Traditional midwinter celebrations

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Tonyyyyy
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Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Fri Dec 04, 2015 11:27 pm

Maybe there are some amateur cultural historians here

I am curious about how our ideas about how to celebrate midwinter has changed and been influenced by contact with other countries.

I am thinking about the Christmas tree here in Britain - a Victorian implant from Germany. And Christmas cards, an American import about a hundred years ago...the Nativity , from the Levant. (I am thinking locally and I would be very interested in ideas from other regions with very different traditions)

And how writers like Dickens and Irving might have influenced us on regarding Christmas Day as a special feast day. Please correct me if I am wrong but I recall reading that in the early 19th century it was not actually a day off work.
Last edited by Tonyyyyy on Sat Dec 05, 2015 3:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Anthony Campanella
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Anthony Campanella » Sat Dec 05, 2015 2:45 am

Thats a wide ranging topic Tonyyyyy!
I think the winter solstice has been celebrated prehistory
Many societies were forced to shelter "In the Bleak Mid Winter"
What better way to start the winter than singing, dancing, feasting on the recent harvest?

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Sat Dec 05, 2015 3:30 pm

Anthony Campanella wrote:Thats a wide ranging topic Tonyyyyy!
I think the winter solstice has been celebrated prehistory
Many societies were forced to shelter "In the Bleak Mid Winter"
What better way to start the winter than singing, dancing, feasting on the recent harvest?
Yes , perhaps too wide ranging

What I am looking for really are the pre-Victorian traditions which have partly or mainly died away.

I started doing a little reading. I found a couple of my assumptions were wrong :cry:
The first Christmas cards were English, in 1843, not American as I had read somewhere else. And the first Christmas trees in Britain were before Victoria, but still from the Hanoverians (George III's time) But the Moravians brought them to Pennsylvania very much earlier

manythumbed
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by manythumbed » Sat Dec 05, 2015 7:50 pm

Wassailing would be one UK tradition that is pretty much moribund, carol singing is similar but doesn't have the same element of mischief that some wassailing activity would have had.

Also we have a red coated father christmas instead of the traditional green coated figure - apparently due to Coca Cola.

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Sun Dec 06, 2015 3:42 pm

manythumbed wrote:Wassailing would be one UK tradition that is pretty much moribund, carol singing is similar but doesn't have the same element of mischief that some wassailing activity would have had.
Also we have a red coated father christmas instead of the traditional green coated figure - apparently due to Coca Cola.
The green coated Father Christmas is interesting and new to me. It suggests a very different origin than the Dutch Sinta Klaas/ St Nikolaas

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by simonm » Sun Dec 06, 2015 4:44 pm

The whole modern Xmas thing is largely an invention of the marketing men with the Red and White santa being Coca Colas 1930's contribution. in Victorian times in the British Isles and in Spain until very recently, the 6th of January was the more important festival. Even today in Spain, the 6th is a major festival.

One of the few left overs of the earlier (i.e. 100 years ago) tradition is in lyrics of "Santa Claus is coming to Town". Santa checks if you were "naughty or nice". However, the rest of the logic, what happens to the naughty ones, is omitted. In the German tradition there is Knecht Ruprecht, and a similar figure exists in many areas. The nuaghty ones got a good beating. That isn't good for marketing or politically correct upbringing of children although in Austria as well as chocolate santa claus's there are chocolate "devils" to represent this side of the equation.

Xmas is the middle of winter (winter solstice) and after that the days get longer even if some of the coldest weather is still to come. The festivities were stolen fair and square by the Christians from the "pagans". Classic "repositioning" from the marketing guys.

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Sun Dec 06, 2015 8:31 pm

simonm wrote:The whole modern Xmas thing is largely an invention of the marketing men with the Red and White santa being Coca Colas 1930's contribution.
Thanks Simon

Knecht Ruprecht and Zwarte Piet are interesting - I dont know that the Anglophone Santa had any sinister companions. Though maybe 'Nightmare before Christmas' had more elements of truth than I had thought.



The Red Santa was pre-Cola ads though
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by simonm » Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:18 pm

Tonyyyyy wrote: Knecht Ruprecht and Zwarte Piet are interesting - I dont know that the Anglophone Santa had any sinister companions ….
I have a vague memory that there was a nasty companion to St Nicolas (6th Dec) … In Germany people often get some sort of token present on the 6th Dec. Where does "Old Nick" come from in English if it is not somehow the evil side of this figure. I don't know but it could be worth following up.

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Alan Green » Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:44 pm

It's not just Christmas; Christianity hijacked Halloween too - 1st November is "All Saints"

It's a massive subject and difficult to know where to start - the Wassailing ritual still takes place in some villages, and the Oxford Book of Carols has Carols for Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, summer and harvest (a Carol has a short repeated refrain at the end of each verse, take "Hark the herald angels sing" as the best-known example).

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Mon Dec 07, 2015 11:02 pm

simonm wrote: ...the 6th of January was the more important festival. Even today in Spain, the 6th is a major festival.
Is this due to the discrepancy between the Julian and Gregorian Calendars?

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Tonyyyyy » Mon Dec 07, 2015 11:14 pm

Alan Green wrote:It's not just Christmas; Christianity hijacked Halloween too - 1st November is "All Saints"
It's a massive subject and difficult to know where to start - the Wassailing ritual still takes place in some villages, and the Oxford Book of Carols has Carols for Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, summer and harvest (a Carol has a short repeated refrain at the end of each verse, take "Hark the herald angels sing" as the best-known example).
Well a carol was a dance originally :shock:

I guess that the church must be disappointed that the gluttony/drunkenness aspects have survived well, and in an extended period (Advent was considered traditionally a period of austerity I think, not a time for several pre-christmas meals with colleagues and friends.

Perhaps a re-hijacking :ivresse:

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by simonm » Mon Dec 07, 2015 11:44 pm

Tonyyyyy wrote:
simonm wrote: ...the 6th of January was the more important festival. Even today in Spain, the 6th is a major festival.
Is this due to the discrepancy between the Julian and Gregorian Calendars?
I doubt it. In English the 6th of Jan used to be called "Little Xmas" and the "12 days of Xmas" is the time from "Xmas" to the 6th as far as I understand it. Pre-20th Century "Little Xmas" was important in the British Isles too.

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Alan Green » Tue Dec 08, 2015 6:42 am

The 6th of Jan is called "Drei Koenig" in Germany, and it commemorates the three wise men visiting the Christ child.

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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by RoryJohn » Tue Dec 08, 2015 9:10 am

In my neck of the woods groups of men/boys/whatever tradtionally hunt the wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) on St. Stephen's day/boxing day (the day after Christmas day for anyone not au fait with the lingo). In reality nobody actually hunts the bird anymore, but they do dress up in particular traditional garb and call door to door playing tunes for a bit of money. Adults will usually keep it going all day and hit the pubs at night time, sculling pints and engaging in general devilment.
A dying tradition but still prevalent in certain communities. Almost certainly "pagan" in origin but I believe the Christian slant has something to do with the wren betraying Jesus or something to that effect...
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Peter Lovett
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Re: Traditional midwinter celebrations

Post by Peter Lovett » Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:46 am

Ah......Christmas. Time to put up the lights and celebrate.
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