Old father Christmas – probably based on the God Odin or the Green Man

Ever wondered why we talk about ‘Yule-tide’? Apparently it is, as far as we are concerned here in Britain, an Anglo-Saxon celebration of mid-winter. Officially it begins for us this year on Sunday 22 December and goes on until Thursday 7 January 2020. It eventually became tied up with the Christian festival of Christmas and we maintain some of the heathen practices as part of our modern celebration. It always was a time to celebrate of course, as the sun began its journey back to spring and summer after 21 December.

Traditionally (this time a Viking thing), a large log (the ‘Yule log’) would be selected in the forest on Christmas Eve, decorated with ribbons, dragged home and laid upon the hearth. After lighting it was kept burning throughout the twelve days of Christmas. It was considered lucky to keep some of the charred remains to kindle the log of the following year.

Another great Christmas tradition is the singing of carols. Whether the word carol comes from the Latin caraula or the French carole, its original meaning is the same – a dance with a song. The dance element appears to have disappeared over the centuries but the song was used to convey stories, normally that of the Nativity. The earliest recorded published collection of carols is in 1521, by Wynken de Worde which includes the Boars Head Carol.

The boar’s head became part of the Christmas feast in Medieval times but its history goes back to Roman times or before. The boar was the greatly feared master of the forest, and the serving of a dead boar’s head was symbolic of good over evil or the triumph of the Christ Child over sin.

You will see the boar’s head take pride of place amongst the feast in the King’s Room on 14 December, and hear Christmas music, and see the Yule log. There will also be a decorated spinning wheel (more about that later), story telling, Tudor characters and falcons, Tudor martial arts (for the youngsters!)

The Volunteers have been busy! Please make sure Saturday 14 December is in your diary.

Thanks to Wikipedia and Historic UK for information.