Forum home The potting shed

Christmas of yesteryear

When Christmas comes around each year, I often find myself wondering what it was like for our ancestors. And I don't mean the 80s image More like the 1680s. Though the reformation had it banned in that century I believe due to the pagan nature of the festivities. But religion to one side...I don't want a political or theological debate, just a musing on how it must have been back then in terms of mid-winter/Christmas celebrating. Comparing those times to now, their winters would truly have been dark. The halls then would really have been decked with holly and ivy in an attempt to remind themselves of the hope of spring and the faith in the regeneration of nature. There are few places you can go now in the UK where light pollution doesn't impact. Traditional festive food, normally very rich and high in fat/carbohydrate, was once relevant because people back then ate poorer diets in terms of nutrition.

Are these customs/traditions relevant to modern society where the average person wants for nothing in the developed western world? Discuss image



  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,283

    I'm quite fascinated by the pagan origin of a lot of the traditions.

    I think religion etc aside, I do find there is a tangible feeling in the air at Christmas time. Just like there is on a May morning or sometimes late summer in an oak woodland of there being 'something' special in the air that is not always there.

    I suffer badly from seasonal adjustment disorder which can get me into quite a negative place over the winter months. Stuffing my face and being around family at Christmas helps with facing the darkest days of January (when my birthday is, and by then I usually feel really really down). image 

    So I use Christmas in much the same way as it was in the past, an island in the winter to get me through to next spring.image 

  • Lupin 1Lupin 1 Posts: 8,916

    Bit deep for me Fishy image But in 1680's I think I'd be wearing a long mucky dress no knickers and peeing on the street, not good in icy weather image  

    Hope someone sensible posts image

  • Lupin 1Lupin 1 Posts: 8,916

    image Someone sensible has image

  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,283

    Where? imageimage

  • Fishy65Fishy65 Posts: 2,253

    image KEF!! The discussion doesn't have to be serious image

    Gemma - we share something you and I (and Monty Don). SAD - I have anxiety/depression which has a tendency to be worse in the winter months, though not exculsively. Jan and Feb really are awful months aren't they.

  • Lupin 1Lupin 1 Posts: 8,916

    Fishy image I'll also sign up for the SAD club. That's why I stand outside in the cold watching blackbirds just because it's bright whilst my OH is snug inside. I have been know to have a GH party sitting inside it with a lager, tradition prior to Sunday lunch and soaking up a few Winter rays image If the neighbour look out from their upstairs they'll think I'm image 


  • Kefimage

    I'd think you would also be doing a lot more ice skating as the seasons were somewhat different to current times.

    The majority in towns and cities would surely have been hungrier and most people would have been colder, dirtier and simply hoping they would get thru the winter.  Those who could afford to celebrate the Christmas period would have eaten well and it would have undoubtedly had a religious connotation.  A lot tho would still be celebrating ( if that is the correct word ? ) the "old" way I think.

    Whilst giving gifts was an essential part of Christmas ( 3 wise men bearing gifts, etc. ), was it more on a charitable basis in the 17th C ?  When exactly did Christmas become more like the Christmas most of us know now ?  Cards and exchanging gifts, etc. ?  I don't mean the hype we have today where religion seems to  play little part other than a token nod in that direction.   

  • I agree wholeheartedly about the SAD problem.  The only good thing is that we don't live in northern Finland.....imagine that image  Well, obviously some people do live in northern Finland but you know what I meanimage

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,242

    I have one of those SAD lights. Not sure if it works but I do it anyway as it's a good reason to sit still for a few minutes.image

    Here is a 15th century song about Christmas feasting. Not that my ancestors would have enjoyed a boar's head and they certainly wouldn't have had time and inclination to sing anything much. Too busy keeping the wolf from the door.

    I like the cod Latin. I heard this sung recently by a modern day minstrel in a pub.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 16,491

    I dont know about the 1600' but I could tell you some hair raising tales about the 1930's when my mum was growing up in the East End!

    I love winter, I love the dark nights when I can get in early from the garden and draw the curtains, put the heating on and have a cuppa. My dad used to be very miserable through the winter months, he wouldnt go out to garden until Spring, then moan because he was shut in. Now he's nearly 91 he is happy to stay in.

    I think paganism is a good way to think about Christmas, staring life anew, days getting longer, etc. I used to worry about it, not anymore, its just another date on the Church Cal


    After all, Christmas is just the way of working out when Easter will be, and then another holiday will begin, as well as all the plants growing. 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

Sign In or Register to comment.