ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Old British Folk Tales and Festivals: From the Weird to the Wacky

Updated on September 12, 2012

Part 1. Christmas

Did you know that it was Woden who careered across the night sky on his chariot, Bearing gifts at the time of the Winter solstice? What is strange, is that over the years, nobody really knows exactly when the role was taken over by St. Nicholas. Mainly because his official feast day, was conveniently near to the 6th December. Also, he was the patron Saint of children.

Before Christianity hit our shores, the same time of year was dedicated to the Roman God Saturnalia, a week long festival during which masters and servants changed places and everything was allowed to happen! I personally would have got my own back if I had been a servant! Still, evidently some of the traditions have survived till quite recent times, these were called Mischief Nights, when it was commonly believed that the normal laws of behaviour were suspended. Everybody could do exactly what they wanted within reason, and get away with it!

Another feature of the Saturnalia was the decking of houses with evergreen plants and trees. This is still used around the world. Prince Albert is given the credit for introducing the Christmas tree, but there are records that say they were in fact used hundreds of years earlier in London. The evergreens were always treated with respect and reverence because the woodland spirits of vegetation were believed to reside in them, when the other trees had lost their leaves. Evidently the spirits moved house, until the spring came around again. I hope they remembered to turn of the gas!

The two most interesting customs of Christmas are Wassailing and the performance of Mumming plays. Mumming plays retained their popularity because it meant that they could collect alms (money for charity). Mostly though, the charity ended up in their own pockets! if, of course, they had pockets!. There was another excuse to get money out of people, as well. It was St. Thomas Day which very conveniently fell on the 21 December. Going 'Thomasing' on that day was not considered begging. It wasn't so much that they asked for money, it was usually something like corn or milk. But money was usually accepted as well. These Mummers usually carried little boxes, which later turned into what we now know as Boxing Day. These boxes were usually earthenware piggy banks, which had to be broken to extract the contents.

The Yule log, which was always dragged in with much ceremony to burn on the Hearth, was started in the north part of the country. Yule being the name of the midwinter festival before the Christian calendar. Also in the West country, ashen faggots bound with withies were often used as a substitute for the Yule log. And this was used for divination according to the order in which they snapped in the flames.

And last but not least, Carol singing is still popular today, and the reason for this is usually to collect money for charity.

On the Isle of man which is situated just off the coast of western England, they used to have some very peculiar and lengthy mournful Carols. These were known as Oei'l Voirrey, which were sung at Christmas Eve services, while they were drinking Ale!

A few last facts are that The flower, the Glastonbury Thorn, still flowers at Christmas. And also people believed that oxon always knelt in their stalls, facing east on Christmas Eve.Oh and according to hearsay, bees sang in their hives.

Well there you go. And you thought Christmas was an easy and calm festival. I think I prefer it the way it is now, but sometimes it would be nice to catch a glimpse of a few mummers, dressed in their donkey suits and masks, making their way to your door. Or perhaps not. Happy Christmas.

-

1. Wassailing-Door to door Carol singing

2. Mummers-Men dressed up in costumes with black soot on their faces, acting out traditional, and local plays, or Mime

3. Wood faggots-small pieces of wood for the fire.

4.Withies- Long, bendy willow sticks.

5. The Glastonbury Thorn-Joseph of Aramethea supposedly planted this tree when he came to Glastonbury, after Jesus had died. He had a Staff that he was using to help him up the hill, but became tired and fell asleep. When he awoke, the Staff had turned into a beautiful tree, that afterwards bloomed in spring and at Christmas.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://corp.maven.io/privacy-policy

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)