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Press release

The Nature of Christmas

A series of free Darwin Centre Live events at the Natural History Museum
Sunday 19 to Thursday 23 December
Webcast live at

From turkeys to trees and reindeer to robins, how did some plants and animals become so closely linked to Christmas? Find out in a series of free festive events in Darwin Centre Live at the Natural History Museum. See mistletoe through the eyes of a botanist, find out how to take care of reindeer and discover the ancestry of your turkey dinner.

Chocolate: Food of the Gods
Sunday 19 December, 12.00 and 14.30
In the spirit of Christmas indulgence, join a celebration of all that is chocolate. First made by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs in Central America, it is one of the most popular flavours in the world today. Discover more about the plant they called 'the food of the Gods' and try chocolate made the Mayan way. A must for chocoholics.

Oh Christmas Tree
Monday 20 December, 12.00 and 14.30
Each year about seven million spruce and fir trees are decorated in homes around the UK, but why do we do it and what do they really have to do with Christmas? Join Darwin Centre Live for a look at the history of and meaning behind the Christmas tree.

The Turkey
Tuesday 21 December, 12.00 and 14.30
As yet another massive bird is dragged home from the supermarket and we face the prospect of eating turkey sandwiches well into February, spare a thought for the natural history of the turkey. Where does it come from, has it always looked like this and why are we so intent on eating it at Christmas?

Taking Care of Reindeer
Wednesday 22 December, 14.30
Some of the most important members of Santa’s team are the reindeer that pull his sleigh. But where do reindeer really live and how do you take care of them? Join Wayne Boardman, Head Vet at London Zoo, for a lesson in reindeer maintenance that could give Father Christmas a few tips.

Thursday 23 December, 12.00 and 14.30
Steal a kiss under the mistletoe and you’re joining a tradition that goes back much further than Christmas. This parasitic plant has been attributed with the power to ward off evil spirits, extinguish fire and even cure cancer. Come along and find out the facts behind the folklore with a look at mistletoe through a botanist’s eyes.

Darwin Centre Live in the GlaxoSmithKline Studio at the Natural History Museum is a free programme of informal events where visitors can talk to scientists, hear more about their work at the Museum and around the world and see the fascinating specimens they work with. For further information, please contact the Natural History Museum by calling 020 7942 5000 or visit

- Ends -

Sunday 19 to Thursday 23 December
Admission: free
Venue: Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum,
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD
Visitor enquiries: 020 7942 5000 Monday–Friday,
020 7942 5011 Saturday and Sunday

For further information, please contact:

Jo Glyde or Chloe Kembery, Science Communication PR
Tel: 020 7942 5880/5881
Email: or
(not for publication) 

Issued November 2004