Christmas words

A rumball in the bummock

This time last year I wrote about the origins of six well-known Christmas words. And because I’m not terribly imaginative, this year I’m doing much the same thing, except with obscure ones. So here are six festive words that have fallen out of favour. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them relate to overeating and boozing. Well, that’s what Christmas is all about, right?

1. Ramracketting

To ramracket is to run or jump about playfully at Christmas time. The English Dialect Dictionary defines it as ‘Christmas gambols’. I don’t know about you but I shall be ramracketting like a demon on Christmas day after a couple of shandies.

2. Yulestarn

This is a Scottish dialect word for a bright star in the sky on Christmas night. I realise it just looks like I’ve spelled ‘star’ wrong then stuck ‘Yule’ in front of it, but it’s a real word, honest. You can buy a Yulestarn hamper from Debenhams, if you’re the type of person who does things like that. Apparently it will ‘illuminate your festive celebrations’ just like ‘the Yulestarn star brightens the sky on Christmas night’. #overenthusiastic-copywriter

3. Rumball

Rumball Night is an 18th-century nickname for Christmas Eve. That’s because a ‘rumball feast’ is a big ole meal served the day before Christmas.

There’s also a Rumball Night hamper at Debenhams (I promise I’m not sponsored by Debenhams). Somebody who works at Hampers of Distinction obviously went to a lot of the same websites as I did for this blog post.

4. Bummock

Stop sniggering. This is another old Scottish word. A bummock is a large quantity of booze made for Christmas (although a bummock’s not just for Christmas – you can also make them for other special occasions). A bummock is also an old name for a Christmas party given by landlords for their tenants. I don’t know why. And I’m not sure I want to. 

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that there isn’t a bummock hamper on Debenhams’ website.

5. Bubblyjock

Yet another Scottish one. A bubblyjock is a male turkey. Unlike pretty much all the other words on this list, I’ve managed to find some actual etymology for this one. ‘Bubbly’ apparently refers to the noise a turkey makes, while ‘jock’ is an old word for ‘clown’ (apologies to anyone called Jock who might be reading this). I guess maybe because turkeys are a bit comedy looking…? (Apologies to any turkeys who might be reading this.)

Here’s a poem about a bubblyjock. Don’t say I never give you anything.

6. Crawmassing

Picture the scene. You’ve just finished Christmas lunch (which, if you’re anything like my family, means it’s probably early evening). You’ve eaten your body weight in roast food, and loosened your belt buckle a notch. Okay, two notches. But then you notice that there’s a particularly nice-looking roast potato left on your sister’s plate. And a whole pig-in-a-blanket on your dad’s. So you grab them, add some gravy, and polish them off. This going through the remnants of a Christmas meal is called crawmassing (we got there eventually).

(It’s also used to describe people who beg for gifts at Christmas, but that doesn’t paint such a cheery picture.)


So, there you go. Happy Christmas lovely reader. I hope your festive season is chock-full of bummocks, rumballs and lots of ramracketting.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in 2019.

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