Christmas Greetings

Many thanks to the intrepid souls who braved the elements and came to enjoy festive cheer at our December meeting. After a rendition of Edward Capern’s Christmas poem we heard a little of the history of some Christmas traditions. We learnt that those driving to church on Christmas Day needed to beware as, according to the Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551, it was obligatory for everyone to attend a church service on Christmas Day. They were also required to walk, any cart or horse used as transport could be confiscated and sold, with the proceeds being given to the poor. Anyone hoping to start working off the effects of the Christmas turkey straight away must also be careful as the Unlawful Games Act of 1541 forbade all sports, except archery, on Christmas Day. An exception was later made for leaping and vaulting. The very name, Christ-mass, had Catholic overtones and for this reason, the Puritans wanted to rename it Christ-tide and mark it only by fasting and prayer. A directive of January 1644/5 stated that only Sundays were to be regarded as holy days and that all other ‘festival days, vulgarly called Holy Days, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued’. Mince pies, which were at this time filled with meat and rosewater, were traditionally an oval shape, to resemble Christ’s manger. This led to them being outlawed as idolatrous. Parliamentarian soldiers attempted to enforce the ban on Christmas celebrations by confiscating festive food and removing decorations. This prohibition was reiterated in an ordinance of June 1647, which also attempted to establish the second Tuesday of each month as a secular holiday to give workers a break. In the 1650s, more legislation forbade Christmas services from being held on the 25th of December and businesses were expected to open as usual.

We then settled down to a Christmas quiz and an array of seasonal food. Teams puzzled over the precise whereabouts of photographs of Buckland Brewer, tried to match photographs of offspring with their parents and attempted to identify lines from Christmas carols. Each team had its particular strengths and co-incidentally all achieved the same score so the prize was shared.

We have achieved a great deal in our first three months thanks to the enthusiasm and support of our members, which is greatly appreciated. There is plenty more in the pipe-line for 2014. Happy Christmas.

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