The Spectator

Barometer | 10 December 2015

And other surprising anniversaries of 2016

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Christmas birthday

Next year has a claim to be the 400th birthday of Father Christmas. Ben Jonson wrote a short play for James I, called Christmas: his masque, performed at court in December 1616. The central character, named as ‘Old Christmas’ and ‘Captaine Christmas’, encouraged everyone to merriment. He had ten children, with names ranging from Misrule to Plum Pudding. While a 15th-century hymn had mentioned a ‘Sir Christmas’, Jonson was the first to give Christmas physical characteristics, including a tall hat and a beard.

It’s their year

2016 is being promoted as:

— International Year of Pulses (UN)

— Year of the Whale (Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme)

— Year of Local Solutions to Global Problems (International Council for Science)

— Year of the English Garden (VisitEngland)

— Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design (VisitScotland)

— Year of Arts and Young People in Birmingham (Birmingham Cultural Partnership)

The predictable truth

How good were predictions for 2015?

— ‘Bitcoin’s defects will hasten its demise in 2015’ ( A bitcoin’s value has been relatively steady, falling from $360 in January to $320 in November.

— Papua New Guinea to be world’s fastest-growing economy, at 15%; interest rates to rise in Britain; hung parliament with David Cameron remaining PM; Justin Trudeau to win Canadian election (The Economist): last was correct and penultimate half-right, but Papua New Guinea’s economy stalled, on course for a 9% rise by year end and interest rates in Britain remain at 0.5%.

— ‘Disappearance of language differences due to universal translating machine’, Mount Vesuvius to see ‘major eruption’, ‘The western world will abolish all kinds of taxes’ (

Anniversary waltz

Some lesser-known anniversaries of 2016:

100 Birth of Sir Edward Heath and Lord Wilson of Rievaulx; formation of American Radium Society

150 Foundation of Nestlé, the milk and chocolate company

200 Opening of Leeds and Liverpool Canal

300 Birth of Capability Brown

500 Death of Hieronymus Bosch; completion of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia.

And other surprising anniversaries of 2016