Christmas in Wiltshire
How to ‘Countrify’ Your Christmas the Wiltshire Way
Here at the Bath Arms we want to make sure you have everything you need to embark on one of the most wonderfully festive Christmas short breaks.
To help you get in the seasonal spirit, we’ve put together a little rundown of some traditional Christmas rituals that you might want to adopt… Or perhaps just learn a little more about how you can ‘countrify’ you Christmas the Wiltshire way this festive season.
A Cop-Loaf is a rich fruity loaf (sometimes referred to in parts of Wiltshire as a dobbin) that was traditionally handed out on 21st December; the day of St Thomas the Apostle. The children of the village would historically receive the fruity bun, alongside a newly-minted penny, from the Lord of the Manor.
Although this tradition has widely died out, it is still practiced in the Wiltshire village of Collingbourne Ducis, where the Gordon family still hand out spiced buns and pennies to the children of the local primary school, in return for a carol or two. Why not bring some Wiltshire tradition back to your festive celebrations with some spiced buns on St Thomas’ Day? Although nowadays, the buns cost more than the newly-minted pennies!
Mummers plays have been performed throughout the UK for centuries. They are traditional folk plays that over the years became ingrained in provincial festive tradition (think of them a bit like a bonkers ancestor of the pantomime).
Since the 18th century mummers plays have been on the decline through much of the country and unless you live in certain parts of the West Country and Yorkshire, you’ve probably never heard of them! The mummers play is a great old English tradition, and we think it’s about time it made reappearance! You can actually access some historical mummers’ scripts here, so what are you waiting for? Get mumming!
The Holly and the Ivy
In Britain we have long since associated the spiky leaves and red berries of the holly bush with the festive season. This tradition actually had its roots in pagan Britain; the pagans embracing the evergreen’s ability to thrive even in the darkest depths of winter and seeing it as a symbol of fertility and life. As people continued to embrace holly even with the spread of Christianity, the Church then adopted the symbol as a representation of Christ’s crown of thorns. Holly has traditionally been considered a ‘male’ plant, and its female equivalent is ivy, another symbol of everlasting life and resurrection. Use them both to keep your festive evergreen decorations beautifully balanced. The two together will help create some stunning and very traditional festive décor.
Lord of Misrule
The historic figure of the Lord of Misrule was central to British Christmas celebrations until the Puritans put the kibosh on Christmas in the 17th century. The Lord of Misrule was an elected individual (always a man) who was put in charge of coordinating the festive merriment of the Tudor court and in wealthy households across the kingdom. The Lord of Misrule would take the reins on all of the festivities until Twelfth Night (5th January). Why not elect your own Lord (or Lady) of Misrule this Christmas to help you throw one of the best Christmas parties Wiltshire has ever seen? That is, if there is anyone you trust enough…!
So that’s how to bring a touch of Wiltshire tradition to your Xmas breaks. Whether it’s something as simple as using evergreens to bring some life to your festive décor, or electing your very own Lord of Misrule who can see the celebrations all the way through to your New Year’s Eve in Wiltshire, there’s a little Wiltshire tradition for everyone.