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Christmas in History - which traditions/events stick out for you?

(60 Posts)
LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 12:52:09

I thought it'd be nice to have a festive thread to tick along gently through December. I was thinking about how Christmas must have changed so much over the millenia (though I don't really know much about how it was celebrated for the first thousand years!).

The Advent traditions my DH follows go back centuries and they're pretty much the same as what happened in medieval England, in that you look at Advent as a sort of echo of Lent, a period when you're meant to fast in preparation for the big feast of Christmas Day.

I know we say a lot of British Christmas traditions are Victorian, but also I know a lot aren't (lots of medieval/Tudor stuff), and I wondered where it all comes from? And I wonder how different it is in different countries?

LRDtheFeministDude Fri 07-Dec-12 15:21:57

Thank you! That sounds like it ... I'll look on amazon.

MooncupGoddess Fri 07-Dec-12 15:29:53

Hereford still has boy bishops!

Nothing says Christmas to me like The Dark is Rising, especially the scene when they go back in time while singing Good King Wenceslaus.

LRDtheFeministDude Fri 07-Dec-12 15:35:52

Really?! Wow, that's pretty cool. How do they chose them?!

I love The Dark is Rising. Brilliant and so atmospheric.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 07-Dec-12 15:47:12

There's a nice 17th century Christmas described in Hobberdy Dick by K.M.Briggs, who was a folklore expert. The new master of the house is a Puritan and won't celebrate Christmas so the servants and household spirits sneak out of the house and do it in the barn.

Love The 13 Days of Christmas too.

ParsingFancy Fri 07-Dec-12 15:53:57

There's an army (and possibly other services) custom that on Christmas day the officers serve the men. I've always wondered if that is a survival of the Lord of Misrule traditions.

SoniaGluck Fri 07-Dec-12 16:15:06

Turnip -*Hobberdy Dick* sounds like something I would love. I'd not heard of it before, so thanks for mentioning it. grin

InNeedOfBrandyButter Fri 07-Dec-12 16:19:33

This is a really interesting thread, from what I understand it was the oak king reclaiming his crown from the holly king and celebrating rebirth.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 07-Dec-12 16:55:24

Sonia, it was a Puffin when I was a child, so I'm sure you'll be able to get it for 1p on Amazon smile

SoniaGluck Fri 07-Dec-12 17:08:03

Excellent. I've ordered Hobberdy Dick and LRD's recommendation The Children of Green Knowe, which I had heard of but had never read.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 07-Dec-12 17:11:33

Great, hope you enjoy smile

You may end up needing to read the rest of the Green Knowe series, too.

SoniaGluck Sun 09-Dec-12 12:01:36

I expect that I will end up having to order the rest of the series. I am a sucker for children's books, especially those about history. I've been hankering after some Rosemary Sutcliff books that I remember reading when I was in junior school. But they will have to wait until after Christmas now.

Incidentally, the pedant part of me requires that I correct some misinformation that I posted about the Alison Uttley book. Stories for Christmas was edited by Kathleen Lines not Raines - I should have checked my copy before posting. blush

I don't actually know who Kathleen Raines is / was ( I think that I have made her up ) but I apologise for getting it wrong.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 10-Dec-12 18:49:25

I love children's books too! smile

In fact I am quite pleased this may turn into a thread about 'books in history' rather than Christmas.

I did find it was Kathleen Lines - it came up when I put the title in. But it isn't the same book I was wanting, so I think she must have had her stories in many collections (not surprising).

Go on - which Rosemary Sutcliffe? I love her books. Beautifully written.

I love her book The Armourer's House, which ends with Christmas during the reign of Henry VIII (see how I wrestled that back to the topic?! grin).

I wanted to ask, by the way ... does anyone know what happened during Cromwell's time? I know Christmas was 'banned', but I don't really know how they enforced it? Anyone?

R2PeePoo Mon 10-Dec-12 21:39:11

IIRC there were fines for any business that attempted to close on Xmas day and the same for church services. There were fines also for the preparing of Xmas food and the decorating of houses with the traditional greenery.

