Festive traditions day at city cathedral

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Saturday saw the chance to discover the traditions that make up the festive season during a special event at Norwich Cathedral.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the present day Christmas?

This time next week it will all be over for another year.

But Saturday saw the chance to discover the traditions that make up the festive season during a special event at Norwich Cathedral.

From the Viking custom of burning a Yule log to the Tudor habit of feasting for a full 12 days, today's celebrations have been handed down from a variety of generations.

It was the Victorians who first introduced the Christmas Tree to this country as well as the sending and receiving of cards.

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While Father Christmas traditionally wore green, until he was garbed in red and white for a Coca Cola advert in the last century.

Aimed primarily at youngsters, the event attracted a sizeable crowd eager to listen to tales of Christmases past, while a procession of Carols and readings around the Cathedral, lead by four sheep, rounded things off.

Jill Napier, the cathedral's community learning officer, who organised the event, said today's Christians celebrations was a mix of ingredients borrowed over many centuries.

"The idea is to look back and see where our Christmas traditions have come from," she said. "Many threads have filtered through.

"Traditionally it was a period to reflect and feast. People needed to do that in order to get through the winter months.

"There is still this real need to remember what Christmas is really all about. I think it's become very pressured which is a shame,"

Christmases past were also explained by historical re-enactments.

David Tong, who was dressed as an Anglo-Saxon, said many of the customs were pre-Christian.

"The Romans gave presents like candles and rings to celebrate the coming of the light, all these early festivals are linked to midwinter," he said. "The Vikings burning of the Yule was helping to fuel the sun, while the ashes were kept to help ward off evil spirits."

Alison Naylor, who was re-enacting a Tudor Christmas, said Evergreens and herbs and spices including cinnamon, saffron, and cloves were the forerunner to today's decorations.

"The gentry ate lots of meat and there would be a boar's head on the table," she said. "If you were a guest of honour you would be presented with a quail and suck the brains out - it was a delicacy."