the 27th December and pantomimes continued to raise people’s spirits. There was one pantomime of a similar style to Little Red Riding Hood, but spreading war messages throughout, with Rudolph as German spy and Hansel a handsome prince but a peasant in disguise!

Did you know…?

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was not a great fan of pantomimes. “It was noisy and nonsensical as usual,” she winged one year. But she did like the lion tamer’s act. The tamer called Van Amburgh, a cross-eyed man from America. The Queen was such a fan that she watched the act six times in six weeks!

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 12

Awesome Advent Day 12: Awful Elizabeth

Lord Dudley invented the wristclock, now today known as a watch. For a Christmas present he gave Elizabeth I the honour of being the first person in England to own one-there was just one minor flaw…

(Until 2:10)

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Awesome Advent Day 11: Rowdy Revolution

Today in 1792 King Louis XVI of France is put on trial for treason by the National Convention. This was all part of the French Revolution where France got rid of their King, and it’s no surprise considering the way Louis treated the poor!

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Awesome Advent Day 10: Silly Society

Today in 1684 Isaac Newton’s derivation of Kepler’s laws from his theory of gravity, contained in the paper De motu corporum in gyrum, is read to the Royal Society by Edmond Halley. Newton was lucky to get the book published at all, as the Royal Society weren’t always financially supported.

Did you know?

Samuel Pepys, the treasurer, once spent the Royal Society’s budget to publish a book: A History of fishes. The book didn’t sell very well and prevented Newton to be able to publish his more important, philosophical book. So, Halley had to personally finance the publication of Newton’s book, and was informed that the society could no longer afford to provide him the promised annual salary of £50. Guess what they did pay him with? Yep, Halley was paid with left-over copies of De Historia Piscium!

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 9

Awesome Advent Day 9: Rowdy Revolution

Today in 1775, in the American Revolutionary War, British troops lose the Battle of Great Bridge, and leave Virginia soon afterwards.

America eventually became United from the British and won several wars against them. About a Century later the country then had a Civil War and their war successes continued, with the help of men like General Jackson Stonewall.

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Awesome Advent Day 8: Awful Actors

Today in 1660 a woman (either Margaret Hughes or Anne Marshall) appeared on an English public stage for the first time, in the role of Desdemona in a production of Shakespeare’s play Othello.

Many Stuart men weren’t pleased with the idea of a woman acting-then again, the Stuarts were often displeased!

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 7

Awesome Advent Day 7: Potty Pictures

For the 7th day of Advent check out the Horrible Histories Christmas gallery with some Christmas awesome illustrations from the HH book series.

Books written by Terry Deary, illustrations by Martin Brown, published by Scholastic.

Gruesome Game:

Glass marbles were made and were very popular in the 1860s and 1870s. One game people used to play was called ‘Capture’, between two players.

-Player A rolls a marble along the ground.

-Player B rolls a marble and tries to hit it.

-If B’s marble hits A’s then B takes or ‘captures’ the marble.

-If B misses then the marble stays where it is and A tries to hit it.

-A and B go on taking turns until one has captured all the other’s marbles.

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Awesome Advent Day 6: Painful Prison

Victorian prisons could be extremely punishing, however the magic of Christmas made the Christmas afternoon special, where prisoners would be given a Christmas Dinner!

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Awesome Advent Day 5: Clumsy Columbus

In 1492 today, Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Among some of his accomplishments, such as that, there were several mistakes he made.

The truth:

Columbus wasn’t first to discover America- Leif Ericson, a Viking, discovered it back in 1002, almost 500 years before him:

In 1477 Columbus was hired as a merchant mariner for King John II of Portugal. At the time Portugal were gaining power on the seas and establishing trade with African kingdoms. By the 1480s they found out that the Indian Ocean was on the other side of Africa. Some Europeans came up with the theory the Earth was smaller than previously thought to be, and when Columbus heard about this he asked King John for funding to travel west to find riches, but was turned down. He then tried in France, England and Spain but with no luck until 1492 when Spain agreed to help.

The trip lasted for 5 weeks before spotting an island and Columbus went ashore. Due to the small Earth theory he thought he was in Japan and so called the natives Indians. However, he didn’t land on mainland America, thus never discovering what we know as the USA today.

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Awesome Advent Day 4: Champion Charlemagne

Today in 771, with the death of his brother Carloman, Charlemagne becomes sole ruler of the Frankish Empire. Here are 10 top facts about the champion, Charlemagne:

  1. In 768 Charlemagne (Charles the Great) became King of the Franks, however in 771 he became the sole ruler.
  2. In 772 Charlemagne began the conquest of the Saxons of north Germany.
  3. In 774 Charlemagne conquered Italy.
  4. In 782 Charlemagne executed 4500 Saxon rebels after they have been ‘measured’ by the sword’. Legend  has it that all those taller than a sword got shortened by a head!
  5. In 790 Charlemagne has a year off and does not go on military campaign. It is the only year of peace in his 46-year reign!
  6. In 796 Charlemagne  conquers the Avars, a fierce nomadic people living in what is now Hungary.
  7. In 800 Charlemagne, King of the Franks, is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo in Rome on Christmas Day.
  8. In 801 Charlemagne captures Barcelona from the Spanish Moors (Muslims).
  9. In 804 Charlemagne finally completes the conquest of the Saxons.
  10. Ten years late in 814 Charlemagne finally dies.

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 3

Awesome Advent Day 3: Tremendous Trees

Christmas trees are now a big part of Christmas celebrations and they’ve come a long way…

The Ancient German tradition of Christmas Trees, based on a superstition, was bought here by King George III thanks to his German wife.  It wasn’t until Queen Victoria that Christmas trees became so popular for everyone and people put presents under the tree.

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 2

Awesome Advent Day 2: Naughty Napoleon

Today, back in 1851 French President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte overthrew the Second Republic and one year later he crowned himself Emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral. This Emperor soon led the French to many great victories until finally being defeated by the British at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Check out this awesome clip as Napoleon sings about his fighting life.

Horrible Histories TV Awesome Advent-Day 1

Awesome Advent Day 1: Nifty Knight

Today, back in 1577, Francis Walsingham (1532-1590) was knighted. Walsingham was often known as Queen Elizabeth’s Spymaster and would try to catch out any plotting Catholics with ideas such as getting people to read letters being sent across the country. He was also responsible for the trial of Mary Queen of Scots ( and helped deal with the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Even though Queen Elizabeth knighted him, that didn’t stop her lashing her temper out at him-never mind any other courtiers!