I think there was a lot of secret celebration and I believe there were some fights in some of the larger cities between supporters and opponents. Soldiers were sent out in larger cities to ensure people were keeping to the law, but I guess if you were rich/isolated etc you could definitely flaunt it with impunity grin.

Speaking of childrens books, did anyone else read and love "puck of Pooks hill" and 'Rewards and Fairies" as a child? Those two and 'Children of the New Forest" were pretty much my favourite books as a child.

TunipTheVegedude Mon 10-Dec-12 21:40:19

I re-read Children of the New Forest recently. It's damn good. I love the way everyone gets paired off at the end.

R2PeePoo Mon 10-Dec-12 21:51:02

That was highly satisfying wasn't it Tunip!

I also loved the fact that everyone finds their talent and their niche too.

TunipTheVegedude Tue 11-Dec-12 12:17:18

Yes, even Pablo the gipsy boy.
I cringed a bit at the way he was portrayed tho' - it's exactly the same cliches as the way African American slaves are written about in the mid c 19th: childlike, loyal, dishonest at first but responds well to the white man's moral teaching....

MooncupGoddess Tue 11-Dec-12 13:59:07

I absolutely love The Armourer's House. I think there might be a Christmas scene in Brother Dusty-Feet too but can't remember for sure.

Haven't read Children of the New Forest since I was a youthful royalist myself; might have to give it another go in front of the fire next week...

R2PeePoo Tue 11-Dec-12 18:24:19

Parts of the book are very much of their time, definitely. I tried to read my copy of "the wishing chair' to DD but couldn't get past Chinky the pixie.

I was a youthful royalist too MooncupGoddess, as a child I was very impressed by the wigs grin. More of a roundhead now though, except when I read Children of the new forest.

TunipTheVegedude Tue 11-Dec-12 18:28:26

But the Intendant, Patience's dad, is a Roundhead and he's lovely.
I am more of a natural Roundhead myself.

WandaDoff Tue 11-Dec-12 18:43:01

I loved 'Children of the new forest' as a child. I had a lovely leather-bound copy that my Grandpa bought me. smile

Badvocsanta Tue 11-Dec-12 18:47:58

I love carols from kings on Xmas eve.
My ds like to make marchpane which is a Tudor dessert dish made of marzipan. Last years was fashioned into a boars head smile
We have an advent candle and an advent calendar.
We make cake, mince pies etc.

LRDtheFeministDude Tue 11-Dec-12 19:06:53

Oh, I love Brother Dusty-feet. I'm so sad she didn't write more medieval/Tudor stuff. Apparently she felt it went a bit twee on her. Knight's Fee is lovely too.

I never got into Children of the New Forest. I might buy the BBC adaptation if it's any good, though.


Back to the subject.

badvoc wins the thread, I think! You made a boar's head in marzipan?! How totally awesome is that?

This is for you:

Thanks for the info on Cromwell and Christmas.

TunipTheVegedude Tue 11-Dec-12 19:21:53

I did a marzipan nativity with dd last year after seeing a marchpane Jesus at Barley Hall. My swaddled Jesus was brilliant but unfortunately he was bigger than my Mary. DD can do it by herself this year and it will be far better.

Badvocsanta Tue 11-Dec-12 19:45:44

LRD...I think tunip beats me with a full nativity! smile most impressive.
Although I did do an apple for its mouth and coloured it with green icing smile
I really like a lot of the Tudor traditions....the Yule log, evergreens in the house...
Historically speaking advent was a time of fasting and denial - rather like lent - and Christmas celebrations started on 25th and went through til epiphany I.e. 12th night (6th jan)
In Tudor times gifts were exchanged on twelfth night. At least at court anyway.
There are lists of all the gifts given and recieved by Tudor monarchs...make really interesting reading.

LRDtheFeministDude Tue 11-Dec-12 19:48:39

Oh, I would like to see those lists!

(And yep ... I am now thinking about marchpane-making!)

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