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Weekend Links: The Real Downton Abbey

For history buffs, lovers of costume dramas and really just anyone, "Downton Abbey" returns tonight on PBS! Before you tune in, check out this video on the real Downton Abbey, also known as Highclere Castle, and the family who lives there.
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I know that there is a Tumblr devoted to this as well, but there were a few photos of historical figures hanging out together unexpectedly on this site that I hadn't seen before.
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This is one reason I don't like swimming in the ocean, but I do love looking at them from the safety of my desk: jellyfish.
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If you think you know your cartoons, see if you recognize them just by their eyes ...
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Speaking of cartoons, the Peanuts comic strips will always be my very favorite. But 3eanuts changes up the formula a little bit, saying "Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics often conceal the existential despair of their world with a closing joke at the characters' expense. With the last panel omitted, despair pervades all" (and yes it riffs on the Garfield Minus Garfield idea).
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A lovely array of some of the most interesting libraries. You'd better try to visit one of them soon before they are all obsolete! (And call me a fuddy duddy, or if you're nice, a bibliophile, but personally I'd rather not imagine a world without books in the book form as we know it! Now get off my lawn!)
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Many may argue that Twitter is pretty pointless. I'm not one of those people. But here are a few completely pointless Twitter accounts that are still, in their own way, kind of funny. (Thanks Alexis for the link!)
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Need more ways to procrastinate? The Procatinator will give you a song and a cat … what more do you need? (Thanks Stephen for the link!)
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Thanks to everyone who sent in links this week - keep it up! Send all your submissions to FlossyLinks@gmail.com.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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