What’s behind the Wassail and why do we kiss under mistletoe and let loose women into York at Christmas? Every family hones its own traditions, but mainly they are based on a central theme: filling our houses with greenery and bling, sending cards, eating too much, wearing a silly hat, singing songs and playing games that we don’t bother with for the rest of the year. How has all this come about? Some are based on pagan festivities that either honoured spirits or simply helped to break up the winter. Others, such as advent calendars and crackers, are much more recent.
This talk cannot possibly cover all of our traditions, but it gives a glimpse behind the scenes to see our ancestors preparing for the day, stirring-up puddings and dragging Yule logs into the house on Christmas Eve and the rituals that went with it. We see Lords of Misrule lording it over rowdy parties, how pantomime developed and how a few carollers sent out a coded message.