North Country Garland
The Christmas tradition is celebrated whole heartedly around our region today. However when we look back a few hundred years we find that this was not always the case. Our Christmas tradition has waxed and waned over time.
We have been looking through the old Monthly Chronicles in search of an article with a festive feel. In the 1888 collection under the heading “The North Country Garland of Song” by John Stokoe, we saw an interesting comment. In this post we share the whole article. The old language and writing style lends itself to the festive season. (It is also relatively easy to read and relatively short compared to other pieces we have researched)!
The North Country Garland of Song was written by John Stokoe a local historian of his day. It is a collection of songs presented with the history behind each song and the events that inspired them. The collection was published as a monthly item in the Newcastle Weekly Journal c1890.
“The celebration of Christmastide by merriment and festivities is more common in the South of England than in the North, which may, perhaps, be accounted for by our proximity to Scotland – neither Christmas Day nor Twelfth Night attracting any attention in that country. For a century after the Reformation, most preserving efforts were made by Presbyterian clergy to extinguish all observance of Christmas. In this, they were largely successful, and thus in some of the Border places there exists only a shadowy idea of Christmastide as a holiday and time of feasting, although we have heard even amongst them the following rhyme repeated by some old people, to whom Christmas itself was only a tradition:-
Yule's come and Yule's gaen, And we hae feasted wael; Sae Jack maun to his flail agyen, And Jenny to her wheel:
Carol singing has always been a pleasant form of Christmas amusement and has greatly increased in favour of late years, being now adopted in most of the Established and many of the Nonconformist churches. Carols are usually of two sorts: one of a scriptural or serious nature, sung in churches and through the streets, and from house to house, ushering in Christmas morning; the other of a more convivial nature, and adapted to the season of feasting and carousing.
The Jolie Carols
The convivial or “jolie carols,” as old Tusser calls them, were sung by the company or by the itinerant minstrels that attended the feasts for that purpose, during the revelry at the houses of the wealthy throughout the Christmas. The oldest collection of Christmas Carols is that which was printed by Wynkyn de Worde, in 1521; the songs are of a festal character and include the famous Boar’s Head Carol, which is still sung annually on Christmas Day at Queen’s College, Oxford. Of all carols, ancient or modern, none seems to be more generally known, or to have attained greater popularity, than the grand old “God rest you, Merry Gentlemen,” of the melody of which numerous versions exist, both in the major and minor keys. The tune is of great antiquity and had been used to other ballads, such as “The May Day,” or ” Mayers’ Song” – a semi-religious medley, a Puritanical May Song… “
Wishing you all a very Merry and Traditional Christmas
We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope you enjoy your own Christmas tradition. We leave you this December day with a link to the ancient Boar’s Head Carol. Sung by Steeleye Span and Maddy Prior.
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